This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Presented as a gift by Opal Center For Arts & Education To help you create your own shows here, there, and anywhere. Copyleft 2011
I never intended to become a theater person. I've never had a class or any official training in theater arts. Nonetheless, I've been involved in community theater for 12 years. I've written, directed, acted, worked backstage, managed lights and sound... I've pretty much done it all. All it really takes is a little interest and commitment and a can-do attitude. The point is, anyone can do theater with a little effort and creativity. The kind of theater I've always done is grassroots community theater, a sort of theater by the people, for the people. This usually means that participants will range from first-timers to serious hobbyists, productions have a low to medium budget, and the audience is looking for a fun time but not Broadway quality perfection. Along the way, I've learned a lot of tricks to creating this kind of theater. I've written this guide to pass on what I've learned and to make it easier for people with little or no theater experience to create great homegrown theater, and to have fun doing it. Theater is also a great learning experience. Although I've done a little bit of everything for many years, I find there's always more to learn and perfect along the way.
Theater is all about teamwork
With the exception of the very rare truly one-person shows, all theater performances require a team of people working together. This is almost always both a lot of fun and a real challenge. Everyone has their own lessons to learn about working well in a group, but here are some important things that seem to come up a lot in theater productions: ●Respect people's time: show up to rehearsals on time or early and be ready to rock. If you can't make it or are going to be late, call ahead and let someone know. ●Help out with the not-as-fun work, like cleaning up the theater. It goes faster and funner with more hands helping. ●Let the leaders lead. Do your best to follow the director's instructions and pay attention to the backstage manager. Not everyone knows how to be nice and be in charge at the same time. Be tolerant of people's ways. If the person in charge really annoys you, try to talk to them about it in private and with as much tact as you can muster. ●If you're in charge, take suggestions graciously but don't feel like you always have to follow them. ●Most importantly, remember that theater is both fun and stressful at the same time. Try to have fun with it, however it goes. At the same time, be tolerant and understanding if people (including you) start to stress out. I've never worked on a show that didn't have at least one stressful moment. Theater can be an amazing experience of community and learning to cooperate. Power through the difficult parts and bask in the glory of a good, fun show at the end. It's my belief that theater has a special magic. Every show wants to work out well, even against all odds. Go with the flow. Do your best. It'll be what it'll be, and the fact of the matter is that even a sloppy, chaotic theater show performed by friends is pretty entertaining (if it's not too long).
Creating your script
Writing a good script can be challenging for someone without a little theater experience. If you've never been involved in a theater production, consider finding a script written by someone else or adapting a story that you'd like to turn into a stage show. I have a few personal guidelines that I try to follow when writing a script, though these are certainly not hard and fast rules. ●Every scene should have at least one thing that's interesting to watch. Audiences can grow tired of words, words, words. They want to see some action. ●Try to picture what's happening when you write. Imagine it happening on stage. Keeping this in mind will make your writing transfer to performance more smoothly.
unnecessarily long and wordy monologues (speeches). They're hard for actors and can easily lose your audience. This doesn't mean to never include a monologue, it just means make sure it's really important. You can usually get the same ideas across in a conversation. ●Be realistic about what can be accomplished on stage and within budget. A small production is going to have a hard time making a dream sequence that involves a knight in shining armor, a traffic jam, and a spaceship. That being said, sometimes you can get a lot across with a little creativity... a helmet and shield is almost as good as a suit of armor, and a control panel can give the impression of being on a starship. I don't know how to do an onstage traffic jam, but you could probably figure it out if you need to. Whether you adapt something or create your own, be sure to do plenty of read-throughs of your script before trying to turn it into a stage show. To do a read-through, get together with enough people so that each character has a different person reading it. Have another person read the stage directions (descriptions of what the characters are doing). After reading the script aloud, get everyone's honest feedback about it. Things to discuss after reading through your script: ●Did everyone understand the script? ●What were people's most and least favorite parts? ●Did the dialog feel natural and realistic? Not all dialog is meant to feel natural, but most is. It will also be helpful to format your script in a way that is easy to read and understand. Use large fonts, like 11 or 12 point, so that they're easy to read in theater light. When you read the scripts for the first time, you can save money and ink by printing in draft quality... you'll probably end up re-writing and re-printing the scripts anyway. Print on one side of the paper to make it easier to flip pages. Then, save your old scripts and print on their backsides. There are lots of ways to format your script, but it really helps when it's easy to see who is speaking and what the stage directions are. Personally, I like to indent all dialog and italicize all stage directions:
Scene 5: The Forest
LITTLE RED is skipping along the trail. BIG BAD WOLF watches from across the stage. BIG BAD WOLF Hello there, little friend. Where you headed with all those (Clears his throat) tasty looking treats? LITTLE RED (looking scared) Ummm... Grandma's... House?
