Monthly Archives: September 2015

Three Steps to Character Development

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Last fall, I had the privilege of playing Thorin in the musical production of The Hobbit. I loved this part, however it was quite challenging for multiple reasons. Namely, I was playing someone of a whole different gender, who was also much more stern and tough than I am. At first, I struggled. I thought he should be very forceful and commanding. But, he ended up seeming very angry and rude. I was asked to change this but it was a challenge to do so.

As I thought about how to best embody this character, I realized I had to become the character.  As weird as it sounds, I had to let Thorin take over my brain. The advice I would give to someone else struggling in a similar situation is to think like the character at all times. What would he do? How would he react? Even when off-stage, it is important to think about the life of the character. What is his backstory? What is he doing when he is not involved in an event on stage? Ask yourself these questions, and hopefully you will become your character on stage.

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So, in the case of my becoming Thorin, I proceeded by figuring out other details of his personality. He often got frustrated with the “imbeciles” in the company. I concluded from that side of him that he was easily irritable and liked everything a certain way. And, I understood his annoyance with Bilbo, because he was no help to this. Thorin was also very ambitious and frustrated with the dragon who took his land. With this, I was able to form a relatable character who was stern but not angry.

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That’s another challenge with character development. Words like stern and angry are often confused. You have to be positive that you aren’t letting other feelings take over a general quality. For example, a character who is commanding should not necessarily be overly forceful. The two qualities don’t automatically go together. As an actor, you could add opposite traits such as a humorous or relaxed tone (if it suits the character) to balance out the character so he or she does his job, while still being relatable.

In conclusion, here are three simple steps to character development:

  1. Consider “Who is this person?”

Come up with who the person is. What do they think of what is going on in the scene? How would they react? Then, how can the next line you carry deliver that feeling?

  1. Carry it Out

Use the tone you have already developed when delivering lines. But take note! Some scenes may require different tones. If necessary, refer back to step one.

  1. Remain in Motion

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Even if you don’t have a line, your expressions will take you to the next level. Play along with other characters’ lines. Think of your own in your head (but don’t say them). If you create a character that acts like someone (human or not) relatable by having clear facial expressions, you will boost your performance up to its best, a goal every actor wants to achieve.

Sophie Nicholson
Student

An Intro to Cosplay

T.W. Myers, Teaching Artist for DreamWrights’ Intro to Cosplay workshop, took a break from cosplaying and answered some of our questions about this wildly popular costumed role-playing pop culture phenomenon.

DreamWrighters (DW): What is cosplay?

T.W. Myers (TWM): Cosplay is a performance art in which participants (cosplayers) dress in costume and perform on stage in masquerades or away from the stage in live role-play as a specific character. These characters can come from many sources such as comic books, anime, manga, live-action movies, television shows and video games.

DW: What advice do you have for someone just getting started in cosplay?

TWM: When you’re just getting started in cosplay, don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Every cosplay you make doesn’t have to be perfect. If you’d rather buy a costume and add some homemade props instead of making your entire cosplay from scratch, go for it. The key is to be recognizable. And most importantly, have fun! The best part of cosplay is getting to share the fandoms you love with other fans.

DW: How does someone choose his/her character?

TWM: There are a lot of different reasons someone might choose their character. I usually choose a character because I feel some sort of deep personal connection to them, or because I simply find the character’s design to be very visually appealing. On occasion I’ve even chosen to cosplay a character because the costume itself presented some kind of interesting construction challenge that set it apart from simpler costumes.

DW: I have a character in mind but what should I do next?

TWM: Research. Once you’ve decided on a character you like, take some time to study their costume, props, makeup, mannerisms, and personality. Use a small notebook or media file to store reference pictures, notes, and ideas about what you’ll be making. It’s the little details that turn a good cosplay into a great one. And don’t forget about a budget. Decide how much you want to spend on a cosplay before you start to buy supplies, and stick with your budget. Even a small budget can go a long way with some creativity and planning.

DW: How do I connect with other cosplay-ers?

TWM: The best way to connect with other cosplayers is to start going to small local conventions. It’ll give you a pretty good sense of what the community is like without being overwhelming, and you’ll get to interact with other fans in person. Online cosplay and costuming community websites can also be a good way to connect with other cosplayers, share tips and tricks, and get valuable advice.

