My Final Effort, but do Keep Posted for More!

-Final Paper-

This semester has passed as quickly as a performance does, after preparing it for months on end. At the beginning of this blog, I felt stressed-out – how will I choose my topic, how will I find, and talk to interviewees regarding this, how will I make people interested in my passions, how will I manage to develop this complex yet simple topic over the course of fourteen weeks. Here I am now, thirteen weeks later wondering how to stop myself from writing! In the beginning weeks I must admit it felt like a burden to think of interviewees who would tell me differing yet relevant things about their theatrical experience. I feared that the topic may be exhausted after one or two meetings. However, I was pleasantly contradicted by the variety of actors I met with, by the myriad of their theatrical practices and experiences.

Throughout my blogging semester, I met with tragedians, comedians and actors floating in the pleasant middle of theatrical experiences, who like myself could not choose between the two types of happiness that theater provides – exploring human psyche in a tragedy, delving into finding out what makes combinations of words and gestures funny, as well as the reverie that the tragicomedy presents – a combination of all the beauty that the human personality is capable of.

I met with folks who preferred to rehearse alone and actors who needed to be in an active group to rehearse, actors who needed strict guidance from an acting professor and actors who preferred to explore their abilities independently.

During the semester I learned an incredible amount of information. Some amount the world of social media, but even more about myself. I discovered that I enjoy ‘performing’ journalistic acts, I discovered that Social Media is not as useless as it may seem in the eyes of a counterculture-opinionated college student; I discovered that I may actually be fit for a professions which involves speaking to people instead of speaking at people (as my International Relations major encourages) and I discovered that delving for facts and opinions, searching for the truth may in fact turn out to be my calling. This, regardless of whether or not I will call myself a journalist, a social activist, a human rights advocate, or any other such title, in the future.

Speaking in regards to technicalities, I discovered new passions and pleasant ways to spend time while still doing something useful, or at least fun-for-others-to-read. I took up the art of blogging, tweeting, reporting in terms of facts, as well as opinions. I made my first videos – something I would have resented having to do just a few months ago for one reason or another, which I could not explain nowadays. What is more, I discovered the idea of the 5-Shot-Video – a videomaking gimmick which works, and I actually enjoyed it! I looked into social media apps, something I would avoid doing on a normal basis. I learned what the deal is with the likes of websites, such as Storify and Thinglink. All in all, I immersed myself into the vast world of social media, and unexpectedly, beautifully, excitingly-so, I loved it all!

Perhaps, most importantly, I discovered something about myself. This class showed me that I may be wholeheartedly convinced that something is not ‘the thing’ for me, that something is ‘boring’, useless, senseless, not compatible with my kind of thinking – and then, I may just discover that this is indeed what my whole life has been leading me to. Journalism is certainly a newly discovered passion for me, which I plan to dive in at one point or another, whether during my masters, or at a later point in my so-called careerbuilding.

For my darling readers, I plan to continue posting in this blog, perhaps not weekly, but from time to time – whenever I act, whenever I see acting, whenever I am in a theatrical mood (when am I not?), whenever I think about theater and am in some way reminded of my dear Acting Blog.

Here is my theatrical experience of the semester (which excluded me as an actor) – European Theater Night:

& Here is my own theatrical experience of the semester (which luckily included me as an actor) – The Audition: 🙂

http://aubgdaily.com/the-audition-opened-the-theater-season-at-aubg/

My Own Theatrical Adventure

Today’s blog post is a little different. This is because I feel a little different today. Excited. Nervous. Delighted. Anxious. Excited, excited, excited! Today is the theatrical culmination of my past half of an year. Scratch that – it is perhaps the emotional, personal and amateurly-professional culmination of the better part of my 2014. It is the premiere of my play.

The play that I have been going on and on about is called The Audition. Apt title for an exquisite play. This play is different. Different in itself, different than all of the projects I have participated in. For several reasons, that I, naturally, am about to list.

Firstly, it is a two-person play. This is a strange thing, both for the audience and for the performers.

The audience is used to analyzing a variety of characters, making connections between them, picking their most or least favorite character, following a plot which intertwines all of their fates into a single story. A two-role play incites something different – not a desire to follow the characters’ various fates and how they end up connecting into one. Instead, it incites the audience to follow the implied, suggested, hinted, mentioned happenings in only two characters’ lives – and chase them into how all of these events and experiences led the two to be together, in one space, solely the two of them.

