Corinda: If I can pop another question here. Later you will be speaking about voice control, I believe I'm right in saying that you said there is an important connection between deep breathing and voice production?
Claude: Yes. That is another use which we shall discuss presently.
Corinda: Right. Let us leave that for further discussion later on and start now at the beginning of a performance. Can we ask you for tips for making an entry on to the stage. What is the right approach?
Claude: Yes, before I deal with that, I should say that an actor looks upon everything he does as playing a character. And it can be very helpful to mentalists if you think of yourself as playing a part. It's a bit like the ordinary individual at a part; dress him up and he behaves in a manner according to his dress or character. You will find that if you have formulated in your own mind that you are playing a part—you are the Mentalist or whatever you want to be, you step into that character and its almost like putting on a disguise. You will be less nervous if you do that.
Corinda: Well Claude, in your opinion what character is a Mentalist. I mean, how can you tell so that you can portray that?
Claude: No. Simply form in your own mind a character, whatever you feel you would like to be on the stage. Your stage character may be just that little bit different to you. You may feel that when you want to walk across a room you like to slouch across; but in your own mind, you feel that the sort of man you would like to be on the stage is not a man who slouches so you cultivate for that character a more upright walk or a better walk. Maybe a more commanding appearance or manner, something a little more dynamic than you have in the ordinary way. It is a character, something a little different to yourself. \
Corinda: Would you say it was wrong for mentalists to create a belief in himself to the extent that during his act he actually believes he can do that sort of thing?
Claude: I would say that it was essential for the mentalist to do it. As long as you bear in mind it's not playing a part in a play where you can make all sorts of exaggerated statements, here you must be careful that you do not overdo it and land yourself in trouble. Mentally—if you are playing a part you should believe you have these powers—that's the actor.
Corinda: Can we return to our earlier question about walking on.
Claude: One important thing to bear in mind is to stand well back. Don't stand close to the wings so that your first step brings you right on to the stage. Get well back off stage so that when it's your time to appear, you take at least three or four, or even more steps before anybody sees you. Then you are well walking, travelling at a good speed by the time the audience see you. Don't appear as though you have jumped out of the wings.
Another important thing there. As you walk on, look at your audience. Directly you get on to the stage, look at them. The power of the human eye is amazing and if you don't look at them you look a fool. We might say that's a golden rule.
Corinda: So to sum it up, stand well back to arrive on stage at a good walking speed and as you come on turn your head to face the audience. Then where do you go?
Claude: You arrive centre stage normally.
Corinda: You mentioned the danger of standing too far forward on the stage because the footlights can make you look funny.
Claude: True. Take a reasonable distance, depending on the stage and your set up of props and what you have got. I would say as far as you can say, if you keep a few feet from the footlights without falling over your props you will be all right. It is very bad to stand on top of the footlights and you should always try and avoid it.
Corinda: When we were speaking just now about looking at an audience, I meant to ask you more about that. In your lecture you described how to do this.
Claude: Many beginners and often really experienced people fail to know how to look at an audience. Some people will tell you to look over their heads, to look here, to look there . . . the actual secret is that you look in the direction of the audience, but you do not focus, you do not allow your eyes to focus on any particular thing or any particular person. Then you will give the impression that you are speaking and looking at everybody. Your eyes casually move around up into the gallery or circle and down again. Never look directly at any one person—an actor doesn't look at the audience because he is playing a part. If you are in a scene or a play, you don't look at the audience, they are the 44 Fourth Wall." On the other hand, as an entertainer walking on to address an audience, then you are going to speak to the audience and so you do look at them.
Corinda: What happens in the case of some theatres where the lighting conditions make it almost impossible to see the audience?
Claude: You look in the right direction just the same and the audience will not know you cannot see them. It makes no difference.
Corinda: Can we get on to a very important subject—that of Voice Production, correct speech and talking so that everyone can hear you.
Claude: Well of course, it's a big subject. One can take elocution and have your voice trained and that sort of thing, but broadly speaking first of all is the correct production of the voice, what is known as a44 Forward Production" and that means the voice must be pitched just behind the front top teeth. Pitch the voice forward and not down in the throat. A good way to assist you, if you don't think you have a forward voice is to use what is called the nasal voice—that is talking through the nose; if you do that, and then leave the nose open, you will find the voice is in that forward position.
Corinda: People usually believe that if you get on a stage and talk to the back row of an audience, everybody must hear you, would you say this is correct ?
Claude: Yes. Definitely. If you feel that you are talking to someone who is sitting in the back row it will work. But be careful not to shout. Again it comes back to deep breathing. You have a good lung capacity and you can hold a lot of air, and you can conserve air. The more air you get behind your words, the more force you can give them without shouting.
Corinda: There was a tricky point in your lecture where you were forced to show that you could perform deep breathing on stage without visibly blowing yourself out in view of the audience.
Claude: No. You do the deep breathing in the wings before you get on stage but it can still be done gently whilst actually on stage.
Corinda: And you had something to say about speaking good English and not clipping off the ends of words.
