Watching Characters Develop

This post is the first in a series of guest posts from our 2016 Stage Door Project students at Rochester’s own School of the Arts! In case you missed the Stage Door Project: To Kill a Mockingbird introductory post that explains the exciting details of this year’s Stage Door Project and what all the students involved in this partnership between SOTA and Geva are up to, you can read it here.

My name is Tali Beckwith-Cohen and my school, School of the Arts, is working with Geva’s Stage Door Project on To Kill a Mockingbird.  I am playing Scout in my school’s production. Through the Stage Door Project, I get to work with the professionals working on Geva’s production, attend their rehearsals, and perform on their stage, with their lights, sound and set.  So far, it has been amazing!   I have been in many plays, even some at Geva, and thought I knew all about the process of putting on a show.  However, after just one acting workshop, led by Skip Greer, who is playing Atticus in Geva’s production, I am beginning to see just how much more there can be to the process of bringing a story to life on stage.

Skip’s workshop was filled with group activities, games and acting exercises.  From the outside they seemed pretty simple, but soon I realized that it wasn’t just playing the games or doing the exercises that was important.  It was the questions Skip asked us throughout the activities that made the experience so valuable.   His questions pushed us to think about our motives, strategies, thoughts and feelings – the same things an actor needs to think about when they are creating a character.  For example, if I am going to be a believable Scout, I have to think about why she does the things she does, and what kinds of things might be influencing the way she thinks and feels.

Tali Beckwith-Cohen (center, in red) and her fellow cast members participate in a Geva-led acting exercise at School of the Arts for the Stage Door Project: To Kill a Mockingbird

Watching and talking to Erin and Alden, the two actors playing Scout in Geva’s production, has also been really helpful.  Erin and Alden are closer to Scout’s real age (they are 9 and I am 12), so they naturally move and behave more like a 9 year old than I do.  When I watch them in rehearsals, I try to pay close attention to their body language and listen to how they speak.  It’s helping me connect with some of the younger voice and movement quality I used to have, so that I can incorporate them into my own version of Scout.

Tali Beckwith-Cohen (Scout in SOTA’s Stage Door production of To Kill a Mockingbird) with Erin Mueller and Alden Duserick (the two young actors sharing the role of Scout in Geva’s production of To Kill a Mockingbird) at the cast-to-cast dinner

It is so interesting to see a character grow from lines on a piece of paper at the first read-through into a personality and a whole person.  I am looking forward to seeing where all of our characters end up, and to continuing to use what I have learned and observed to create my own character.  I feel so lucky to be part of the Stage Door Project, and I can’t wait to see how everything comes together on March 15th!

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