Unlocking LiFT 12: The Brass Lantern Live Rehearsal

By Matt Powers

We live in interesting times. Radio has made a comeback in the form of podcasts. The public has a desire to see how a show is created. Shows like Prairie Home Companion were popular in their day because they produced sound effects live, and now, with The Brass Lantern, we have the opportunity for a hybrid performance. Sure some of our effects are digital, but many we can reproduced live. But this isn’t about sound effects! Not yet! Back to directing.

Script Additions and Aids

While not a memorized show, it is still helpful to have some additional notes in a performance script. As my actors have requested, I’ve added several notes, cues, and other matters in the script so that they have a handy reference during the live performance. This isn’t so much that their memories are faulty, or that they didn’t take notes, rather there is an air of wanting to do very well, and they want to be sure to “get it right.”

Which is alright with me, it is a bit more work on my end, but this is worth it, and has an unforeseen benefit. It forces me to make my vision for the show much clearer, more potent. Not only is clarity beneficial for the actors, as it provides direction (ha, see what did there?), but allows them a solid foundation from which to build their character upon. Actors can piece together words, tones, and actions in unique ways – and I, for one, am the last to get in the way of that, but it certainly does help even the most seasoned actor to have a starting point. And, selfishly, this exercise helps my writing and my ability to communicate. Which is always beneficial.

Stage Presence

Transitioning from voice acting to live stage performance is a bit tricky at times. Actors get used to the privacy, intimacy, flexibility, and reproducibility of recording in a studio. It is very similar to television and film acting – if you mess up, you just do it again. Don’t nail the line? It’s alright. Do it again and stitch together the best bits.

Performing live, obviously, takes away this safety net, and when that happens, some actors retreat inside themselves, and their charisma and entertainment subside. At times like this, it is the responsibility of the director not only to put the actor at ease with reassurances, so they can flourish and be their radiant selves, but to guide them through the show with a clear plan. Then rehearse it enough so everyone is on the same page.

At that point, it is important that everyone has some fun, and draws out their character. Acting is fun after all, and if that’s not happening among the actors and director, that will clearly be evident to the audience. “If we’re not having fun, they’re not having fun.” I’ve said this many times to my actors, have seen it to be truthful, and will continue to say it until I’ve been proven wrong.

Timing / Fluidity

Certain moments and beats need to timed well to convey the moment accurately, with emotional intensity and clarity. Really, it’s about what information the audience needs to understand at that moment. Our job is to make that very clear.

In drama, or more serious portions of theater, timing functions a bit differently. In comedy, humor is generated through quick pacing, expression of the dialogue, and posture (as well as an actor’s awareness of laughter). With more serious work, those same concepts are in play, but in reverse essentially.

In the clip above, we see Matthew Arnold (played by A.G. Devitt) talking with Elaina Dare (played by Laura Powers). Arnold is home from his stint in the war, where horrors have scarred him, has difficulty confessing the whole truth about Elaina’s father, St. John.

Much of the work that we focus on here is accurately conveying Arnold’s character, and the difficulty he has with opening up to people. Contrasting Arnold, Elaina needs to come across as fierce, independent, capable, and understanding.  The scene also has elements of romance, as two characters, despite their foibles, are discovering they care about the other.

Its a dynamic scene with much to show to the audience, and great character development. The awkwardness, the risk-taking of emotional expression, and the wonder of discovering a new person (as well as new things about yourself), I think all of us can relate to. It becomes a matter of making the moment real. To that end, we opted for a slower pace of dialogue, with longer pauses to help show both the difficulty of being truthful and thoughts simmering below the surface. Character spacing also matters, we wanted the characters close to establish some intimacy, but far enough way to show distancing. Posture and mannerisms do similar work.

While the scene isn’t perfect yet, it is moving in the right direction. All it takes now is practice.

Till soon,

Matt

Unlocking LiFT 11: “Where’s the Cheesecake” Rehearsal

By Matt Powers

Since the inauguration of the Little Falls Cheese Festival four years ago, we have put on a series of original one-act, radio-theater style plays. We have a recurring cast of characters and actors, and are in the same venue each year.

These shows are great fun to direct. And that’s the point, right? Why have theater that isn’t fun? There is a time and a place for that kind of theater, but, for us, for the Cheese Festival in the throes of July heat, we prefer light, witty comedy. Even though we have a lot of fun, there are always things to work on.