Claude: Yes you get that in Elocution. One of the things they teach you is to sound your consonants clearly. Also, not to clip off the endings of words —finish a word. You would be surprised, if some of our entertainers could make tape recordings and listen carefully to what they are saying, they would be very surprised to hear how many of the endings of their words they clip off. In a big hall or theatre it means that those words just don't get over. Pronounce your words clearly and finish them.
Corinda: Do you vary the volume of your voice according to the size" of the place in which you are performing? a
Claude: Yes. Obviously you must do so. To go to an extreme, you may be performing in open air. Due to inexperience you may find yourself inclined to shout; if you would only realise that you can be heard in the open air as long as you speak clearly and distinctly. In a hall or theatre there is always a certain amount of vibration which brings the sound back to you so you can hear yourself speaking. In the open air your voice seems to disappear and you worry, thinking you are not being heard. Always try to avoid shouting.
Corinda: Now to change the topic again, I remember you said the hardest thing for an actor to do is to stand still on the stage. What can you add to that?
Claude: True. Many an actor finds it extremely difficult to stand still on the stage. The secret is to plant your weight firmly on both feet, don't have your weight on one foot. Let your arms hang by your side and relax. If you put your arms by your sides and your muscles are stiff, it will betray any nervousness and you won't look at ease. You must rel^x completely.
Corinda: Why do you consider it important that an actor- or mentalist does stand still?
Claude: I think that it's important to stand still because when you do move it has dramatic effect. If you are constantly moving about it serves no purpose, it becomes monotonous and you lose people's attention. If you stand still as you should do when you are talking to an audience, then, when you do move, it is definitely dramatic.
Corinda: In your lecture you mention quite a bit about bad habits concerning movement on stage. Can we speak about them?
Claude: That was the various things you can do through nervousness. The sort of things that people do, not knowing they are doing them as a result of nerves. A common habit isnoddingthehead in emphasis and another is shifting the weight from one foot to another. People don't realise it but eventually they form almost a rocking movement which is most irritating and means the performer lacks repose. Another bad habit is to gradually wander forward a little bit and then wander back. Again you see you have unnecessary movement.
Corinda: I have another note on your comment that an actor never does anything on stage unless he knows that he does it. What did that mean?
Claude: It is a very hard thing for the inexperienced performer to grasp. A trained actor is in complete command of himself. Every intonation of his voice and every muscle of his body, every look in the eye and all he does is known to himself. He does not do anything on the stage without knowing he does it and the danger with so many of our performers—many that I have seen in magical societies, is that they have so many bad habits and they do things not knowing they are doing them. You can do whatever you like on the stage—it may not be successful, which is a matter of trial and error, if you want to do your Mentalism standing on your head, you can—if you wish, but you should know that you're doing it! You can do it on one foot if you like—the awful thing is the man that does it on one foot and doesn't know he's standing on one foot.
Corinda: A complication occurs to me listening to you Claude. You say that it's important that an actor knows about everything he does, his speech and movement, does that mean a person must watch himself whilst performing. How can a performer overcome the difficulty of watching himself and not paying enough attention to the audience?
Claude: Well, it's a curious thing and I suppose it only comes by long training or long experience. There is an essential difference between the inexperienced performer and the experienced performer, be he actor or any other form of entertainer. The experienced performer constantly thinks of the audience, he sees everything via the eyes of the audience. The inexperienced performer is constantly thinking what he's doing. 4k I'm walking on a stage, I'm picking up this, I'm standing here, etc. . . he can't help it, even he would change with experience to the professional attitude ...44 the audience see me walking on a stage, they see me picking this up, it's having this effect on them ..." all the time, the effect on the audience as they see it.
One must stand outside oneself and learn to look at oneself and see what is going on.
Corinda: Speaking about stage movement, you gave some useful advice on the right way to walk on stage.
Claude: An actor is taught to walk the stage for an example, a mentalist stands in the middle of the stage. He has to turn up stage towards a table, pick up something and return to the centre of the stage. Now if you turn round and approach that table and bring your feet together—you cannot get back to the centre without a lot of shuffling of your feet. If you arrive at the table with what we call the upstage foot (that's the foot furthest away from the audience) with your weight on it, and the downstage foot is more or less allowed to hang behind, in that position, you find you can turn and come back with almost no movement of your feet. It is difficult to describe but if you try, you will find that if you bring your feet together you can't turn round and start off back again without an awful lot of shuffling. That's the kind of thing one learns in walking the stage.
Corinda: Dealing more with movement, what would you say is dramatic movement?
Claude: I think almost anything that he hasn't done constantly, is dramatic movement for the mentalist. It brings me back to my point, if a man is constantly walking back and forth there's nothing startling in any movement he may do. But if he's been standing still for quite a time and he suddenly moves and turns upstage, that sudden movement can be arresting. Any gesture or movement that is done fairly quickly and held can be dramatic. Another example. If you point your finger to someone in the audience, or straight out into the audience, and stand there pointing it's bound to be dramatic as long as it has some bearing.
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Character-Building Thought Power by Ralph Waldo Trine. Ralph draws a distinct line between bad and good habits. In this book, every effort is made by the writer to explain what comprises good habits and why every one needs it early in life. It draws the conclusion that habits nurtured in early life concretize into impulses in future for the good or bad of the subject.