The performers are also placed in an unusual position here. A two-role play is a completely different concept from the usual plot-following play. This difference starts at having only one person to look at on stage, through not even having time to lick one’s lips amidst the exchange of phrases, to being overwhelmed by the idea that they are the only source of contrast to the only other character – that it is them and you, you and them. Both performers must act in complete unison, in harmony with each other, in understanding and simplicity, and yet, they must present an extraordinary contrast between their respective characters. They must both be entirely unique, essentially differing from each other, yet they must complement each other in every way, in every line, in every movement seen in the glimpse of the stage lights. A two-role play presents a very extraordinary experience, both in its experimentiality, in the effort to be put in by the performers, in its deep, personal, human meaning.

Secondly, this play is a psychological thriller. I have been engaged in dramas, in comedies, in dramas of human development.

Let us analyze the first part of this genre. It is a psychological performance. This means that in every movement of the fingers, in every step, in every glance, in every projected sound, there must be a specific meaning – whether a meaning which calls to memory an experience of the character which happened in their childhood, or whether it is a meaning of their overall goal for communicating with the other character – it is a meaning that must be felt by the actor himself/herself, by the second actor, and my the audience. It is a psychological performance because it makes the actor dig more deeply than ever into the character’s mentality – it forces the actor to question the character’s every move, to delve into their past, to invent emotions, sentiments, of the past and present, which are implied, if not left unmentioned at all in the script. Because that is all we get – sheets of paper, a script to work with. We must take this script, and create an entire life out of it, an entire personality, a collection of memories and feelings of the past, a collection of hopes, mannerism, a whole behavioral pattern, and from there – create exceptions to this pattern, reasons for it, disturbances in the character, and all of this, to be invented, gathered and shoved into an hour and a half, into two words: “It’s Stella.”

The second part of the genre – thriller. Creating a thriller is as intense, as it is (hopefully) made to look at the premiere. It requires connecting all glances, movements, uttered words, gestures, intonations, shifting of the voice and of the gaze, into a culminating in a single suspenseful, most intense moment of the edge. And then allowing the moment drop off this edge, and grow into a plateau, followed by the next intense moment. And then, in the end, it must all grow into an intense, culpritted end, which must explain everything. You would be lying if you said that this does not sound like a challenge.

The third reason will be discussed later. I must still analyze it further.

All in all, come see the culmination of my experience, tonight, at 9pm, in the ABF of the AUBG! 🙂 See you all there!

Mrs. Director

I had the pleasure of having a renown AUBG director as company for the European Theater Night in Sofia this month. In my previous post you may read more about my experience, which did not turn out just as I expected, but was nevertheless rewarding, inspiring, and spiritual. Among my comrades for the event was my dear friend and theater-buddy Darya Yanitskaya. Daria has many theater projects behind her, both as an actor and as a director. However, she focuses on her directing ‘career’, so to say. She enjoys directing more, as, according to her, directing incorporates more aspects of theater, than acting, and she loves immersing herself in a theater atmosphere completely.

Darya, as a play leader, likes to think of herself as a liberal director. I, as a former actor in her troupe, confirm this view. She asks for actors’ opinions, she considers their perspective on their characters, she does not strive to have her point-of view be visible in every aspect of a character. Darya asks her actors questions about who they think they are, as opposed to telling them who they are supposed to be.

When asked what is the best way to allocate an actor to a character, she explains that some actors just fit to certain roles. Every actor is able to resonate with a certain character, based on the actor’s own experiences and manner of thinking. The best way to approach the issue of appointing an actor to a role is to essentially let the actor’s own personality choose – who will fit them best as an experience. By this logic, she states, different actors playing different characters work out in different ways. For instance, an out-going and chirpy person may portray Queen Elizabeth in a totally different manner, than a person with a laid-back, lethargic personality – and both portrayals may be accurate and interesting to follow – but they will be different.

So, how important is one’s acting background? What I am trying to ask is, can any of us take part in a play, be the actors of our childhood fantasies; or would we make a fool of ourselves if we have not previously participated in acting projects? According to Darya, the acting experience of an actor is certainly not the most important thing about playing a role. It is only important as far as stage behavior goes. This means that having acted before vouches that one has experience in following directing orders, knows how to move on stage, knows how to turn, how to gesticulate, how to project one’s voice. However, what is most important about a person going into acting is their inner qualities – is the person artistic, creative, is the person outgoing on stage? At a certain starting point nobody has experience. What matters is that you are ready to open up – to open yourself up to yourself, to your character, to your fellow actors, to your director, to your audience. Once you have made the commitment, anything is possible. Essentially it is all about the level of dedication.

