21 June 2012
Auditions 1: judging by the results, theater education sucks.
If you get a B.A. or a B.F.A. in acting, you should be able to act. That's a high standard, I know, but it only seems fair that if you pay a ton of coin for a degree, they should teach you something back.
But, okay: acting . . . it's an art after all. It requires all kinds of tricky things that no one can teach, not really. (That's why the best acting schools are so selective. The teachers must, I think, know that the prospective students either have the knack or don't, and they'd better have it coming into the program or all the exercises and work and productions aren't going to work).
So, let's lower the standard. It seems like asking too much to create a theater artist out of four years of liberal arts school. Maybe that's just a stupid proposition to believe in. But if you do earn that theater degree, you should be able to control your voice and diction and know how to move your body expressively. These are craft elements. They require no special aptitude. You just have to receive instruction and put in the time. They're basic, too. If you can't be heard, no one will be able to appreciate your performance or the playwright's work. If you move awkwardly, it's distracting.
I spent a few hours learning that this is too high a standard. Dozens of actors showed up with very nicely produced glossy head shots -- almost completely irrelevant to me, other than as a device to help remember who auditioned. And with resumes. Listing BAs and BFAs. Even a few MFAs. And most of them sucked. They were brave. They were bold, and they deserve credit for that and for the work they put into learning their pieces. But the acting was mediocre.
That's to be expected, I guess. But what shocked me is how few of them had any craft. They mumbled. They stood there like dead fishes propped up in a frozen food case. Or they'd make little penguin gestures with their arms. And whatever they'd listed as training didn't seem to matter. Four year programs, two year programs, random classes from a series of teachers -- none of it mattered. If they were good, they were good no matter where they went or studied. If they stank, they stank no matter where they'd picked up their stench.
Okay, maybe I'm generalizing. We didn't see students from some of the better known schools; I guess they could be better, or at least offer some good diction. You know, the basic price of entry. Not necessarily emotional truth or charisma, or shattering insight into the human heart. Just get the words out.
For the record, I saw some fine actors.
But it makes me think that arts education, or at least theater education in this country is a fraud, and thus, a criminal enterprise. You can't teach art. You can, however, create a place where the craft elements can be learned. Apparently, a lot of schools are absolutely failing.
They should refund their students' tuition.