From Stage To Screen: Toning It Down While Keeping It Real

Ah, the stage! The glorious live performance. When you’ve had years of experience on the stage, every cell in your body knows what performing feels like. Your body knows to be bigger, louder. It feels full, grand, real and you can hear the audience react. How rewarding. How deliciously rewarding!

Then you do film or TV for the first time and your eyebrows act like caterpillars on crack. You look like a bobblehead or cartoon character. You’re surprised your eyes don’t pop out of your head to the sound of an old fashioned horn. There’s no way around it; you’re simply horrible.

You’re told, “Be small! Be still! Tone it down! Don’t do anything!” So you stop: you stop moving or doing anything. You try to keep those caterpillars – and the rest of your body – contained.

And you certainly see a difference. It’s not nearly as big as it was before. But now instead of Roger Rabbit, you look like Robbie the Robot. You’re empty. Uncaring. Boring. Weird. Like you’re stuck in a cage, frozen.

You’re afraid to move, feel, express or be yourself.

So where is the happy medium between cartoon character and robot? And how do you get there?

For any actor that has ever been told to be small, still, contained, and not do anything, let’s free you from that cage. Here are your keys:

Key #1: You’ve been given horrible direction.

With all due respect to whomever told you to “be small, be still, don’t do anything,” those words are inaccurate and make you self-conscious about what you’re doing. What you should have been told is:

Allow your behavior to be the same as it is in your everyday life. You don’t need to perform anymore. You just need to be real.

Key #2: You don’t think about your behavior in your everyday life.

You just live. You wish your best friend didn’t move or hope your boss doesn’t make you stay late or wonder if the cute guy at the party will notice you. As you experience life, your thoughts and feelings result in organic and unconscious behavior. You just live and react without ever thinking about it.

Key #3: So that means stage acting is unnatural.

Stage performance, while a rush, is nowhere near our true reality. It requires so much more than our everyday behavior. You consciously put in effort to manufacture unnatural behavior – bigger and louder behavior – to reach the 500th row. (And I’m sure you do it brilliantly.)

Key #4: Guess what? TV and film acting reflects everyday life behavior. (aka: natural behavior)

When we’re truthfully experiencing our daily life, our minds, faces, bodies and voices are exquisitely alive with that life. We don’t try to advertise our thoughts and feelings, they are already seen.

And so it is with acting for the screen. If you’ve used your imagination to create your relationship to your best friend, boss and the cutie pie as full experiences, we will see it on your face, in your eyes and in your behavior.

You won’t have to think about being still or small or real; you just will be. No effort required.

Key #5: Why? Because the camera is inside your head.

The audience isn’t 500 rows away, they’re just a few feet away – right where another human being would be, if not much closer. In fact, the camera is so close, it’s practically reading your thoughts. That’s how much it – and the audience – can see.

And here’s the best part:

Key #6: When it comes to natural behavior, TV and film acting is easier than stage acting.

For the delicious theater experience, we must consciously adjust our behavior to show our love or anger. But for TV and film, if we simply truly feel love or anger, the audience will see it. Just like real life.

So you can drop the rabbit and the robot. Stop trying so hard to keep still inside that cage of non-behavior. That is not real, nor authentic. You are. When you invest in your relationships and circumstances, your voice and body follow. Your behavior follows. Unconsciously. Organically.

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The Secret To Surviving The Quiet Season

dsc_1289-1024x680-810x538A successful producer once told me that the key to surviving this industry is how you handle the time in between gigs. “It’s easy when you’re working; it’s what you do when you’re not working that really counts.”

He wasn’t suggesting hiding under the bed with a pint of Cherry Garcia and a vision board and waiting for the phone to ring. He also didn’t mean you should focus solely on career-centric activities, networking your face off until you’re tongue falls out of your mouth. He meant, above all, you have to stay creative and enjoy a well-rounded life.

After all, wasn’t it your artistry that inspired a pursuit of this career in the first place? And what inspires all art? Life. Our creativity and ideas spring directly from the well of our life experiences. The more life we live, the deeper the well from which our creative souls drink like a bacchanal.