Timing – Timing is crucial in any comedy. Getting the right preparation, delivery, and the right pacing all contribute to good timing. The best comedians excel in this areas, and know, in and out, how to make a joke funny. The same applies in theater where actors need to know what the joke is, how to prep it, and how to deliver it. With verbal and witty jokes, the burden is on the “straight man.” They need to establish a “normal” which the other character, the “foil,” can make a punch-line against. Sometimes the normal is composure, sometimes it is madcap, either way a baseline needs to be established in order for it to be upended.

Actors. Always on break.

So part of the rehearsal was geared toward allowing the actors to learn which role they played in the joke. Not everyone can be the punch-line person, but without the “straight man,” jokes fall flat. It takes some time, particularly getting the speed and delivery right, but once it hits – it is absolutely worth the time.

Voice Acting – These Cheese Festival shows have evolved into a hybrid. They are part radio-theater, part reader’s theater, or as our authors dubs it “theater for the air.” Since actors have script in hand, and our performance space is rather small, we don’t have much room for movement or blocking. So, like the old-time-radio personalities, we need to rely heavily on voice acting.

The full cast reading the first few pages. From left to right: Katie Drake, Tom Stock, Cindy Quackenbush, Ginny Clapp, Tucker Lester, Al McDowell, and Oscar Stivala.

Voice Acting is all about being distinctive. A character’s voice needs to be iconic and convey things like: age, gender, education, geographic location, physical size, personality traits, and more. So much time is spend on character voicing, not only to capture the essence of the character, but to fit in the overall comedic design. If a particular voice, or voicing, is making a joke unclear, then it needs to be tweaked. Oftentimes I’ll say to the cast, “We need more. Really bring that out. Or don’t be afraid to be a bit over-the-top here, I’ll tell you when its too much,” just to put them at ease and perform in energetic ways.

Script Adjustments – Finally, the script. We go through a rigorous reading process. Angela sends me a draft. I read it and give feedback. She edits, has others read it, and then we get it out to the cast. During the first few read-thrus,  we make alterations here and there, but it isn’t until we actually read it in our performance space that the script becomes finalized.

More script changes.

Several times during that rehearsal, I’d wander over to Angela, ask a question about the script or a cue, and get clarification. After we decided to cut, or add, something, I’d stop rehearsal, tell the cast what the change was, and have everyone mark it in their scripts. I know in some cases actors get very annoyed by this process, but they are good to us, and know that they too are part of the process and want to have an excellent product. It is sometimes time-consuming, but it works.

All of these things happen simultaneously, so it is a bit difficult to accurately convey how rehearsal goes, but they are vital for creating a fun, lively, comedy. And if we didn’t pay attention to these things, why are we creating theater?

Till soon,

Matt

Unlocking LiFT 10: The Communal Story

By Matt Powers

Community theater is the only theater. Blasphemy, I know. Particularly since community theater is see as pretty low on the totem pole. There are regional theaters, for- profit and not-for-profit professional theaters, Broadway which all have greater “status” or “respectability” than community theater.  It’s all hooey really.

The roots of theater grip into the community. The Greeks held multi-day celebrations with theatrical contests. Plays written by Sophocles or Euripides and others used familiar stories, religious deities, and local people to entertain, examine social and philosophical issues. Sure part of this was religious in nature, but much of it too was a community coming together to create new work from a talented artist, where the work directly related to the people of that time. Two thousand years later, we still do the same thing.

 

Making theater is about the journey we experience as a group, and how the stories we spin entertain and connect with our community. We all have lessons to offer, and we all have things to learn from stories. It is our duty to bring them to life, present them, and, hopefully, impact the community to get them talking. Spark discussion. Promote reflection.

If this is absent, the community suffers from this lack of discourse. It also misses out on opportunities to see the world through a different perspective. Take, for instance, Trifles by Susan Glaspell. First performed in Provincetown in 1916, this one-act play deals with an investigation of Mr. Wright’s death in his home. The male characters look for clues, while their wives talk. The ladies too investigate, examining the kitchen, her sewing, and the deceased pet bird she adored. They quickly realize that the Mrs. Wright indeed murdered her husband by considering her life, whereas the male characters barely consider it. The inherent feminism in the play adds to the community and shows inequality in that community. Possibilities for discussion, reflection (and hopefully change), are now available to make the community tighter and stronger.

