Nothing beats 'live' acting

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I am spending most of this week at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Omaha. It's a festival where college students from Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Missouri, Kansas and Illinois get together for a celebration of acting. There are workshops, scholarship auditions, internship opportunities and plenty of shows and scenes to see. I never find myself bored here. Also there are some pretty fun parties, but that's beside the point.

We just got done with our performances for the scholarship competition and we got to see a lot of scenes from a wide variety of plays. There are always some repeats within close range of each other, but you get a good variety. I really enjoy watching them because you get to see some of the top scenes from a large number of plays. So I basically get the highlights without having to sit through the entire thing.

While it sometimes feels like a huge overload of plays and musicals flying at you, it also makes me want to see some plays a lot more than I ever thought I did. There's plenty that I have heard of, or have even started watching the movie to, and seeing the good stuff makes me want to complete it. I remember starting to watch Barefoot in the Park by Neil Simon (with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda) and leaving it for something more stimulating. I saw a good scene from it and actually have interest in seeing the entire thing now.

While this may all seem irrelevant to you, the reader, it leads to an observation I encountered. I have seen quite a few scenes from some movies. While it is not typically advised to perform a scene from a movie, the irony comes in how many plays have been adapted for the screen.

We have seen many recent adaptations of musicals such as Rent, The Producers, Sweeny Todd, Chicago and Hairspray. The problem I have heard from many people, and have experienced myself, is that the stage version is typically better than the movie remake. I know, people say this all the time, but it's true. When I saw Chicago on stage, everyone I was with absolutely hated it. They didn't understand it was about the dancing. Instead they expected the flash and marvel of the movie. The camera can do many things the stage cannot.

I have also noticed a large lack of original screenplays. Anyone else noticing all the books being turned into movies? The Golden Compass, The Chronicles of Narnia series and even I Am Legend are reigning over the theatres as opposed to many new scripts.

Regardless of where it is coming from, there is nothing at all like live theatre. I really do adore seeing all of these actors and actresses doing such a variety of writings. There is something special about knowing nobody will ever see what you see ever again. Every performance is different, and everyone does it differently.

There is definite distinction between acting for the camera and stage acting. My friend Cliff was told by his judge that it was apparent he has done a good amount of screen acting. Movie and television actors are performing for the camera whereas stage actors are trying to connect to the members of the audience.

I always find it funny watching those extra features where you see the movie being shot. In a scene where there should be music, you see actors dancing to no music. I always think it lacks a lot because they are dancing for the sake of the look, and not for the sake of acting.

That is why I love going to live shows. The actors are trying so hard to connect to you. Even though there is a full audience, they are there to entertain you specifically. It's part of the thrill of it! You both get to react and play off of each other.

I know the opportunities seem rather limited in Iowa to attend a live show, but you really don't have to look too far. From the schools in Storm Lake and the surrounding towns, to summer community theatre productions, to the multiple theatre happenings at Buena Vista University, and even a short trip to Sioux City or Spencer, there is something for everyone to see at some point or another. So get out there and experience the joys of live theatre. You won't regret it, and it's a nice change from a night at home.

* Tyler Kirkholm is a BVU senior from Storm Lake, interning with the Pilot-Tribune.