So how do we continue to fill the well? We live. Fully. Every single day. Here’s how you remain creative even when the industry/your career seems to be inhabited by crickets:

Stay curious. We human beings are so wildly complex and unique and interesting! Instead of just putting people in a box, stay curious. When you meet new people, chat with current friends, or even just hear a story about someone, don’t just scratch the surface of where they’re from and what they do. Ask questions that delve deeper into who they are and how they came to be the person they are today. Who, what, where, why, how?

Being curious leads to understanding. Understanding leads to connection – the single most important tool for a student of humanity (aka: artists). And all of that requires…

Shifting from Judgey McJudgester to Madame Empathy. It’s oh-so-easy to label a group of people you know nothing about as a bunch of douchebags. But maybe you’re the douchebag for being so judgey. Have some curiosity and empathy. Why do you think those individuals gravitate towards each other? What do those clothes allow them to express? What are they searching for and have they found it? What might you even have in common with them? (Hint: the search for a sense of belonging is universal.)

Explore! Trying new things expands your understanding of the world and yourself. Exploring can be as dramatic as jumping out of a plane or as intimate as eating sushi for the first time. Expand the types of stories you follow; read about people or communities you’ve never thought about before. Go to a new environment or city, even if it’s just next door. Watch TED Talks about subjects that interest you but which you know nothing about. And then watch ones about subjects you wouldn’t normally consider.

Discuss your exploration. I used to think that if I ended up in a relationship where we sat in front of the TV on most nights, then we were screwed. That would mean we hated each other and used the TV to ignore our crumbling union. But it’s quite the opposite. My man (also an actor) and I watch our favorite shows, movies and documentaries and then have passionate discussions about theme, characters, storytelling, acting, shots, what worked what didn’t – we learn from each other and from our attempts to communicate what we saw in that particular piece of art. So not only do we connect more deeply to each other, we connect more deeply to the types of human beings portrayed on the small screen.

But don’t stop with art (or your significant other). If you’ve stayed curious and explored humanity with empathy, you’ve probably made fascinating discoveries and will be eager to discuss them.

Remember: Curiosity, empathy, exploration and discussion in your daily life exercises your ability to connect to a character more readily, no matter how far from you they may seem.

Find other creative outlets. The Artist’s Way helped me find my voice as a writer, which was very helpful when I was between gigs as an actor. Writing didn’t require another person, so I could enjoy that creative expression, even when I didn’t have a gig or the cash for a class. Writing feeds me still, all these years later. I also sing (get coaching and jam with friends). And now, since acting, coaching, writing and singing all involve words, I’ve found new excitement and release in the adult coloring book craze! Talk about rediscovering your inner child!

So what’s that hobby you always wanted to try or had as a kid and dropped later? You don’t even have to be good at it. From sports to gardening to hip hop class, anything that lets you play feeds your creative soul.

Create your own acting opportunities. Challenge yourself to 30-days of auditions, whether you get called for one or create one with your friends. Pull sides from online and work on them as if you have a real audition. Or have a script reading at your home of an old classic or a new one. Let your friends know you’re available as a reader for script development. (Writers and directors always need to hear a script out loud at least a couple of times as they massage it.) Join a theater company. If you’re a writer also, then heck, now’s the time to write that project for yourself. Even the shortest of videos – vines, even – keep you creative!

Lead a well rounded life.” I’m stealing this from a Casting Director; those were her very words. Life can’t just be about your art and career. You must allow yourself to have relationships, take vacations, spend time with family, relax, make cookies, try new food, socialize, work out, travel, read, take a walk, dance, celebrate, laugh. All that down time is important for your emotional and spiritual renewal – and your creative inner life as well.

When you live your life fully, you fill the well of creativity and add more connection and complexity to your craft. So let your well runneth over and drink up!

