French choreographer Pascal Rioult’s internationally renowned company Rioult Dance is enjoying their 13th season (although not all consecutive) at The Joyce Theater in Chelsea, from June 21st to June 26th, 2016. On Thursday night I saw Program A: a trilogy of Greek myths centering on strong women. The opening piece, Iphigenia, communicated the tragedy of Iphigenia, whose father King Agamemnon sacrifices her to save Greece, much to the fury of his wife, Clytemnestra. The piece is laden with Greek imagery—from tableaus that echo Greek art to gestural pantomime, which at times feels stiff, but works to add setting and culture to the dance. The exquisitely cohesive ensemble acts as a Greek chorus to the tragedy unfolding amongst the family. Kathleen Turner’s powerful narration and the stark opening foreshadow the tragedy of the story, which speaks to Rioult’s ability to story tell through movement. His efforts are greatly aided by the superb costuming by Karen Young, as well as the dynamic set by Harry Feiner, which helps to set the rigid tone of the piece.
Much of the movement references Graham technique, as Rioult himself danced with the Martha Graham Dance Company for a number of years. He clearly differentiates between the fluid, Limon-esque movement of the young Iphigenia—vibrantly portrayed by Catherine Cooch—and the sharp choreography of both the Chorus and Clytemnestra. Dancer Charis Haines positively shone throughout the trilogy, but her duet with Brian Flynn’s solid Agamemnon was a standout moment of the night. The couple’s motif of a hop/chug punctuated the entire piece and contrasted brilliantly with Cooch’s masterful airiness. Rioult crafts a lovable heroine in Iphigenia, and her acceptance of her role as a martyr becomes all the more powerful through the contrast of her and the rest of the ensemble’s opposing movement dynamics.
Pascal Rioult’s “Iphigenia” certainly evokes the world of Ancient Greece for the audience, but still captures the timelessness of Euripides’ tragedy. The strong technique of the entire ensemble and Rioult’s angled anti-war message ensure that this is a night at the Joyce you won’t want to miss.

- Review by Olivia Brown

 | Posted by Bill | Categories: Uncategorized |

Frequently, people make judgments of others based on what that person has accomplished. Accomplishments are simply the results of actions or choices that people have made. Be it winning an Olympic medal, being great at scrabble or surviving a life-threatening crisis; what you’ve done gives others an understanding into who you are.


So, what are the major accomplishments of your character? What does that tell you about them? What does it tell the audience?


 | Posted by Bill | Categories: Acting, Writing |

Last night I went to a yoga class (if you’re an actor, I highly recommend it as nothing else develops better muscle control of your instrument) and as I was sitting on my rubber mat noticed how specifically differently people “prepare” for the class to begin. Some are actively stretching hard. Others are slouching, presumably conserving their effort until the instructor instructs them that it’s time to begin. Some are clearly inwardly and intensely focused while others are scanning the room looking to connect, perhaps with another beginner.


And I thought, how would the character that I recently took on in play Bedroom Farce (by Alan Ayckbourn) behave at the start of a yoga class?


It can be a really interesting exercise as you develop a character to put them into situations that are outside the world of the play or script and that you personally experience. Then look for the differences. Therein lies the character outside of you.

 | Posted by Bill | Categories: Uncategorized |

I always loved Halloween as a kid. I remember hearing other kids saying they liked Christmas the best because you got presents (we had already eliminated the option of one’s own birthday as that was a given.) Yeah, presents. Fine. But would you rather get a new pair of Levi’s or some lame new board game…or would you like to dress up in the craziest costume you could imagine, including, and of course preferably, with fake blood? And then go out into the world in character acquiring as much candy as possible? What’s it gonna be…candy canes or serial killer? I mean, c’mon. Let’s be real. You can get that other stuff anytime (okay, maybe not the candy canes but no one really likes candy canes anyway and they can’t hold a candle to mini-Snicker bars!). You can’t really show up dressed as a swashbuckling pirate or craven witch on Thanksgiving. At least you can’t if you live anywhere else but Manhattan.

So, I have to say that I throughly enjoyed a trip through a really great haunted house here in NYC that just opened called Nightmare: Superstitions. The production team there has been doing it for years and knows how to do it right. Over two dozen separate “rooms” that you weave your way through, some in absolute darkness, as ghouls and scary creatures leap out at you from from time to time. It’s theater of the macabre but theater none the less!