With LiFT, we began Strike Story, continued with summer Shakespeare, but have now expanded to include radio-theater with The Brass Lantern, and have a foothold in an upcoming production of The Laramie Project. While we typically focus on new work (Strike Story and Lantern), because their themes are most relevant to our community, older and pre-produced work also bears important thematic concerns for our community.

Part of the job of artists, particularly theater artists, is to see the bigger picture of their community, and then create work that addresses it, to promote dialogue and reflection, and to make their community a better place to live.

A healthy community needs a healthy theater. No matter what size.

Till soon,

Matt

Unlocking LiFT 9: Decision Making

By Matt Powers

LiFT began with Strike Story by Angela Harris, which is about the 1912 textile strikes in Little Falls, NY. We didn’t know it then, but this production, and how its been produced, has set the tone for how LiFT creates shows and makes decisions.

In the initial read-thrus of the play, the whole cast sat in Angela’s living room, read the play aloud, and then had many discussions about characters, conflicts, language, and a host of other things, while having snacks and wine. The closest thing I can compare the openness of conversation and diverse perspectives is democracy. Everyone had a voice, and we didn’t all get along, but we somehow came together to create this show. From the start, our decisions were not made in a vacuum.

As LiFT continued in other projects, I kept this open forum central to the group. As was often the case, I would choose a show, get a cast, and schedule rehearsals, but decisions about costumes, makeup, sets, even blocking were all open for discussion. If someone had an idea, we tried it. If it worked, we kept it. If it didn’t, we tried something else. It was fun, liberating, and invested the actors in the show. This worked for a few shows, but it wasn’t entirely satisfying to me.

That’s when I brought the cast in on the pre-production. After selecting a script and casting the show, I’d have a read-thru at my home, feed everyone, and discuss the play. We’d then have at least two follow up meetings to lay the ground work for all sorts of matters. The result? An ensemble driven show, that everyone had investment in.

Playwrights, actors, and theater makers in the age of Elizabeth did a similar thing (which I took as a model). The concept of a “director” didn’t exist. So everyone made decisions on acting, blocking, and other things collectively. Sure there would be a “point person” to establish responsibility for certain matters, but overall the ensemble, social, even democratic feel of the production is unmistakable.

And has become the backbone of LiFT.

Till soon,

Matt

Unlocking LiFT 8: Structured Creativity

By Matt Powers

I play Dungeons and Dragons. There I said it. I have played it for twenty years, and now have a biweekly game. I am the Dungeon Master. I craft adventures, campaigns, and stories. I build fantastic worlds, delightful characters, and vile enemies. I play all the characters my players interact with. Together we adopt roles, converse, act, react, and resolve conflicts. It is a unique share creative experience, but, essentially, we create theater akin to creating episodes in a series.

While the connections between role playing games and drama are there, I’d like to take a moment to discuss a related theme. Depending on my audience, when I tell people I play Dungeons and Dragons and they look at me like I am some hydra, I sometimes quickly follow up with labeling it as time for “structured creativity.” This is purely to re-frame the conversation to help them understand what it is we engage in, because, more often than not, they have no clue about the game beyond the stereotypes they have encountered.

The benefits of this time for structured creativity have been enormous. It has rekindled my imagination in childlike ways and put my back in touch with the exhilaration of imagining. When I sit down to work on the game, I ravenously search for something new. Something the players have never encountered. I paw through books, websites, and magazines for inspiration. Pay attention the world around me a bit more closely in hopes transforming my experiences.

There are also other skills I get to exercise here: problem solving, crafting an adventure where everyone can shine, providing challenge and danger, improvisation, managing personalities, adjudication, and many others. From creating an adventure to playing it out, I get to utilize all manner of “critical thinking” skills, and, upon reflection, this has sharpened my other creative endeavors. I have a clearer sense of what makes an entertaining and satisfying piece of theater or fiction. I pay more attention to the rhythm of the piece, its moods, and how to modulate them for effect.

But, most importantly, I get to have fun. There are eight in the group, so twice a month we sit around the table, play a game, role play, create story, and laugh. The ingenuity that arises is spectacular, dynamic, infectious. Once one of us does something the rest finds wonderful or hilarious, that moment inspires a chain reaction of other creative ideas. There is a palpable energy in the air when we play, and three or four hours seem to disappear.

I guess the best part of this time, for me, is other people, and seeing (again) that storytelling isn’t always a solo work of genius, but a group having fun.