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How to Get the Best Viewing Experience Out of The Office


The Office is a hit television series that everyone should properly enjoy. Sometimes it is easy to start a new television series and not get the full experience the show has to offer. It is just a show, so what all can you possible miss? Surprisingly, there are multiple ways that you can fail to get the full experience of a television show that the director intended you to have. Fortunately, I have watched all nine seasons of The Office a few different times. This article will help guide you through ways I have personally sought out to get the best viewing experience of the hit television series.

Start from the beginning until the end

With new and easier ways to watch your favorite television series (such as Netflix and Hulu) it is tempting to skip ahead to seasons that others recommend are the best ones. When I first began watching The Office, I started on the fifth season without watching the seasons that were prior aired. After I finished the rest of the seasons, I felt extremely satisfied with the show and recommended it to multiple people. However, I was unaware that I did not get the full humorous experience until I re-watched The Office starting at season 1 episode 1. There was so much background information that I skipped over the first run through. Some confusing parts of the show became clear after I watched it from the beginning. Plus, there were a lot of jokes that was based in reference to scenes that occurred in prior seasons. If I did not watch it from the beginning, I would have missed funny puns, inside jokes, and overall lost the respect to see how far certain characters have developed. One of the main reasons I did not initially start watching the show from episode one is because I was told that the first few seasons were “boring” and uneventful. I’ll admit that season one was not a humorous as the others that proceeded. But, it was much beneficial for me to get the background information that season one had to offer.

Pay attention to character development

The best TV shows are the ones in which you forget that you are watching something fictional and give the show a sense of reality. In reality, people change in multiple ways. Some people mature as time goes on, and some people change the way that they due to prior events. The Office characters develop as well as the seasons go on. When Jim Halpert first made his appearance on the show, he acted like a young male that just got a salaried position. He could act childish and goofy a times…

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Pet Birds Make For Good Sitcom Plots

Judge Judy quite often ruffles the feathers of the litigants before her, which is one of the reasons she remains one of the most popular people on television. A case on a recent session of her show, however, involved a more literal interpretation of ruffling feathers.

The plaintiff had 42 birds, and she was suing a couple who had purchased two macaws from her. The case got a little heated at times, and Judy shortly wrapped it up by informing the plaintiff that she already had too many birds.

Pet birds have appeared on TV long before Judge Judy, as proven by a quick look into the history of sitcoms. Here are episodes from nine shows where a regular character runs into trouble with someone’s pet bird.

Three’s Company

In the episode called “Bird Song” Jack Tripper (played by John Ritter) and Chrissy Snow (played by Suzanne Somers) agree to take care of a parakeet Mr. Roper plans to give his wife as a gift.

The Andy Griffith Show

Opie (played by Ron Howard) accidentally kills a mother bird with his slingshot, prompting Andy to make him take care of the trio of newborns (which he named Winkin, Blinkin, and Nod) until they could fly off on their own.

The Simpsons

Bart accidentally kills a bird and, like Opie a few decades before him, the Simpsons son tends to the little bird he was responsible for orphaning.

Mayberry R.F.D.

In this spin off of The Andy Griffith Show the son of Sam Jones loses the prized pet bird of Howard Sprague, setting off a cover up that even involves Aunt Bee.

Gilligan’s Island

The castaways pin their hopes of a rescue on a carrier pigeon, only to find that Gilligan (played by Bob Denver) grows so fond of the bird that he cannot bear to let it leave the island.


Kramer (played by Michael Richards) takes on the responsibility of baby sitting the birds of a neighbor, who gets upset when Jerry inadvertently kills the feathered pets.

The Munsters

Scientifically, bats are not birds, but in an episode titled “Bats of a Feather” Eddie (played by Butch Patrick) takes one to school for show and tell, only to learn that the bat was actually Grandpa.

The Big Bang Theory

In a show called “The Ornithophobia Diffusion”, Sheldon must confront his fear of birds when a magpie jay lands on his window sill.

Full House

Michelle is delighted with her turn to bring the class pet bird home in “Bye Bye Birdie” until the thing flies away.

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