Putting Together Your Team
A theater show has many roles for many people. This means more than just an actor for every part. There's also many roles that need to be filled that don't involve being on stage. Here's a list of the most common jobs with brief descriptions. All these jobs can be combined or spread out among multiple people depending on the needs of your show. If you do spread the jobs out, its best to have one person be the head of each one. ●Writer: The person that writes the script. ●Producer: The person in charge of making sure all physical aspects of the production are taken care of, including prop building, backstage managing, costuming, special effect, etc. The producer doesn't necessarily do all these things themselves, but they are in charge of delegating the jobs and making sure they get done. ●Director: The person in charge of the people aspect of the production. The director helps the actors during rehearsals, giving instruction on timing, how to move and how to deliver lines effectively,
for example. The director also makes sure that props, sound effects, and other things created by the producer work well in the show. ●Backstage Manager: This person makes sure all the scene changes go smoothly, helps with costume changes, and generally works backstage doing whatever needs to be done during the show. During rehearsals, the backstage manager learns all the ins and outs of the show so that they can know everything that needs to happen backstage. This person generally puts costumes and props back in their proper places after the chaos of rehearsals and shows. It's nice when everyone helps out with this. ●Lighting and Sound: This people run the lights and sound (respectively) during the show. They generally don't have to be at rehearsals until the final rehearsals when all the 'tech' (light and sound) is ready. ●Actors: I think you got this one. As soon as possible, figure out who is going to do what in your show. As soon as possible after that, schedule ALL your rehearsals and shows so that you can make sure the schedule works for everyone. The producer and director should have everyone's phone number in case there are scheduling changes or other details to work out.
Most of the work of creating a show is in the rehearsals. How much time you'll need to rehearse your show involves a lot of factors, including how experienced your team is, how long your show is, and how difficult your show is. ●General Rule: Intense rehearsal is one hour of rehearsal per one minute of your show. Minimal rehearsal is one hour rehearsal per five minutes of your show. ●Actors with less experience will need a little more rehearsal. ●Comedies can be rehearsed a little bit less because mistakes are usually funny. ●Shows with a lot of stage directions, especially dancing, need a little more time to get comfortable with. ●Shows with a lot of dialog need more time from the actors outside of rehearsal... they need to memorize their lines on their own time. There are a few different kinds of rehearsals and things to do in rehearsals. Here's a list. Not every show will do every kind of rehearsal. Later rehearsals may be “off book”, meaning that the actors should have their lines memorized and are not allowed to look at their scripts. ●Warm-ups: There are a number of different vocal exercises and theater games that people play to get started in a rehearsal. While not absolutely necessary, these can help people get used to being loud and working together. A couple simple ones: 1) stand in a circle and play with an imaginary ball and 2) everyone yell the vowels (A! E! I! O! U! And sometimes Y!) at the corners of the room, moving one corner to the right after each vowel. ●Read-through: Each actor read's their part in the script. Generally, you do this sitting in a circle without any physical acting. This is a very early activity that's usually only done in the first one or two rehearsals. ●Line-through: Each actor speaks their lines without looking at the script and without physical acting. This is a good exercise to start a rehearsal with to make sure the lines are refreshed in everyone's mind. ●Walk-through: Go through each part of the show, doing lines or not, with the actors moving to the part of stage that they will be during the performance. This is how the actors learn where they'll be physically when they deliver their lines. ●Full rehearsal: Go all the way through the show, possibly using costumes and/or props. ●Dress rehearsal: A full rehearsal with costumes.
rehearsal: A full rehearsal with costumes, props, sets, lights, and sounds. Pretty much everything. During tech rehearsal, there are sometimes stops to set lights and perfect other special effects. ●Practice performance: Like a tech rehearsal (with absolutely everything that will be in the final show) with no stopping, as if you had an audience. Maybe you can even find a few people to be a test audience. I strongly recommend doing at least one rehearsal like this for every show. You often discover important things that need working out. There's also a few different things that are important for everyone on stage to practice. Directors, make sure you catch this stuff early and make sure your actors learn it... it can be very difficult to correct things after practicing them wrong for a while. Here's the list: ●Get loud. Everybody needs to practice delivering lines, even 'whispered' lines, loud enough so that people in the back row can hear and understand. Shy and quiet people will have trouble with this at first, but everyone can get it with some practice. ●Face forward. As much as possible, even when talking to a character standing to your side, don't turn more than 45 degrees from straight into the audience. This is also known as 'cheating' towards the audience. ●Don't upstage people. In other words, whenever possible, don't walk in front of other actors on the stage. This is especially true of an actor that is speaking or doing something important. ●Stay in character. Even if you forget a line or something unexpected happens on stage, stay in character, improvise, and try to get the show back on track. If you are acting with someone that has messed up a line, try to help them get back on track while staying in character.
