There were actually many things that I learned in the BFA program (the study of theatre). Stage direction, movement, lighting, make-up, prop construction, set design, costume design, and theatre administration all come into play when I am working on stages. However, the two that stand out the most for me were the understanding and practice of "method acting" where one truly gets into character and believes they are that character and what they are doing. Not as easy as it sounds and can be a truly gut wrenching experience depending upon the character and time one remains in that character. It helps when performing mentalism (or magic) because one can put themselves into the mindframe of really doing it, for real!
The other was taking courses and working with Keith Johnstone, considered the father of modern improvisation and the inventor of Theatre Sports. Improvisation is not as easy as it looks, not everyone can do it and there is a lot more to it than there appears to be at first glance. It is invaluable when developing a new routine, and is also a great help when working with audience members. A great concept that is learned early in improv is not to block ideas. Blocking is not allowed in theatre sports. When someone throws an idea at you, you must accept it and go with it, the same as if you are on stage and a participant throws you for a loop with something they said or did. You learn through improvisation to keep going with that idea and play it for what it is worth. To take that spur of the moment and develop it as far as you can go - instantly. Out of those interactions, (which is why one should tape ALL their performances, even if it is just the sound which is an easy thing to do) come some very funny bits that one can reuse in all their performances. Again, this is all part of developing your routines and bits of business, ones that will stay with you for years.
Paul Alberstat http://www.stores.ebay.ca/ABstagecraft
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