Till soon,

Matt

Unlocking LiFT 7: The Necessity of Respite

By Matt Powers

I have chosen not to direct one of Shakespeare’s play this summer, choosing to direct smaller projects and to free up some time to be with my family. This was not an easy decision, as my love for his work is profound, but I have rediscovered that creative work is, well, exhausting, and I also needed time to recharge my creativity, drive, and discipline.

While there are twinges of disappointment, after five years of summer Shakespeare there is an expectation of entertainment, people have been kind, and understanding, and even congratulatory. “Good for you!” they say, or “Glad you can take of yourself first!” This has all been very good for my ego, and my decision, but I cannot help but find it a bit peculiar.

After some reflection, taking time off is incredibly valuable. Whether “time off” means gardening, reading, painting, building a deck, cooking more, or simply laying in a hammock, taking time away from your main creative endeavor is necessary. “Time off” isn’t quitting, or not being productive. It is a shift in mindset that allows for diversion, boredom, and exploration. During this time (which in the academic realm is called a sabbatical), we encounter new ideas, things, perspectives, and are free to process them at an easier pace, so when we do return to our work, we can return with new eyes, more objectivity, more ideas, and more energy.

Time off is also a clever trick to make us forget the exhaustion and burnout of creative activities, and let us remember the joy of making.

Till soon,

Matt

 

Unlocking LiFT 6: For Love

It’s happens. People come out of the woodwork. Stride out to the dance floor from the corners. They surprise. They delight. They risk their comfort zones. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s beautiful.

That’s one of the great joys of community theater. Hidden talents emerge in surprising ways, and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been caught off guard by someone’s performance. To have a friend cry or intimidate believably onstage is impressive. To have another friend provoke laughter with an interesting, dynamic voice and bring a character to life is delightful. The bonds that form after, rewarding.

For me, these surprises create the dynamism of community theater, improve a casts’ strength, and, really, make the whole thing fun. When these surprises happen, barriers are broken down, and let’s be honest here, we all have some sort of barrier. Whether it is a slight bias, or a judgment, an ego, or even lack of familiarity, when authentic surprise happens, these things are challenged. In the worst cases, there is begrudging respect. In the best cases, we see the performer in a new light, reconsider our initial barriers, see them as more human, and draw closer together.

I do not think this experience is unique to Little Falls, though I wish it were. Rather, this is a trait of theater, and community theater in particular. These small challenges, these surprise moments, could be used as a model for community building. I’ll try not to sound too idealistic here, because much of this is that, and lean towards a more pragmatic tone.

People have skill sets, and oftentimes they don’t utilize them fully, or only use them in narrow ways (like strictly for a job). Though, when people get involved in community activities, they increase the likelihood that their skills will be drawn upon in various ways. It’s a bit of a risk, getting involved and throwing yourself out there, but this challenge is useful, and often helps us grow. For a community it is crucial to draw on this, and for community theater it is absolutely necessary. Without people taking risks, growing, failing, and sharing their skills – community theater doesn’t happen.

None of us get paid to do this. Our compensation? Gratification, friendship, growth, and love.

Till soon,

Matt

Unlocking LiFT 5: Podcasting

Podcasts have been around for a few years, but have really become vogue. Some say the “Golden Age” of radio has come again. The sheer amount of content available, the ease of access, and the immense variety is astounding. So we thought we’d toss our hat in the ring with The Brass Lantern, because it is right up our alley.

And it’s a heck of a lot of fun.

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Teaching the next generation of podcasters.

One of our favorite things to do is create new work, reach new audiences, and allow as many people as possible to experience the wonder of the our art form: theater. And the possibilities with radio theater are too good to pass up. With its zero cost, accessibility, and specialized interests, this openness is optimal for our audience.

Every month we crank out a new script, record, re-record sometimes, make a trailer, edit the audio, music, create and add sound effects, and more. It’s an immense amount of work, time, coordination, attention to detail, and creative marketing, but it’s worth it. We are developing new work, which means developing ourselves, bettering ourselves to make better entertainment for all of you.

We choose audio drama, because we like it, but the possibilities are endless. In fact, we are having so much fun with this, we are considering more shows and perhaps a whole podcasting arm to LiFT. It’s a new and exciting time for us. We hope you enjoy what we have planned.

Let us know what you think!

Talk soon.

