Written by Omoye Uzamere
Good acting is good acting right?
It doesn’t really matter whether it’s for stage, film or television as long as you’re telling the truth, right? Yes, yes… we know stage acting is bigger than camera acting but that’s it; if you have it, you have it, not so?
Imagine Bovi doing comedy at the Tafawa Balewa Square with over 50,000 people. Would he do it the exact same way if he were performing the same jokes in the studio? Probably not.
All performance platforms have their own demands. Many actors are skilled enough to cut across, yet much of that skill will need to be tailored to the particular platform.
As an actor, I have learned that understanding the history of each performance platform can improve your skill and increase your value to the directors/producers who hire you. You’re also able to contribute far more to the creative process.
I did some research on the history of theatre, film and television in order to understand their performance requirements. Let’s talk about them…
It turns out theatre started as a result of a religious practice where the Shaman, or priest (as it were) interpreted the word of God to the people through storytelling. The congregation didn’t always understand what was written in the scriptures, so the priest made use of practical demonstrations and enactments, a major tool for teaching God’s word. The evolution of that practice led to the actors and director assuming the role of priest, the playwright providing the “word” or “message” to be preached and the audience becoming the congregation. Thus, the fundamental demand of stage performance is INTERPRETATION. There is a message, which the playwright wants to deliver to the society and the actors work with the director to make that possible.
So apparently, motion pictures are just that – pictures that are moving. Films did not evolve from theatre, as we thought. Back in the day, pictures were paintings. What is a picture? A story told through an image. Whenever an artist wanted to tell a story, he/she made a painting to convey the message. With the invention of photography, paintings gave way to photographs and soon, that replaced paintings as the medium of storytelling, (in a manner of speaking – as paintings have remained an art form in themselves). In the course of time, photography advanced to videos – a rapid sequence of photographs: hence, Motion Picture.
In fact, the first 30 years of motion picture had no audible dialogue. They were simply pictures laced together, with music. The occasional dialogue occurred, but the focus was always on the PICTURE.
I bet you think television is a film wannabe. Well, you’re wrong. The nature of television is different in many ways. TV is actually radio upgraded – there are breaks for advertisements, which are the revenue stream; it has a regular schedule (daily, weekly, etc) and there are many more words. Storytelling on radio was bound to suffer at the ears of a distracted audience who could leave the room or change the station during an AD break, unlike theatre and film audiences. That style of performance evolved into what I’ll call visual radio drama but the narrative had a dramatic peak every 12 minutes. Hence, a television show had to have an intense, verbal plot in order to hold the audience’s attention up to and during the commercials. This is why during a good TV show, we dash to the bathroom to pee or to the fridge to grab a bite before the ads are done. No one wants to miss the WORDS because that’s the core of the medium.
Each of these platforms has its unique performance style and it is important for actors to study their differences in order to enhance the quality of our performance.
In my next article, I will share how understanding the history and differences between Theatre, Film and Television can improve your performance in the casting office and on the job.
Slide through the gallery above!