But for the actors working as murderous lunatic, suicidal patient or agitated ax murderer, it’s got to be a kick-ass experience. To get paid to run around in nothing but a large diaper-like loincloth is tougher to do than you’d think. (I’m not kidding about that either as I once took a role as a Greek messenger whose only costume was a loincloth and a stick. And the stick was little!) I was really impressed with the actors as they were so committed to their characters, be it a ghoulish psychiatric nurse or a maniacal circus clown. The never broke from character once. Awesome.

Costumes aside, breaking the fourth wall to connect and speak directly to the audience for short periods of time when acting in a play is a not an easy thing to pull off well. You lose that safety mechanism of forgetting about the audience and you become very aware that they are all staring at you. You know this of course because when you break the fourth wall you are now looking at them. Suddenly, they’re not “over there” past the edge of the stage. Now they’re in the scene with you. And that feels dangerous. It’s unpredictable and you can’t rehearse it. It’s like rehearsing a space shuttle launch…you can practice all you want but it just ain’t gonna be the same as when you light the rocket fuel! That audience didn’t go through rehearsal with you so you don’t know what they may do. There’s always the chance there will be someone who fancies himself an actor in the crowd and who will inevitably determine that those three pre-show drinks were a good idea after all and having that guy on stage start talking to him makes this a perfect time for his theatrical debut.

I think there are two key things in breaking the fourth wall. The first is the ability to absolutely stay connected to your character and to have a good understanding of how your character reacts to being seen in the way that they are by the audience. The second is to have a clear idea of the character that the audience represents. They could be a jury to which a lawyer is speaking. They could be God. Or they could be an actual audience at the theater. In any event, you need to know how your character feels about being seen and heard and why they are doing so with this “other” character.

The deranged, psychotic mental patient had done the work when he screamed to me as I was leaving the room where he was lashed in a straitjacket, “I know you can see me! Don’t leave me! Help me! Help me to get out before I kill again…!”

 | Posted by Bill | Categories: Acting |

The best time to audition…

28 September 2010

As long as I’ve been acting there has been this on-going question as to when is the best time to audition. It’s not always the case that you have a choice, in fact most of the time you don’t, but in those times where a “window” of time is offered to you to audition for a role, you should take a time that is just past halfway through the scheduled auditions. So, if for instance, you are told that there will be two days of auditions and you can read anytime on Monday or Tuesday nights from 7:00pm to 10:00pm, then you should look to go in on the early on the second night. If an audition window is, say, Friday from noon to 4:00pm, I’d recommend you shoot to be reading your copy a little after 2:00pm.

And the reason is simple. By then the director knows what he or she doesn’t want. That’s right. What they don’t want.

When you audition it’s a good idea to ask the director (or casting director as the case may be) what they’re looking for. Whenever I audition the question that  like ask is what is the “tone” are they looking for in the role. Try it on your next couple of auditions. Frequently, you’ll find yourself getting some great guidance from that question that can help you better inform the audition towards what they are looking for. But what actors don’t usually consider is what they don’t want. And the truth is they don’t really know either. But what develops as an audition session goes on is that the casting team sees many, many different interpretations of a role and, although they are always looking for something unexpected, by halfway through the process they have seen a lot of what they know they don’t want. A natural tendency then develops as new actors come in to read to give more specific pre-audition direction about what they specifically don’t want to see.

I just recently sat in on a series of auditions for a show and saw this clearly happen. The audition scene called for a young couple to have an argument. The director started out reading the actors early in the process with some fairly simple direction. As actors went through the process many of them made somewhat obvious choices and engaged in fierce, highly-charged arguments, all the while keeping to the dialog in the script. But by the second night of auditions the director began to change how he informed the actors about what he was looking for before they read. He started telling them what he didn’t want them to do. “Don’t be strident.” “Don’t lose the fact that they love each other deeply.” “Don’t go too fast through the section of the script.” All of which he’d seen other actors do previously. And sure enough…the readings on the second night were more in line with his vision of the characters and the play was cast mostly with actors auditioning in the second session.

Knowing what they don’t want can be even more valuable than thinking you know what they want. And the fact is that most directors don’t really know what they don’t want until they’ve seen it done several times by different actors. So, if you do get the chance to choose when to read for a role, choose to do so right after the midway point of the auditions. That’s your best bet. And don’t forget to make strong choices…break a leg!

 | Posted by Bill | Categories: Acting |