Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What On Air Talent Can Learn from Actors and "The Sound of Music Live!"

Acting is hard.

If you don’t believe it, look at some of the reviews otherwise-superstar Carrie Underwood has gotten following her performance in “The Sound of Music Live!” on NBC last week. Even members of the actual Von Trapp weighed in

Among other things, great acting involves timing, showing and evoking emotion, always being in character and developing skills for being "in the moment" no matter what.

If you want a textbook lesson from the show, watch Audra McDonald’s riveting performance of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” . In what is arguably the highlight of the broadcast, Audra is not only totally authentic in that you believe she’s sharing from her heart, she's also appears to totally absorbed in communicating her thoughts to Carrie's Maria and is 100% convincing that this is the first time these words have ever come out of her mouth.

How McDonald does do this? The Wall Street Journal asked and got this response.

“Just focus on what Mother Abbess is really trying to do. And what’s she trying to do is give Maria some serious tough love and kicking her out. She’s saying no, you can’t run from your problems. This is opportunity in your life knocking on the door saying here we are. Here is your life. This is your destiny. And I’m not going to let you run away from it because it seems scary. So If I focus on that I think I’ll be okay. If I focus on–”oh this is a hard song, I hope I don’t screw up,” then I’ll screw up.

Be in the moment and focus on your scene mate.

Those are keys according to my actor-daughter who I asked to weigh in on the performance and what a radio talent whether working with a partner or a caller can learn from actors – especially McDonald’s performance in this scene.

“A good actor notices everything their partner does and responds with a point of view backed by how he or she feel about what the other person is saying or even how that person is saying it. Actors look at things and react according to how it makes them feel.”

I asked for an example of how an actor or an air talent could practice something like this.

“Look at a lamp and ask, ‘Do I like this lamp? How do I feel about the color/texture/design? Does it inspire me to want to decorate? Does it remind me of my ex's lamp who I hate and therefore want to pick up this lamp and smash it against a wall?’  That's one way an actor can practice being ‘in the moment.’”

Several years ago talent coach Tommy Kramer and I did a presentation that included several talent sharing tips via videos. “Listen, really listen to what your partner is saying” was one of the tips from J and Julian – then of Chicago’s B96).

Arguably one of Carrie’s best moments was also the “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” scene. Her welled-up eyes looked pretty convincing.

Perhaps she was focusing doing exactly what an actor does: focus intently on what her scene mate – Audra - was communicating. That in turn may have maximized Audra’s own performance.

Maybe none of that was true at all.

But if it was, it really makes the point about the power of listening and responding to the moment.  

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