The Schools’ Drama Festival begins this week. Soon the chosen venue will be a buzz of activity with each group being chiseled by their demanding teachers to fit into roles. Sadly this won’t be the role of the characters they are playing, but rather those demanded by judges who have refused to encourage the end of melodramatic acting. It is a pity that after school, actors who come from this style of acting will run to the audition rooms flushing their certificates and awards from the Drama Festivals- only to go back home without the role and not understanding why.
Some are wise enough to start from scratch. Most of us had to be re-schooled and groomed during set book acting. Here the directors and producers are usually kinder to the ‘cause’ and spend a lot of time and energy assisting upcoming artistes. The situation today is however grim as many actors in East Africa do not see the use of stage acting and therefore have no space to horn and develop their talents. As the demand for actors rises especially with the coming of age of digital migration, many directors and producers have had to contend with actors who either come from the melodramatic school of line-delivery, or those who simply do not have a reading habit and therefore struggle to relate with text. The result is that the audience has to endure dodgy on-screen and theatrical performances, cleverly disguised as ‘professional acting’.
I remember a short while ago how excited I was as I rushed into the cinema to see a much publicized film that carried high expectations since the producers had a good track record. The movie started on a high note;- the characters were really believable in their features and expression. The main protagonist looked the part and was very interesting to observe…until he opened his mouth to speak! It was clear that he could not consume the well written lines and translate them into believable moments. He made you feel like wanting to repeat the word he delivered on his behalf so that he could repeat it more effectively.
This experience taught me an important reality. After all is said and done, as an actor you are on your own. When the audience “bears with you” as you struggle to deliver your lines, they will not know that you never attended drama school; they will not know that you competed in a drama festival which only required of you to speak as if you were presenting a choral verse; neither will they want to know if you are semi –literate or whatever challenge the average East African actor has to go through. For them you simply cannot act!
In the next post, I will give a tip that may help you acquire good line-delivery in time for your next break-through role.
Meanwhile I’d love to know how you prepare for your role 🙂