Monday, May 2, 2016

'Process Over Product' in SCR's Actor Training

Christopher Huntley (Oberon), Rachel Charny (Titania), Alex Theologides Rodriguez (Bottom) and Jamie Ostmann (Puck) in rehearsal for A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Theatre Conservatory Director Hisa Takakuwa teaches her students to understand the craft of acting as they create their characters, rather than concentrating on the result, which is the show itself. That’s “process over product.” It’s deeper and more complicated than memorizing and blocking. In the end, it’s more rewarding than acclaim because it’s what sustains them as actors—and as people. “The process of acting brings confidence,” Takakuwa says, “and that allows students to have fun onstage—and it brings maturity, and that helps them throughout life.

That may sound like pretty heavy stuff, but it’s ingrained in Takakuwa’s students.

“It’s our mantra,” says Rachel Charney of her training. “We care about creating truth on stage, not about showing off how beautiful our costumes are or how pretty we look posing on a particular set piece, but about being vulnerable, emotionally truthful and creating people from words in a script.”

Rachel plays Hippolyta/Titania in the upcoming Teen Players production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She has performed in ten Players shows and A Christmas Carol. “I’ve spent more than half my life so far at SCR. It’s a second home for me.”

“In many theatres, they put a huge emphasis on the show—or the final product,” says Christopher Huntley. “SCR is unique because above all else comes the process, or how you got to the final product. I’ve been able to take this outlook and apply it to every facet in my life.”

Christopher plays Theseus/Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He has performed in countless Players shows and appeared twice in A Christmas Carol, first as Boy Ebenezer and later as Peter Cratchit.

Rachel and Chris first met in the Summer Acting Workshop and became friends when they were cast in the Junior Players production of The Velveteen Rabbit. They were in the fourth grade. In June, they’ll graduate from high school. Chris is off to to Stanford in the fall, and Rachel will move to London to further her actor training. Before that, they’ll appear opposite each other in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That will be their last Teen Players production.

They look back today on those years—and on the teacher who inspired them.

Rachel: I grew up here, learning things not just about acting but about people—about life. SCR provided a sort of whimsical escape from reality while making sure that we were always learning and growing. The hours I have spent memorizing lines, talking to myself, rehearsing, or laughing until I cried in the nooks and crannies of this theatre will stay with me forever.

Chris: After a fantastic time in the Summer Acting Workshop exploring acting games and having a blast, I decided to jump into the year-round program. Class never seemed like a class. It was more like a sandbox for the actor—and the person—in everyone. That feeling compelled me to come back year after year.

Rachel: We always say in Players that we want to grow up to be Hisa because there is no one in the world like her. She has been a guiding light for me through all my years at SCR, but especially now that I have become serious about wanting to be an actor. Most importantly, she has taught me to connect, to really listen to people and try to understand them and be an observer of the world around me.

Chris: Hisa is unique because she approaches everything from her background in acting. She helps us create authentic characters onstage, not only through their physical actions but through their emotions, motivations and drives. With Hisa, acting is a mirror of life, grounded in truth. Overall, she has taught me always to be honest with myself and to keep an eye out for the details. I believe these two skills to be crucial on and off stage.

Learn more about the Theatre Conservatory or buy tickets to A Midsummer Night's Dream.

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