Matt Powers

Blocking for The Tempest 2017 Part 2

After knowing some background, this next installment on blocking will focus on how, particularly in Shakespeare, there are clues to blocking in the dialogue and situations characters find themselves in. Some of what I discuss is drawn from an excellent study on this very subject, Action is Eloquence: Shakespeare’s Language of Gesture, by David Bevington. It is a clear and fascinating study on character, movements, spatial relationships, and ritual ideas ingrained in the Elizabethans. Certainly worth the read!

Mark Rylance, responding to a fellow director of Shakespeare, once said, “I must come and hear one of your plays.” Not see. Tone informs attitude, and attitude informs action. Tone, Rylance knew, is what informs the entire production. I would even go as far to say that if one were blindfolded, one should be able to “see” the action of the show simply by hearing the language. So, examining Shakespeare’s dialogue is about hearing possibilities, and imagining how those possibilities communicate story and character to the audience.

Let’s start with a favorite of mine, Macbeth Act I, Scene VII, just after Macbeth’s opening monologue where he contemplates assassination and recognizes his ambition has its shortcomings – he has no “spur to prick the sides” of his intent – but Lady Macbeth begins to prod:

Macbeth: We will go no further in this business:
He hath honour’d me of late; and I have bought
Golden opinions of all sorts of people,
Which would be worn now in their newest gloss,
Not cast aside so soon.

Lady Macbeth: Was the hope drunk
Wherein you dressed yourself? hath it slept since?
And wakes it now, to look so green and pale
At what it did so freely? From this time
Such I account thy love. Art thou afeard
To be the same in thine own act and valour
As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that
Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life,
And live a coward in thine own esteem,
Letting ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would,’
Like the poor cat i’ the adage?

The Macbeths still have guests in the castle, and they find a private moment to discuss ambition and regicide in a wonderful, hushed domestic scene. Much of the language should be said quietly, maybe some through a stage whisper, but this language would feel inappropriate if shouted or said loudly. That is not to say that there aren’t outbursts where the characters catch themselves, and change tone and volume to fit their situation, but the dominant mood should be secrecy with the characters close together.

Although Macbeth’s mind is already primed for murder, he insists on “going no further” and gives a few reasons for not proceeding. What must be conveyed here is that his insistence is false, or at least capable of being swayed. His tone should be insistent, but with distinct pauses at the punctuation to break up the flow of the sentence. If we scan the lines (to look for where the stresses fall in this pentameter), we gain more clues to tone. In the following line I’ll highlight the words that are stressed: “He hath honour’d me of late; and I have bought Golden opinions of all sorts of people.” Macbeth’s language isn’t confident, controlled iambic pentameter, but more of a loose string of words of someone searching for a way to convince himself. If we look at the words that receive more stress (honour’d, me, late, I, bought, gold, etc.) and those that are not stressed, we see the disparity: Macbeth truly is concerned about himself and his worth in the eyes of others, not with Duncan. Even if Macbeth’s tone is determined and insistent, his syntax betrays him.

Lady Macbeth, among other things, is an excellent listener, and she listens very closely to her husband. She hears Macbeth’s language better than he does, and is able to locate this disparity and exploit it. When Macbeth finishes his speech with “Not cast aside so soon,” Lady Macbeth is canny enough to finish the line of verse. At this moment we see a subtle shift in power registered in language. From this point forward, Lady Macbeth will have the upper hand, and she will use a variety of tones to make Macbeth squirm.

She begins with a barrage of rhetorical questions that all are said in snide accusation, also likely in a stage whisper:

Was the hope drunk
Wherein you dressed yourself? hath it slept since?
And wakes it now, to look so green and pale
At what it did so freely?

Once can easily hear all those “s” sounds in stage whisper, and when she has more punchy words like “hope drunk,” and “green and pale” we can almost hear her voice slipping into normal register, only to return with renewed, whispered, anger on “At what it did so freely?” Lady Macbeth’s verse, at this moment, is much more controlled and is nearly perfect pentameter. The force of her thought chugs forward, gaining momentum with each sentence, but her tone softens a bit on the sentence that begins with, “Art thou afeard.” Instead of outright anger, she tries a new tactic: irony. This false sincerity is an exaggeration, which carries through the rest of the speech, and is another way to cajole and demean Macbeth. This new tactic shows how quickly she adapts, and how she may not be getting the reaction she wants out of Macbeth.

Though, when she accuses him of being a coward, she gets all the reaction she needs. Macbeth must do something on that line. Give her a look. Spin around. Shake his head. Something. How could he not? His honor and manhood are being attacked. This gives Lady Macbeth all the information she needs to manipulate her husband, which she does to stunning effect later in the scene. In this case, we see an example of how tone in one character’s speech actually affects the blocking of another character. This is done all throughout Shakespeare, oftentimes to great effect (like in Othello or Hamlet), but is easily overlooked when simply reading.