That is not to say that it is not easier to work with people who have acted before, Darya notes. Folks who have been on stage before are better trained in acting techniques. Things that may seem obvious to the inexperienced eye, such as to avoid turning your back to the viewers, is not so obvious once one is on stage. On stage, the stage seems like a playground – one can walk all over it, is free to act as they wish on it, can act as real-fake people. While that is true, one must at all times think from the point of view of the audience as well – they want to see the character’s eyes, all his/her movements, all of his/her reactions. And so, having acting experience allows for deeper awareness of body language and physical behavior. What Darya points out here, and we cannot help but agree, is that self-awareness is key. Self-awareness in physicality, self-awareness in connecting mental activity to physical activity. “When [an actor] makes a motion, it is not simply a motion [as in real life], it is always a motion that sends a message.”

As Darya exclaims, the two most important things about performing in any venue is being artistic, i.e. have a knack for expressing emotions and actions in various ways, and being self-aware.

Since, Darya is the first director to be interviewed for this blog, I led our conversation back to the myriad of differences between being an actor and being a director. What she told me is that, essentially, the actor concentrates on one role and lives through it – the person he/she must be for that certain period of time. In contrast, the director has a lot more to think about – the interaction between actors, concentration on every actor and their character, as well as developing the overall experience of the actors.

While this all may seem obvious, it is not so black and white. The director’s duty is not to merely monitor the actors’ development into their character, their movements, and their voice changes. A main task of the director is creating an overall experience for the actors – not focusing on “the end of the means – the play itself, the end product, but rather having the amazing experience altogether, working on it as a group, becoming a family, sharing this experience, and eventually projecting it for people to immerse themselves in, too.” The director is the one who makes the efforts of the actors into a whole, rewarding experience.

Naturally, the director must coordinate parts of a performance that may also seem obvious, and ‘easy’ to the untrained eye: stage design, sound effects, light effects, etc. Darya jokes that even if a performance is extremely bad, weaving these aspects into a production in a clever, creative manner, can improve it, make it watch-able, and even make it enjoyable. This, again, is the job of the director.

Essentially, the director “must think about at least twice as many things as an actor” – “the play is [the director’s] child, it is like giving birth to a bunch of little puppies, while when you are an actor you create just one puppy.” Although an actor can create a beautiful, intricate, complex ‘puppy’, I retract, it is true that we do not think as much about the other ‘puppies’ during the development of the play; we selfishly focus on our own job.

This all sounds like a tough job. Thus, as a conclusion of our conversation I cannot help but wonder why Darya chooses to direct – to take on all of these duties, as opposed to choosing to direct and focusing on one aspect of a play. Her answer is that the play is not made for the audience. A bold statement that resonates and rings true to a relatively-experienced actor like me. “The audience will reflect on [the play] for a day or a week, the play comes and goes for them, but for the people that are in the play, the ones who spent so much feeling, time, effort, dedication – it is very important for them that the experience exists for them.” The ultimate reward for being a director is the overall experience that he/she creates for his/her team, “not so much the comments of the audience.”

My European Theater Night

The European Theater night is held every November. It is introduced by about ten countries in Europe, and, luckily, my nation of residence, Bulgaria, welcomes it with open arms. No matter what one may say about the ‘second-world’ country Bulgaria regarding its corruption, uncleanliness, disregard for European Union norms, etc., it all changes on the Theater night. People from all over Bulgaria gather in Sofia on this night with the goal of not only being entertained, but feeling cultured, enlightened, European, poetic. Way past dinner time, the usual time when plays commence, and soon finish, groups of people, young and old alike, prance through the central streets of Sofia heading to yet another play they have been excited about for weeks. They are all laughing, smiling, in a hurry, discussing the latest shock they have experienced at the hand of the last play they managed to squeeze into. There are lights on everywhere, bars and restaurants ready to accommodate all adventurous folks out on this jolly night.

I had great plans for the Theater night this year. I had devised a schedule of all the plays I wanted to experience; I had been discussing these plans with friends for more than a month. However, as it often happens in college life, I had way, way too much month at the end of my money. Most of the plays in Sofia are, unfortunately, paid. Although the sum asked for is small compared to any other theater ticket in Europe, me and my friends were unable to readily produce all the money we would have had to give, had we tried attending all the productions that we wanted to see.

All in all, I had to go walk through fire to get something out of Theater Night this year. And this is what I did. At 9pm sharp began an outrageous fire show by the fire-dancing group “Jar” in the yard of the Presidency in Sofia. Humans, who can be more likened to puppets in mysterious wizard-like clothes, danced for a group of hundreds for about an hour. I do not have the words to express the feelings they projected onto their audience. In practice, they were taking swift measured rehearsed steps, holding and playing with sticks of fire. In theory, however, what I observed was a group of forest fairies dancing their hearts out amidst a fiery myriad of colors, inviting the audience to become one with their dance, with the spiritual connection they were promoting among us all.

