Friday, February 28, 2014

The SELF Rule

The stage is in my blood. I was hooked from the first play I saw. The way I remember it, My Dad was the star (he played a chimney sweep) and I was wearing a brand new dress with white pantaloons underneath. I remember my dad also played a grey mouse in another play, and later directed several others.

Sometimes I lined up my stuffed animals and dolls like an audience on my daybed and tilted my bedside lamp like a spotlight. My toys must have attended thousands of my plays. (Most people don't know that... Well, I guess they do now!)

When I was in high school, I wrote The Dramatic Handbook for an assignment in English class. It had all of my best tips and tricks to put on a great show. Below is an excerpt from it, "The S.E.L.F. rule"

SELF Rule: Slow, Enunciate, Loud, and to the Front
1.     Slow - The audience won’t get the jokes if lines are rattled off too fast. Some of the songs’ tempos may need to be slowed so that the lyrics can be heard.

2.     Enunciate - Move your mouth, exaggerate your gestures, and be overly expressive. This will help the audience hear the words, see the action, and get the comedy.

3.     Loud - Pretend there will be no microphones and project every line and lyric to the back of the house (the audience). The mics don’t pick up as much as people assume.

4.     To the Front - It feels weird at first, but everything is done toward the audience. Even actions and dialogue normally directed toward another character are actually done toward the audience.

You Don't want the audience to see This all performance:

During my college days, I got to direct some of my plays. It was awesome watching other people enjoying the stage as much as I did. We won some awards, but what really sticks with me are the comments I got from the audience, "I could hear every line," "I could see the performers' faces," and my favorite - "I loved the humor, and I didn't miss any of the jokes!" Invariably after some such comment, I would then hear that this is not usually true at amateur performances. I think that my plays were successful in large part because the cast had been drilled on the S.E.L.F. Rule all through the rehearsals. 

But enough about me, What have you've learned from the stage?