DW: What would you say to people who are hesitant to cosplay?

TWM: If you’re interested in cosplay but have been hanging back, please don’t! Come and cosplay with those of us who believe in the heart of the craft. True cosplay is about community, craftsmanship, self-expression, and the joy of sharing your passion for the characters and stories you love. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what race you happen to be, how tall or short you are, or what you weigh. If you’re enjoying yourself, you’re doing it right. Cosplay is for everybody!

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T.W. Myers has been cosplaying and costuming for 14 years. She offers freelance commissions of costumes, cosplay, and props from her small business Dancing Corpse Designs. Her customers have worn these costumes for events all across the country, from L.A. to New York City. Myers has been head costumer on several stage productions and has worked at seasonal live horror venues, creating costumes and character makeups. She has been featured wearing her own personal cosplay costumes in several newspaper articles from different papers around the state. Myers’ signature (and favorite) cosplays are Harley Quinn from Batman, and Disney’s Maleficent.

DreamWrights’ Intro to Cosplay workshop will be held on October 10 from 10 – 11:30am. Translate the costume of an animated character into the real world. Learn the history while exploring how to choose and create a character that works well for you personally, practice speaking like your character, and investigate a variety of different character development techniques.  Ages 14+. Register online or by calling 848-8623. Come cosplay with us!

Age Creatively with StAGEs!

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Pennsylvania Artist-in Residence, Christina Myers sat down with DreamWrighters to answer some questions about StAGEs. StAGEs is our exciting new program designed to encourage active participation in the performing arts for the 55+ crowd. Inspired by the National Council on Creative Aging (NCCA), StARTSomething and DreamWrights are partnering to provide this one-of-a-kind offering.

DreamWrighters (DW):  Tell me a little about yourself and your background.

Christina Myers (CM):  I grew up locally in York County.  I attended both Red Lion Area Senior High School and William Penn Performing Arts Institute.  After graduation, I attended college and theatre programs in Chicago and Virginia.  From there, I traveled around the U.S. studying, performing, and teaching in the theatre for many years.  I currently work as a professional actress, writer, and producer in stage, film, and television.  I’m also a registered artist-in-residence in Pennsylvania.  As such, I teach different aspects of theatre to a variety of populations and ages.

DW: What inspired you through the NCCA Training in Arts Education certification process?

CM: Throughout my training, I was inspired by the number of people who were willing (sometimes hesitantly, but willing nonetheless) to try a new art form and then, excelled beyond their own expectations.  Some of those art forms included painting, music, dance, and absolutely theatre.

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DW: What advice can you give to someone who is hesitant to participate?

CM: It’s first and foremost important in my classes that we create a safe environment for everyone involved.  That includes respecting boundaries while providing active, positive support for each participant’s contributions.  There is no “wrong” in my class as long as we’re respectful of one another.  In fact, it can be a joy and wonder to see how self-perceived “mistakes” often bring about the most valuable artistic outcomes.

DW: How can someone benefit from taking these sessions?

CM: Working in the theatre helps people discover new ways to express themselves.  It also builds key skills that allow us to communicate more clearly with one another.  The action of theatrical creation develops meaningful and lasting bonds.  And, it’s fun!

DW: What’s the best part about working with the 55+ crowd?

CM:  I love working with people who have rich and varied life experiences.  The more life lived, the more to draw upon.  Those experiences, large and small bring depth and distinct insights to the work we do.

DW: What can participants expect during StAGEs?

CM:  Be prepared to surprise yourself, have a lot of laughs, learn new skills and information, and build new (or strengthen existing) friendships.

DW: Is there anything that you would want people to know?

CM: Creating in the theatre is fun!  The more you do it, the more you’ll want to do it.  That theatre bug bites hard!

Mac & Myers laid back 102007 (600 x 400)

Pennsylvania Artists-in-Residence, Christina Myers and Luke MacCloskey will guide you through this journey of play and performance.  NO EXPERIENCE REQUIRED!!!  Got physical limitations or just plain nervous?  No problem – you’ll be among patient, tolerant friends, and good company.

