Drama 101 – WRAPS Acting Workshop

(reproduced from an article appearing in the Ash-Creek Journal with the kind permission of author Barbara Roden)

Have you ever wanted to take part in community theatre, but hesitated because you don’t know your downstage left from your upstage right; haven’t got a clue what “blocking” means; and been worried about memorizing all those lines?

Mavourneen Varcoe-Ryan, who has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (theatre major), has been active in directing and acting for several decades.

Help is at hand. The Winding Rivers Arts & Performance Society (WRAPS) is pleased to announce a “Drama 101” workshop in Ashcroft on April 7 and 8. Led by actor and director Mavourneen Varcoe-Ryan, the workshop will take participants through some theatre basics, and provide insight into what things look like behind the scenes.

Varcoe-Ryan, who has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (theatre major), has been active in directing and acting for several decades. Within the last two years she has directed My Fair Lady and Arsenic and Old Lace for WRAPS, and appeared in the one-woman show Shirley Valentine. “I’m very excited to be sharing some hints and tips about acting and the theatre,” she says.

The course—which is for complete newcomers, as well as local actors who want to learn those hints and tips—covers everything from who does what and the audition process to building your character and using your voice and body effectively. There will also be a section about what to do when things don’t go as planned on stage.

“During one of the performances of Arsenic and Old Lace, a picture fell off the wall,” says Varcoe-Ryan as an example. “The characters looked at it, then continued with their lines, before one actor went over and picked it up. But I bet until he did, the audience wasn’t listening to the lines; they were looking at the picture and thinking ‘Was that supposed to happen?’”

“If that happened in real life, people would look and someone would say something and pick it up right away. So it’s about how to incorporate a mishap into a performance while staying in character and making it look natural.”

Participants will learn such things as who does what in a theatre production, and the roles and responsibilities of the director, the stage manager, the producer, and more; what they need to do before the first rehearsal; blocking basics; and some tips for memorizing lines.

Varcoe-Ryan will give some ways for actors to build their character. “Read all the lines, not just yours, to find out what you think of your character, what other characters think about you, and get a sense of your character.” She will also show how you can use your body and voice to create your character.

“You can use different physical stances, walks, and tics, as well as your voice. I’ll talk about projection, proper breathing, and using a different voice for your character. Your voice is an instrument that can be manipulated to your advantage.”

There will also be discussion about backstage etiquette and some dos and don’ts. Varcoe-Ryan mentions props. “If you come offstage with a prop, it’s up to you to put it back on the props tray or hand it to the props person, so it’s where it has to be when it’s needed again in Act 3.

“And you have to be responsible for your own props. If you need to have a letter in your jacket pocket, check your pocket to make sure it’s there before you come onstage.”

The workshop runs from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday, April 7 and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 8, at the Ashcroft HUB. The workshop is designed for those aged 14 and older, and the cost is $20 for both sessions (adults) and $15 (youth aged 14 to 18). Snacks, but not meals, will be provided both days.