By Jim O'Quinn
Actors, we sometimes worry, get short shrift in the pages of American Theatre. Their work, as theatre journalists know all too well, is difficult to write about with any measure of objectivity or precision. The kinds of stories about actors you most often see—celebrity effusions, pop-psych speculations, skin-deep sell-a-show interviews—won't pass muster here, or in any publication that takes the performing arts seriously. But the actor is an essential factor in the theatrical equation—the art form's primordial element, you might even say. You can't understand how theatre works without understanding the work of the actor.
So when our annual, oversized Approaches to Theatre Training issue comes around each January—the one you hold in your hand happens to be the biggest issue we've ever published, in terms of both page count and advertising sales—it can be a chance to delve deeply into the machinations of the actor's craft. One year ago, in a training issue devoted to "Pillars of Voice Work," the magazine reached out directly to luminaries and innovators in the field of vocal training. This year, adopting the theme "The Articulate Body," we move on to new territory, that of movement and physical-theatre training for actors, in the U.S. and internationally. Once again, the focus is on the methodology of leading figures in the field, but—since many of the great movement theorists, from Lecoq and Laban to Grotowski and Michael Chekhov, are no longer with us—those methods are primarily viewed through the lens of an array of teachers and practitioners.
Actors, we anticipate, will find the issue a keeper. And whether you're an actor or not—perhaps you're just one of those curious folks who wants to understand how theatre works from the inside out and the outside in—let me suggest that you peruse these two January issues, 2010 and 2011, side by side. Together they're a virtual short course in the training regimens available to contemporary actors—a pairing of the actor's primary resources, voice and body, considered from expert, illuminating, sometimes paradoxical perspectives. Readers in search of those analytical hallmarks, objectivity and precision, will have no trouble on that score.
Many of the ideas brewing in the special training section spill over into the rest of this issue, as in Richard Isackes's boldly argued opinion piece calling for new directions in the training of designers for the stage; playwright Susan Miller's equally bold account of making "original, scripted drama" on the web; and scholar Gerald Weales's compact response to new books about actors who "own their characters" in Albee and Shakespeare. Farther afield, a choice excerpt from Eric Grode's new book about Hair reveals the tumult that attended that landmark musical's birth; and associate editor Eliza Bent stalks everybody's favorite festival impresario, Mark Russell, as he prepares for Under the Radar this month in New York City.
There's something in these pages for everyone, perhaps—and a great deal for actors and those who love to watch them.blog comments powered by Disqus
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