"Screen Vs Stage"

The Rehearsal Room approach to acting is designed to help actors make their acting choices quickly and effectively.  It has a simplified approach to acting that is very useful for the screen actor because in Australia actors have to work fast.


Many actors who want to go to NIDA have come to The Rehearsal Room as part of their preparation for their NIDA audition.  Gaining a position at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) is a challenging process because so many actors want to go there.  Actors need to be able to stand out in the audition process or they wont get a place.


It’s a 3-year degree course at NIDA and the focus is predominantly on working for the stage.  A NIDA trained actor who came to The Rehearsal Room for coaching for a screen audition told me the most important skill she acquired at NIDA was the ability to “command the stage”. 


Interesting, eh!!


That’s an enormously valuable skill for a stage actor but not much use to the screen actor.  One way a screen actor can command the screen is by enticing the editor to cut to them.  If the performance doesn’t entice the editor to put the image of the actor on the screen then there is little chance that the performance will ‘command the screen’.  Acting for the screen has its own requirements.


Challenges for the Screen Actor
At a discussion session at The Rehearsal Room one Sunday afternoon a couple of actors in the group were quite critical of the performances seen in the Aussie soaps.  They were using ‘Neighbours’ and ‘Home and Away’ as examples.  A young actor who had just graduated from NIDA challenged them. 


“It’s not easy acting in the soaps,” he said.  “A couple of my NIDA mates got roles in ‘Home and Away’ and they found it really difficult.” 


He explained that they had received their scripts and worked on their preparation.  BUT a short time before they commenced script amendments arrived and they had to do their preparation all over again.  At the last minute there were more script amendments.  And then when they got on set more changes were made.  “It’s easy to criticize but its not easy to do,” he concluded.


This story sounds totally believable to me.  That’s the way serial TV happens.  In fact, it’s the way series TV happens.  While driving to location I can recall receiving messages that script changes were on their way for the scenes we were about to shoot.


Screen history confirms that this is not a new phenomenon.  The movie classic ‘Casablanca’ was shot under those conditions.  Story has it that no one knew what the end of the movie was and they were already shooting the film.  Script amendments arrived regularly.


What does that tell us?


It makes it plain that screen actors need to be able to adapt quickly and effectively.  The kind of concepts that might be very useful with a four or six week rehearsal period for a play are of little use to an actor who has only a few minutes to do their preparation for a shoot.


Nevertheless, being able to “command the stage” is an impressive ability to have acquired.


Casablanca Poster


AND IF THAT MAKES YOU WANT TO LOOK AT THAT FAMOUS FINAL SCENE THEN CLICK HERE.  Obviously they eventually worked it out.  (It is interesting to note that despite its erratic birth process 'Casablanca' won Best Picture at the Oscars)



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