When the show was over, me and my company headed to a play that we had decided fit our time frame, interests, and, unfortunately, budget. It was definitely not was I was expecting, and definitely not what I was looking for. However, I must admit it was an interesting experience. I had never before attended an experimental, abstract performance like it. This is because I had never been interested in abstract expression to that degree, and also because such an impressionist show was never advertised to me personally. However, it was indeed, intriguing, to be in a room full of strangers experiencing this outpour of emotion coming from the director’s brain and from the actors’ bodies. The play was called “Richard, which Richard”, a mash-up between Shakespearean works and Albert Camus’ writing. I was mainly excited for the play due to the hints of Camus I was expecting to sense in the production. That was indeed, mostly what ended up impressing me in the end. The notion that the play projected – the notion that our lives are our lives, and we must not let them be dictated by outside forces – is what grabbed my interest and did not let it go until the end of the production. I kept looking for a plot, but it was not to be found. Walking out of the theater, I did feel fortunate to have gotten a seat in it though. I had just been through a spiritual experience, which promoted individuality, and to be honest with myself, that is what I had been looking for to experience during Theater Night.

Although I did not end up experiencing the European Theater night in all of its regalia and beauty and creativity, I managed to obtain a chunk of its inspiration, and I must say I am satisfied with my experience.

Here is my Storify on the Subject! Check out how Theater Night went in other countries. http://bit.ly/1x3BfQI

New Discoveries: Storify & Thinglink!

Today’s Multimedia Journalism class was such an adventure. We discovered two new sources of interactive media sharing – Storify and Thinglink.

Ever used Storify? Well, I never had! Until today. We were meant to create a  whole story (meaning – beginning, middle, end) made out of Twitter posts. I admit, it sounded less fun than it actually was. As soon as I started creating my story, however, I felt like I had discovered the beauty, so to say, of Storify. It is fun, interactive and useful, and encourages lots of creativity. The point is to search for twitter tags in posts, connected to a story you want to build – whether related to an event, a film, a new music video, a book, a comet landing, anything. Then, you can basically build your own story, using other people’s voices. Yes, it requires creativity, but it is easy, fun, and spreads information on whatever topic you choose!

I chose to report on the Interstellar movie hype. Half of my Facebook friends have already posted about it, and everyone on Twitter seems to be going crazy over it. To be honest, I have not had the chance to see it yet. I am skeptical, as usual, when there is a movie that everyone claims to have loved. However, I am definitely interested in the topic, as well as the actors’ play. So, here is my story. Click the link to check it out!

