“All the World’s a Stage Fright” has been published in partnership with Gray & Company Publishing and the Cleveland Jewish News, the newspaper that hired me as its theater critic. Its parent company has never before published a novel nor has it ever serialized excerpts from one, but here we are.
Excerpt 1: 3 left 26 near 0 pinch
“All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”
As You Like It (Act II, Scene VII)
In the first excerpt, taken from the first chapter of the novella, readers are introduced to Asher Kaufman. As a former actor, he is asked by his managing editor to get cast in a professional production and write about the experience. “You know,” he said loudly, in competition with the lunchtime din of the deli they were in, “do a Plimpton.” Read more:
Excerpt 2: I fear Shakespeare
“Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great,
some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em.”
Twelfth Night (Act II, Scene V)
In this second-of-five excerpts, from the third chapter of the novella, Asher has gone to the ninth-story corner office in The Arcade, within walking distance of the Playhouse Square theater district, to get permission to audition for the musical “Sweeney Todd” from the artistic director of North Coast Theater, Andrew Ganz. Andrew is fine with the idea and the publicity having a critic/actor in the cast can generate. But Asher soon realizes that his rusty stage skills are the least of his problems. Read more:
Excerpt 3: Thin skin
“The wheel has come full circle.”
King Lear (Act V, Scene III)
In this third-of-five excerpts, extracted from Chapter 15 of the novel, theater critic Asher Kaufman agrees to be an embedded journalist in a professional production of “As You Like It.” His debilitating fear of Shakespeare pales in comparison to having to share the stage with actors he has panned in the past, who he is about to meet in a pre-rehearsal gathering. Negative reviews have long been an occupational hazard in the arts, but performing artists tend to have remarkable albeit selective memories, and he is about to find out which ones also have thin skin. Read more:
Excerpt 4: The Chronicle
"I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes?"
The Merchant of Venice, (Act III, Scene I)
In this week’s excerpt, the fourth-of-five, Asher tells us a little about the newspaper that hired him to be its theater critic and for which he is writing behind-the-scenes articles about performing in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.” We learn, for example, that The Jewish Chronicle was founded in 1885 during an upsurge in Jewish immigration in Northeast Ohio, and continues to be Jewish-centric in its focus and mission.
But its orientation has gotten increasingly secular in order to attract a larger and broader readership. And so it includes a sports section despite the remarkable scarcity of Cleveland Jewish athletes to profile, reviews of non-kosher restaurants throughout the city, and an entertainment section that covers the visual and performing arts whose works are not necessarily created by, about or featuring anyone Jewish. But his managing editor requires him to call out Jewish artists in his reviews, much like how Adam Sandler’s hilarious “Hanukkah Song” calls out famous people who are Jewish and those we think are Jewish but are not. “O.J. Simpson? Not a Jew.” Read more:
Excerpt 5: Lenny in the first row
“If by chance I talk a little wild, forgive me; I had it from my father.”
Henry VIII (Act I, Scene IV)
In this fifth and final excerpt, extracted from Chapter 23 of the novella, the North Coast Theater production of “As You Like It” is starting preview performances and Asher, our clandestine critic, finds himself performing before a particularly rowdy and vocal challenging audience: His dad, Lenny – the 88-year-old patron saint of local theater -- and several hundred senior citizens from local community centers and nursing homes.
"All the World's a Stage Fright" is available at grayco.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and wherever you like to purchase paperbacks.
The 2006 made-for-Disney Channel movie “High School Musical” and its sequels have given voice to countless kids who have found their best selves performing on or behind the stage in their own high school productions.
For the past five years, Cleveland’s Playhouse Square has been providing high school triple-threats and stage crafters with an annual opportunity to actually meet, work with and compete against like-minded teens. Called the Dazzle Awards, this initiative is intended to inspire and honor excellence in high school musical theatre and recognize the importance of the performing arts and arts-education within the Northeast Ohio community.
Earlier this year, 31 participating high schools prepared to have a panel of trained adjudicators attend one performance of their musical and evaluate the performers and the production across 15 categories that include Best Actor and Best Actress, Best Student Orchestra, Best Costume Design, Best Technical Execution and Best Musical, and provide each school with educational feedback. To date, approximately 9,000 students have participated in productions represented at the Dazzle Awards.
This year’s process was to culminate with winners announced on May 16, at a gala Dazzle Awards ceremony in the Connor Palace Theatre at Playhouse Square. However, the adjudication process and the event were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead, Playhouse Square created a virtual Dazzle Awards chorus video as a culminating project for the schools enrolled in this year’s program.
Read more about Dazzle at: http://canvascle.com/playhouse-squares-dazzle-awards-hone-high-school-talent-inspire-broadway-dreams-even-during-pandemic/
A potent group of smaller stages are growing and strengthening Northeast Ohio’s theater scene around headliner Playhouse Square
So what’s going on inside the heads of actors?
Sure, acting requires memorization and a host of complex cognitive skills like imagination and empathy to evoke visceral emotions and create authentic characters. And actors carefully block out movements during rehearsal so their lines are always matched to the same physical motions, forming a kind of bodily mnemonic device.
But do actors actually think when they act? And what do they think about?
“There’s no doubt that actors’ brains differ in important ways from the brains of accountants, cab drivers and neurosurgeons,” noted cognitive scientist Bruce McConachie in a recent issue of American Theatre magazine, “but exactly how and why, no one knows.” Most of the evidence is merely anecdotal rather than scientific.
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet noted in his book Theatre that an actor thinking only complicates matters: “They need only say their lines and get out of the way of the play.” Of course, Mamet believes that a director thinking is also unnecessary, suggesting that “they should make sure the actors don’t step on each other’s lines… and then get out of the way of the play.”
There are hundreds of books on acting technique, from Stanisklavsky’s time-honored tome “On Acting” to Stella Adler’s “The Art of Acting,” that offer advice about what to do to prepare for a performance. But they share little insight into what occurs in the mind during one.
To help advance the state of neurological research, but without all the paperwork, two prominent, deep-thinking, Cleveland-based stage performers – Marc Moritz and Marc Jaffe – sat down at a local restaurant to discuss this issue. And to have a light snack.
To read the full article, go to: http://canvascle.com/do-actors-think/
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