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Crash Course in Acting - Theater Style

Starting any new career is a scary venture. When I first dipped my toe into the ocean of voice acting, I quickly fell in love with the comfy and safe atmosphere of the booth. Surely I could learn everything I needed to know about acting within my little soundproof box.

Nope. Wrong.

Some of the most common advice I heard in classes and workshops for voice acting was the one thing I always said I didn’t want to do: get involved in theater. The stage frightened me more than any other medium. When you mess up, you are right there, in front of people. Who are watching and listening to you. Live.

​​No thank you.

Before this summer, I had never really done theater before. Sure, there have been school shows here and there, but proper theater experience? Nada.

Regardless of my fears, I decided to go for it. This summer I auditioned for 4 shows and was cast in 3 of them! I thought I would audition all summer and maybe be cast in a supporting role this fall or winter. I’m so thankful that not only was I able to gain lots of experience this summer but also got to work with such wonderful people all summer long.

The first play I was in was Pillow Talk with Rockwall Community Playhouse. I was honored to play Miss Conrad and Ms. Ames, as well as assist with scene changes as various waitresses.

Cast of Pillow Talk with Rockwall Community Playhouse

Then I did the thing I was so terrified to do. On the first weekend, I was in the middle of delivering one of my lines, feeling cocky in the limelight. I completely blanked. I blanked not only on the line but on what was happening in the scene at all.

Making a common newbie mistake, I had looked out into the crowd and made eye contact with several audience members. Doing so, I forgot what I was saying, what I was doing, then awkwardly stopped and LAUGHED OUT LOUD.

My body language and face gave away my breaking out of character. I heard some people in the audience give half-hearted sympathy laughs which only made me panic more. Thankfully, I was working with a wonderfully forgiving actress who fed me a line that got me back on track.

I thought I was going to end my short-lived theater career right then and there.

Once I walked off stage, I waited for the thoughts and feelings of frustration, shame, and overly dramatic self-deprecation to flood my brain. Instead, I was relieved to have officially screwed up and made an idiot of myself in front of strangers. Now I could move forward with my little mess up story in my pocket and feel confident in handling this kind of situation in the future.

The most important lesson I’ve learned from theater this summer is the importance of improvisation, being prepared to keep a scene continuing in character so I don’t drop the ball like I had. Learning how to speak in front of people as myself was one thing as I could improvise rather easily but finally I understood what was needed to learn how to improvise as different characters.​​

Dropping my lines created a stronger resolve in me to stay involved in classes, workshops, and community theater as I pursue my voice acting career. Regardless of how much work I get to do, I need to stay fresh by keeping up with these career building tools.

After Pillow Talk, I got cast in a locally written production called Enter Cthulhu. Camp Death Productions put the show on at the Margo Jones Theater in Fair Park which was pretty exciting.

Cast of Enter Cthulhu with Camp Death Productions

Originally I was going to play two supporting roles that were quite different from each other (one a sad nerd, the other a slutty chic), but as things go, I got the opportunity to play one of the lead roles! I got to keep the sad nerd and also played Meg Halsey, the upbeat journalist love-interest to the main protagonist, Howard Lovecraft.

During the original show run, I learned how to act on a much smaller stage, mechanics of stage combat, and began to understand on a deeper level what it takes to develop different characters. I also learned that I can be comfortable kissing two different guys on stage and, even more importantly, so was my dear sweet and incredibly supportive boyfriend!

​​

My boyfriend is comfortable with ME kissing the guys, HE doesn't kiss them. Just to clarify.

Since I learned more than I anticipated in Pillow Talk and Enter Cthulhu, I figured I should keep auditioning for theater productions to learn more before concentrating on being in the booth full time. Thank goodness I did.

One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest with Richardson Theatre Centre was the fourth show I auditioned for this summer. Not only was I completely shocked that they cast me at all, much less for Sandy the prostitute, but I was overwhelmed with the level of talent and professionalism the cast displayed.

Each person brought such unique aspects alive in their characters that we created a version of the play I don’t think anyone anticipated.

Sandy the prostitute is only part of one scene at the end of the production, so I got to sit back and watch these actors at work. Observing the various methods people used to develop their characters, and listening to their stories of what brought them to the stage, I gained insights that propel me with greater joy and excitement into the world of acting.

One of our actors had the performance recorded so he could give DVD copies to each person in the play; I’m really looking forward to getting my copy!

One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest with Richardson Theatre Centre (unfortunately minus our incredible Nurse Ratchett)

When I began down this career path, I told myself and people in my life that I wanted to do voice acting because I thought my talent could shine best in the booth and besides, I've always wanted to be part of a cartoon. Really I just wanted to avoid the three things I said I would never do if I got on stage or in front of a camera. They are as follows:

1) Kiss anyone. Ever.

2) Touch anyone or get in their personal space longer than what I was comfortable with (which means more than five seconds).

3) Play an overtly sexualized character. I've always thought myself to be quite awkward when it comes to anything...sexual...so I figured that awkwardness would translate on stage strongly.

So far, in just two productions, I've done all three things I said I would never do. In Enter Cthulhu, I kissed not one but two guys. And in Cuckoos Nest, I had to introduce myself to one of the (brilliant) actors I was working with while sitting on his lap during the first rehearsal I could make. I also had to learn how to walk in a pair of amazing platform heel boots that were three sizes too big while dressed as, well, a prostitute. Of course this all happened. Why wouldn't it?

Looking back on this summer, I'm ultimately quite grateful that I forced myself out of my tight little comfort zone and made to explore the weird boundaries I had set up for myself. What I ended up with were much stronger (and logical) boundaries that I could clearly define, way more confidence than I dared expected to obtain during this theatrical whirlwind, and sharpened skills that I can build upon further in future projects. I also ended up with some great friendships and contacts I wouldn't have otherwise.

Moral lesson of this summer? Don’t let fear stop you. You can’t grow trapped by fear.

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Dallas, TX

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