The live theater stage is a place of recreating life moments. To do so is called craft. Theater in its essence is living art. The audience shows appreciation either by applauding or with positive energy. This can be heard and felt when an actor on stage is showing moments that are incredibly real. For actors, the indicator of success of recreating moments is mostly in front of an audience. Acting class is to practice recreating moments.
An actor knows he or she is successful in making a moment real when they sense the audience has been moved. We can witness this when the actor and audience manifest an interplay of energy. Only in theater can this manifestation of energy be witnessed. This is why I love theater so much. There is an energy in the theater that heightens my senses so much that if I have a migraine it is gone when I enter a theater. Then it is back when I leave the theater. (Family has noticed this countless times.)
An actor receiving good energy from the audience is euphoric to the actor. It is what draws the actor to come back to the stage. As well, it is euphoria for the playwright. To hear their words spoken from an actor in front of an audience brings much pleasure. The actor, however, is key. Their job is crucial, and they need many opportunities to practice their craft. They must practice and acquire and maintain skills learned from the stage.
Our society has taught people that no matter where they are in their skills set, they are to be complimented constantly. Some say this occurred when in soccer game kids got a trophy for just showing up. I am thinking this is the reason why people from a certain age and down, expect compliments constantly. Or maybe that person is needing compliments for some insecurity? Either way, when a compliment is asked out of the blue, I have been accustomed to wonder if it stems from insecurity or it is the trophy-for-just-showing-up mentality.
In one case, a class participant requested criticism. Not just once, but several times for several of weeks. ‘Is there anything that I am doing that I can improve?’ I said she should just keep doing what she is doing, I will correct when needed. Then again, “Is there any critique you can give me?” I said I thought things were moving along well I liked what I have seen so far. Then again, “But is there any criticism you can give me?” I gave in mistakenly thinking that an actual critique was wanted. I said there is one thing she can avoid doing and away I went.
The following week this actor took one hour of my life sobbing over this. I am not a psychiatrist, and I do realize that the arts attract emotional people. However, this ballooned to nearly a year-long undertow. Details on this at another time, but I will remark on how in all my actor training, I never asked for criticism, I accepted when it was given, and when I got it, I took the criticism on the chin. (Maybe this term is foreign to some people.)
HMTC gives stage time to practice elements of theater. The more you are on stage, the more you learn. It is an intuitive learning process which means you learn by doing and self-gauging. Guidance is always a plus. To learn by doing is more satisfying and more permanent when you can see your own growth. Your growth ultimately will be tested in front of an audience. That’s where a performer will know if what they present on stage is good enough. Even then, the smart actor will choose ways to make it better.
Theater classes and training are not a ‘trophy-for-just-showing up’ entity. It is a place to learn and practice a craft. If immediate gratification is needed, standup comedy and open mic poetry are good choices. There are venues for those locally.
Silvia Gonzalez Scherer is the Executive Artistic Director and co-founder of the Hanford Multicultural Theater Company. She is also a playwright and an actress.
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