October 31, 2020

Acting for the Camera: A Remote Experience


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Abigail Killeen

The move to remote learning has created the perfect opportunity for theater professor Abigail Killeen to introduce a new class. Acting for the Camera, which is cross-listed with cinema studies, encourages students to take full advantages of the different performance spaces they find themselves in.

Performing in front of a camera is similar to acting on stage, said Killeen, while also being very different. “On film, the viewer always has the experience of the work after the actor has completed it, as opposed to the theater, where the audience and the actor are having the experience simultaneously—and this is a very important distinction,” she explained. “The goal of all acting is always to release self-consciousness in favor of deep presence, but each medium invites different paths.”

Acting for the Camera (THTR 1151/CINE 1151) introduces students to the intellectual, vocal, physical, and emotional challenge of the acting process, distilled for on-camera work. The class meets synchronously once a week, has a hefty reading and viewing list, and is perfectly suited for the online teaching model imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, said Killeen. “The students complete their acting assignments individually and upload their work for the rest of the class to digest in their own time and provide feedback during our synchronous sessions.” Students also learn the language of the screenplay and how to analyze it for acting clues, explained Killeen, learning, developing, and deploying new techniques that help translate that analysis into embodied performance.

“On film, the viewer always has the experience of the work after the actor has completed it, as opposed to the theater, where the audience and the actor are having the experience simultaneously.”

“What you need to make performance is space and time,” said Killeen, “so, as the students meet in real time once a week, they are doing so from their own performance spaces, which are all different. All the things in your space,” she explained, “whether it’s a dog barking, a TV in the next room, an apron hanging on the wall behind you, they all become part of the story before you even open your mouth.”



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