storify snapshot View the Full Storify at: http://t.co/h7pFAY2Qot !

~~~

Ever used Thinglink? It is a platform for creating images with links shared on them. It is hard to explain, so just go check it out. I personally did not get the idea until I tried it myself, but when I did, well, let’s just say it is quite addictive. My thinglink is on the topic of a play of some friends of mine – A Bedfull of Foreigners. The cast did a great job, and this fun, expressive picture is proof of this. Click on the icons to get more information on the character stereotype that they represent! (There were, of course, no exact matches in the list of characters which tend to come up again and again in productions, but I had to pick the best possible match.)

thinglink

View the Full Thinglink, with tags, at: http://bit.ly/14hWdET !

I hope you enjoy viewing my little creations as much as I enjoyed making them!

Do not forget to tune in next week for an exclusive coverage of Sofia’s European Theater’s Night, happening this Saturday, November 15, 2014 in Sofia, Bulgaria, as well as an exciting interview with Mrs. Director.

Back to Basics

It has been two months since this blog was opened as an outlet for my theatrical musings. We have been through drama, comedy, improvisation and learning by heart, living in roles and living out of roles. We have met actors with various views on acting and on turning into a character. Mostly, we have fed our hunger for theater-related talks and experiences. We met with an amateur actress from Sofia, Bulgaria who felt like her characters were her friends – she went to them for advice in tough moments, and she could not rid herself of the feeling that she is all these characters in one body. Then, we met with an AUBG actress who extracted positivism and good vibes from her characters – she acts for the happiness her characters bring to her life. We moved on to another AUBG actress who at times struggled with coming back to herself after living in a character’s mind for the duration of the play. Coincidentially, she had mostly landed on tragic roles, and they continue to haunt her until today. Our next interview was an AUBG actor who is so versatile in his acting that he manages to escape all of his roles. He does not become his characters – his characters become him. Our next interviewee shook up the scene. He is a comedy actor, as opposed to our previous interviewees and focuses his acting on improvisation. Unlike our other inteviewees, he cannot act when he is not in the mood – or at least the improvisation does not come as easy. Our last post so far concerns a musing on the tragic death of comedy actor Robin Williams. We hope we provoked some thoughts on the matter!

What is next for our blog is a chain of more exciting and differing interviews with actors and actresses, as well as an exclusive interview with an AUBG director. Eventually, I will finally come around to introducing myself, and my career as an amateur actress. Who am I and why am I so passionate about writing for theater? Stick around to find out!

Robin Williams – Was he Happy and is his Life and Death any of our business?

Today’s blog post is quite regulated. I am meant to write a news-y post about a recent event, that I can spin in a way that it relates to my local area, namely the American University in Bulgaria, in Blagoevgrad. What a difficult task it must be to find relevant, interesting, recent and universal news about theater, you say? Why, yes, yes it is. I could not help but focus on the recent suicide of comedy actor Robin Williams – I would not normally call this news, as it is a personal tragedy which has no place in breaking news, or any news whatsoever; it is nobody’s business why, how, when, etc. it happened. The only thing that should be concerning us, Williams’ audience, is the sad fact that we will no longer look forward to seeing a new movie with Williams’ paradoxical face – both cheerful, yet so hidden-ly melancholic at the same time.

The actor’s death sparked endless conversation on how it is possible that such a cheerful-looking man who usually went for kindhearted, ‘smiley’ roles, could have had such a disdain for life in his own heart. The answer probably lies scattered in several different places. Firstly, we, the audience, did not know his personality, despite how joyous his face may have appeared to us, and despite what comedic roles we were used to seeing him in. His personality, sources claim, was indeed cheerful and positive, yet not at all times. Like every other person, Robin Williams had days when he would retreat into himself, where he would want to be alone, where he would drink himself to sleep. His days of rehab certainly prove that his own personality was not static and fixed, but human – sometimes up, sometimes down.

I asked Ana Ukleba of AUBG to share her thoughts on the unfortunate passing of this great man. I found her rigorously studying for a midterm.

She, however, allowed herself a few minutes of break to help my blog out. Here is what she told me:

She spoke of the idea that

“comedians are the saddest people in the world.”

This thought will haunt me for a while. Can it be that we exploit actors for our own happiness, and in doing so suck out their own joy and happiness? This is not the case for AUBG theater, as we, AUBG’s actors do take our tasks and roles seriously, but it is not what directs our life. Out there, however, in the real life theater, in Hollywood and on Broadway, actors struggle everyday to make a living out of making others happy.

Thomas Naglis of AUBG, another student that I questioned on his opinion of the tragedy had a different perspective. He seems dubious of how happy Williams actually could have been if he decided to end his life in such a violent manner:

“Since smiling is his profession, it might not actually be as sincere as we think it is.”

In his opinion we only harm comedians with the cliche of their happiness off-stage. We just assume that comedians are

“happy in real life, so that person cannot really afford to show how many troubles he really may have.”

Is it possible that the public is at fault for Robin Williams’ demise? Quite possible, I would say. Humans, as a group, are not considerate of others, especially if these others are dehumanized by being puppets on a director’s string, seemingly living for the film roles which they present to us.

So why did Williams not share with his public that he was unhappy? Would we not have understood? Was he afraid of people liking him less for not being the positive persona that he struggled to project? According to Thomas, the actor may have even be afraid that

“he would no longer be taken seriously, as a person and as an actor.”

We, however, concluded that the reasons for his final act is after all Robin Williams’ personal decision, and a secret that he decided not to share with the world. Thomas does not agree with his choice to end his life, but he cannot allow himself to contest it.

Here is what our interview looked like:

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What differentiated Williams from many other actors is how many personalities he had embedded in him. Having starred in about 80 films and about 20 television series, Williams’ mind must have been a concoction of all the characters he has played. What is more, his characters were always diverse to the point of disbelief. Imagine this. In his brain Robin Williams had to accommodate an alien, a neurologist, a genie, an android, a gay cabaret owner, Teddy Roosevelt, an elderly Scottish nanny, among others.

“This must be a price paid interiorly by that rich, rich combination of fireworks going on in your head,”

says of Williams talk show host Dick Cavett, who had interviewed him several times, here.

One thing remains though. Williams took on all of his roles with excitement, pride and readyness to work in a focused and pristine manner. Regardless of what personal problems he was battling, whether alcoholism or multiple divorces, the actor has no unaccounted for gaps in his filmography. Williams was an actor in the truest, most exclusive sense of the word.

The article that I used as a source of inspiration for this post was this one, illustrating the forever-busy professional life of Robin Williams.

What do YOU think? 🙂