INTRODUCTION to Life Upon The Wicked Stage, by Stanley & Barbara Walden
This book concerns itself with the life upon the wicked stage, not with the life upon the wicked stage. So if your interest is prurient, I’m sorry to disappoint you. But life—upon either the wicked or the benign stage—is what this work is all about. Life as it is lived and practiced on the specific stage of musical theater: the musical, that rather ill-defined, polymorphous post-Sondheim animal abroad most evenings in any large city on the planet. Popular entertainment in a form that uses mostly the vernacular forms of dance and song to spin its tale—this definition approaches the limits of the subject of this book.
Musical theater is a tough taskmaster. It makes multiple demands on its performers, even beyond simultaneous dancing, singing, and acting, and making it all look easy, although this in itself is quite a feat. The courageous, compelling performance of musical theater involves personal risk, generosity, and spontaneity within the structure of the piece. Easier said than done. Much easier.
This book shares the authors’ experience training singing/dancing actors in the unique four year course of study they instituted at the Hochschule der Künste (Arts Conservatory) in Berlin, Germany. Described here are the methods and exercises borrowed, discovered, and developed into a program that has run successfully since 1990. These exercises help performers unblock their natural gifts and fantasies, resulting in significant improvement of their performance skills. In all our training, we emphasize the quickening of the eye, ear, and imagination, so that, in the pressure cooker of an audition experience, the performer can immediately pick up dance combinations, sing independent choral lines, and act in “cold readings.” Our graduates have had almost 100% success in attaining professional engagements after their study. In any event, our training is not bad preparation for life after the academy.
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