NIDA Open Program, Daramalan College, Canberra 2005: Acting, Acting for Stage and Screen, Building a Character, Screen Acting, Auditions and Screen Tests, Acting Intensive, Acting to Camera, Directing Intensive, Shakespeare Made Easy
NIDA - the National Institute of Dramatic Art - comes to Canberra for a week of workshops July 11 - 17. This year they are offering a mix of short courses in the Open Program.
You don't need to be an experienced actor or to have any special qualifications, but you do need some attitudes. Like, be prepared to enjoy yourself while you are working hard. And be ready to learn new and different ways of preparing yourself for a role, letting your imagination work for you, and expressing your character in action.
2 courses are for 12 - 15 years: Acting for Stage and Screen and Acting to Camera. Shakespeare Made Easy is for anyone 15 years and over. For 16 years and over, the choices are Acting, Building a Character, Screen Acting, Auditions and Screen Tests, Acting Intensive, Directing Intensive.
For details check the NIDA website at www.nida.edu.au/short_courses/open/national.
To find out what it will be like I spoke to tutor Simon Bossell. I last saw him as the young man playing opposite Ruth Cracknell in the quirky road movie Spider and Rose. He is one of a large team of NIDA tutors which includes Jennifer Hagan (a famous and early NIDA graduate), Sam Worthington (of Water Rats, Backberner, Blue Heelers, Getting Square and Somersault), Nicholas Bishop (currently playing Detective Peter Baker in Home and Away), Nathaniel Dean (AFI Best Supporting Actor in Walking on Water), Katrina Campbell (All Saints and McLeod's Daughters), Gerard Sont (Double Dare, and the ABCTV's Antenna) and Edith Podesta (Sydney stage director and performer at Belvoir St and Sydney Festival).
The list of NIDA graduates is full of the famous from Cate Blanchett, Judy Davis, Steve Bisley to Miranda Otto. Bossell explained that the short courses will give students a taste of the professional training actors receive at NIDA, but I wanted to know more. He is a film and a stage actor. What do you have to learn, and is acting very different on screen compared with on stage?
The difference is about "filling the space" on stage and "pulling it all back" for the camera. Although stage acting means "finding natural ways of amplifying" and film work means "most of the technique is contained" mainly in your face and hands, both kinds of acting are the same when it comes to your imagination - what's going on in your head. Bossell was taught by the famous director and teacher Lindy Davies, and described one of her methods he still uses, called "dropping in", which he says is particularly useful for classical theatre, such as his performances for Bell Shakespeare, Sydney Theatre Company and Queensland Theatre Company in A Midsummer Night's Dream, King Lear, Titus Andronicus and A Winter's Tale.
First you prepare by going through the script, finding all the images you can see in the words and relating these pictures in your mind to your personal experiences, so they become your images. When you read and rehearse the lines, you "breathe in" each image and then "breathe out" the line as you speak it. Using your breath in this way makes the images real in your imagination so that as you speak the line, you appear to someone watching as if you are the real character. Going with the images, of course, are the thoughts which come to mind. As you work to find the character, you focus on these thoughts, and allow yourself to react and to act outwardly in response.
Working to the camera means you keep your concentration on thinking the thoughts, letting them strike you - this is what is meant by "being in the moment". The expression on your face, where your eyes focus, how you speak and how you move follows naturally, and will often surprise you. This is what the camera records. Some directors want their actors to be self-sufficient, while others take their actors through a process as they film each scene to help create the illusion of real characters on film.
Working on stage means learning to keep focussed on the images and thoughts while making the action and speech fill the space in a theatre. Bossell says many actors find this difficult. It's easy to forget the thoughts and get involved in the big movements and voice, but the trick is that it is really the thoughts and the emotions they create which the audience responds to. What's in the head is what fills the space, not the obvious actions.
So what you can expect from NIDA classes is much more than fun. The work will be satisfying as you learn to take the first steps in professional training - a taste of what is to come if you decide acting is for you.
NIDA Open Program:
July 11-15 Acting, Acting for Stage and Screen, Building a Character, Screen Acting
July 12-14 Auditions and Screen Tests
July 16-17 Acting Intensive, Acting to Camera, Directing Intensive, Shakespeare Made Easy
Venue: Daramalan College
Information and Bookings:
Phone: (02) 9697 7626
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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