Christina Myers, actor, writer, director, and producer has appeared in various TV and film projects including “Girl, Interrupted” (as Nurse Margie opposite Oscar Award Winner Angelina Jolie).  Luke MacCloskey, actor, writer, and producer has performed on stage and screen around the country.  You might recognize him (or not!) as the interloping zombie in national TV Boss commercials. Together they perform as Cobblestone Comedy for corporate events and private parties.  They also lead professional rapport-building workshops for medical professionals.

Enrollment for this six week program is limited to 16 participants and is free of charge. A fully refundable registration fee of $20 will be returned at the culmination of the 12 sessions. StAGES! will meet twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays from 1:00—2:30 pm at DreamWrights, 100 Carlisle Avenue.

Week One: September 21 and September 24
Week Two: September 28 and October 1
Week Three: October 5 and October 8
Week Four: October 12 and October 15
Week Five: October 19 and October 22
Week Six: October 26 and October 29

DreamWrights is handicapped accessible. Free, off-street parking!

CALL TODAY TO RESERVE YOUR SPACE! 848-8623

Chaboo! Introducing Diane Diction Day!

If you know Diane Crews, you know she’s got her own, unique vocabulary of words. You might even know what it means when she says, “Poochle over and Bama-loo!” To celebrate Diane’s last year at DreamWrights while having a little fun with her special terminology, we thought we would offer a challenge.

Diane’s Dictionary – A handy reference tool for inexperienced as well as seasoned actors to help decipher Diane’s creative vocabulary.

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The idea was to post the weekly words via social media on Diane’s favorite day of the week. But when asked about her favorite day, Diane replied, “I like them all. I don’t have a favorite. I really don’t!” So to honor her favorite days, DreamWrights’ Diane Diction Day (#dwddd) will be randomly posted on social media (Facebook and Twitter), once per week. Please email your private responses to hilary@dreamwrights.org or privately Facebook message them to DreamWrights. Responses must include the following: Your name, your e-mail address, the correct definition of the word, and correct usage in a sentence.

Winners will be entered for a monthly drawing for two free tickets to a 2016 show of your choice!

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It All Began With CRIMINITLY!: I Make Up Words and You Can Too!

In 1976 I was commissioned to write a play about the importance of reading by the International Library Association.  I, being a firm believer in the philosophy “can’t never did anything,” said, “Sure!”  Plus, I loved to write.

In my most recent play then, THE TALE OF TWO RODENTS, I had probably created my favorite character so far.  His name is Rupert, and he’s a pack rat.  So I thought, what would Rupert do if he went to a library?  Why would he even go to a library?  The answers were easy.  He has a book report due for school, so his mother drops him off at the library.  Because it’s usually a very good idea to read a book before you write a report, and a library is a perfect place to find a book to read.

Having no other choice, Rupert enters the library sees all the books and says, “Criminitly!  Look at all of them!  They don’t wind up.  You can’t play with them. Super boring, that’s what I say!”  Then the librarian appears on the scene.

Why did he say, “Criminitly?”  I truly don’t know.  It is what came out of my fingers, and hence his mouth. I was writing on a typewriter then, so the repetition of letters was intentional.  I didn’t think about it at all.  It was and still is Rupert’s favorite word for all occasions.

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The resulting show was RUPERT MEETS MRS. TALES, and it has been touring almost continually in Pennsylvania since it was written.  Thousands of children have gone home telling their folks all about Rupert and how he doesn’t read so they had to help him. They also went back to their classrooms saying “Criminitly!”  Why?  Because it’s fun and very usable?!

I have gone on making up words, also with no forethought.  Now they just come out of my mouth.  There are many of them now.  Some casts will even make me a dictionary at the end of a show.

Why don’t I use regular, already-in-the-dictionary words?  I do, and a lot of them, but sometimes there are just not enough of them.  Plus most of them are over-used and limited in their scope.  My words can be used in a wide variety of situations, and always work perfectly.  Their meanings are always understood and depend upon inflection, projection, and what’s happening at the moment.  Plus, made up words are fun and always get everyone’s attention!

Diane Crews
Artistic Director
Playwright in Residence