Building Your Show
Rehearsals are mostly about the actors, but most theater performances have some props, sets, costumes, or other effects to bring the show to life. These can be built as the initial rehearsals are happening. As your show gets closer to performance time, the scenery, costumes, sounds etc. can be incorporated into your rehearsals. The most important thing to keep in mind when building the physical aspects of your show is that a little goes a long way. The audience wants to suspend disbelief and become immersed in the show, so even a few simple costumes and clever props can be enough to fill a performance, especially when doing comedy or skit-style theater. Simple, inexpensive, and even poorly made props can add to the humor of a show as long as the audience understands what they are supposed to be. The key is to keep the quality of props at a similar level, so as a rule don't make some elements of your show trashy while others are perfect and fancy. Here are a few pointers for building your show without it becoming too expensive or too much work to be fun: ●Many costumes can be created from clothes acquired from a second-hand store. A few simple alterations can go a long way. ●Toys and inexpensive goods, again from a second-hand or dollar store, can make great props. For example, toy guns and badges can usually be acquired for a dollar a piece, as can dishes. ●Sound effects can be created with a stereo system and a computer, using free software such as Multiplay (http://www.audiovisualdevices.com.au/software/multiplay). Sounds can also be created from backstage with various objects or even by voice, which can be a very funny way to go. ●Cardboard and paper mache can be used to create larger set pieces and masks. See below for more information about this.
Paper Mache and Cardboard
Paper mache and cardboard can do amazing things in a theater show. This technique generally uses cardboard to create a base shape, and paper mache (strips of paper soaked in glue and water) to cover and strengthen the skeleton. Here are a few techniques: ●The simplest way is to cut flat shapes, then mache and paint them. ●Build things with cardboard pieces, cut into appropriate shapes and stuck together with hot glue and duct tape. This usually creates something with hard edges. ●For more rounded and organic shapes, you can cut cardboard strips and create a skeleton by bending and stapling the strips together in the shape you want. Once you have your shape's skeleton built, you almost certainly want to cover it with at least one layer of mache. For flats to be painted, it's a good idea to mache at least the edges because it adds strength and looks a lot nicer than the inside of cardboard. The amount and kind of mache you need to use depends on a few factors. The longer you want your creation to last, and the more rough you are going to be with it, the more layers of mache you'll need. You can also use different kinds of paper to cover your skeleton. Thinner paper, like newsprint, can be used to create shape and texture, almost like clay. Thick paper, like paper bags torn into strips and patches, is very strong and needs fewer layers but is harder to shape. White paper, like computer paper, makes a nice final layer of mache, as it can be painted without primer. There are many different recipes for mache and many different ways to use this technique. Here are just a few recipes: ●Mix 1 part white glue to 4 or 5 parts water in a bucket or pot. ●Mix 1 part water and 1 part flour in your container. This should end up with the consistency of pancake batter. ●If you can find it, you can use liquid starch straight out of the bottle. ●If you hate the smell of your mache, add a little bit of cinnamon to the mix. Once you have your bowl of mache base, tear yourself a nice supply of paper into strips (1-4 inches thick) or chunks (3-4 inches on a side). Crumple some paper a bit to make it more shapeable and to separate the fibers, then submerge it in your mache pot, letting it soak for a couple minutes before use. When you take a piece of paper out of your mixture, squeeze it out a little and lay it on your skeleton, being sure to smooth the edges. As you cover your skeleton, always overlap your pieces of paper so that they will stick to each other when drying. The paper will dry hard, so you can use it to smooth out any inconsistencies or bumps in the cardboard, as well as small empty spaces between cardboard pieces. Put at most two layers of mache on at a time, and then let your creation dry out completely. A fan blowing across it will speed up drying. One layer of paper bag material is enough to make something that lasts for quite a few shows. Three or four layers of paper bag material will last practically forever. Thinner paper is better for adding shape and smoothing curves. To make a lasting piece with only thin paper, at least 3 layers are needed. Once you've finished with the mache layers, and it's completely dry, you can begin painting. Any cardboard that isn't covered with mache will warp and bend if it gets too wet with paint. The wetter it gets, the more it will warp, so you can minimize this effect by not using too much paint on your brush. Sometimes you can paint both sides of the cardboard at once to counteract the bending.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.