By careful manipulation of volume and tone, we understand how dynamic and palpable each character is, and understanding how they say their lines, gives us an array of options for gesture and movement. For Macbeth’s tones of false confidence and insistence, several hand gestures that would indicate “no” are plausible, and movements a few steps away from Lady Macbeth also seem fitting. Also, during Lady’s speech, Macbeth could be stationary, absorbing his wife’s words. Lady Macbeth has more range at this moment. Her varying tones of sarcasm, anger, insinuation, and accusation offer a world of gestures from finger pointing to throwing hands out in impatience. Her movements, though, would to be close to Macbeth, maybe turning him to look him in the eye, maybe talking in his ears from behind.

But those choices should be worked out with the actress and director, and that is where much of the creativity and liveliness of Shakespeare begins.

 

Blocking for The Tempest 2017 Part 1

By Matt Powers

In this multi-part post, I’d like to share some insider looks, tips, and ideas about blocking. “Blocking” is a term for movement on stage, and the term comes from the stage itself. If you were to take an aerial view of the stage, and draw lines to make nine equal blocks (as in the “rule of thirds”), you will have all the stage directions (upstage left, center, and right, and so on). So “blocking”, basically, referred to moving from one block to another. Now, though, it is a more encompassing term for movement, gestures, and stage business, and is greatly informed by cultural expectations and style of theater (like naturalism, realism, surrealism, etc.).

At its base, blocking is needed to tell story. Characters need locations to enter and exit, positions for disagreements, deep kisses, and rowdy brawls. Sometimes the audience needs to see characters split, so they need to exit in opposite directions. Sometimes the audience needs to see other characters spy on each other, as in Hamlet, so they need to be positioned in a way that makes that clear. Whatever the needs of the story are, blocking is needed to make it situations and conflicts clear to the audience.

Blocking provides a foundation from which to work. It provides the dominant lines for travel, speed, angle, arc, as well as a springboard for character. For instance, if a character is going to move diagonally across the stage from upstage right to downstage left, in a straight line, without stopping, and at a swift pace, that sets a clear trajectory and will shift not only the composition of the stage, but the dynamic between other characters and the audience. This character in the distance is suddenly thrust into prominence with bold movement. If our character needed to make an important speech, this blocking provides the architecture for other gestures, even volume and tone of speech.

Blocking is also tied to character. If it has just been revealed that our our character’s pants have fallen down, and is embarrassed, this movement is a clear exit strategy, and shows a need for the character to remove themselves from that part of the stage. Along the way, maybe the character looks back a few times nervously, or stops half way, tears in eyes, and then continues forward. So blocking must align, in some way, with a character’s internal or external motivation. Moving in a particular direction, at a particular time, in a particular way must make sense for the character, otherwise it will be very difficult to justify, or make believable, that movement.

There are thematic reasons for blocking too. In the first scene of Hamlet, guards are on patrol in the foggy evening. “Who’s there?” is the first line. This opening line and scene are the first inklings of the themes of suspicion, obfuscation, supernatural, and the difficulty in knowing exactly “who” is there. A director may choose to suggest these ideas through slow, careful movements, or even no movement at all. The guard could move around the stage in a circular fashion, or a “S” shape, both of which could suggest confusion. Or perhaps the guard is jumpy, and is so surprised that his movements are quick and jagged, waving his torch (or flashlight) wildly, and amplifying the suspicion angle. The possibilities are endless, and wonderful.

Ideological perspective is also a factor in blocking. If your play requires realism, like Susan Glaspell’s Trifles, then blocking must match the movements of real people closely. If your play is absurd, like Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco, movements do not need to be grounded so much in reality. If you are Bertolt Brecht directing Mother Courage, stage movements are not intentionally beautiful and are to reveal the structure of human relationships. If you’re Elia Kazan, directing Death of Salesman or A Street Car Named Desire, blocking is made with the tension of competing forces in mind.

Or sometimes blocking is there just to have fun, or because it looks beautiful, or because the audience would really enjoy it. Generally, though, blocking should efficient, compact, and suggestive. And once we have a deep understanding of the whole story, we realize that each movement on stage, no matter how small, can be used to purposely to convey as many things simultaneously as possible.