SPOTLIGHT: Tell The Story (Diction on stage)

MIAGD: Make it a great day

…TELL…       …THE…       …STORY…

That’s the most important thing we do as musicians, actors, dancers, sculptors, painters, poets, authors and all the components of the performing and fine arts.

Tell the damn story.

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imagesWe have sheets of music, blank white canvases, monitors or typewriters, a note pad, a bare stage, a rehearsal hall with mirrors, a potter’s wheel, a block of marble or metal – whatever our working space, it is up to us to tell the story.  It is one of the most exciting worlds in which to work – creating.

The seeming popular attitude about “telling the story” seems to be “who gives a shit?” Few performers seem to have a grasp of just how vital this is to what those of us in the fine and performing arts do.

imagesI’ve attended some fantastic attempts at quality musical theatre productions in the area who fall short or even fail due to the performers electing to not “telling the story” by strengthening their diction.  Actually, I place the blame for this blasphemy at the feet of music directors and directors.  Shame on you for cheating your audiences of the money they paid for their tickets when you are not delivering the full story by demanding your performers to use the very best diction that clearly tells the story.  Yes, you might have to demonstrate, teach, coach, yell, force-feed, etc. – whatever it takes – to get the job done and to make sure the story is told.

It’s sad when I learn more about the show’s story from the sign-language storytellers than I do from the performers on stage… and I do not know sign-language. 

From now on, I want to only pay 1/2 of the ticket price at the beginning of a show and pay any remaining amount after the show depending on the preparedness of the story telling.

How can directors, music directors, producers allow crappy diction to continue?

Immaturity as directors?

The directors don’t care?

“Oh, the audience knows the songs so does it really matter?” (This was an actual response to one of my recent queries!)  

Lack of organization or preparation?

I don’t know since I am not involved in these rehearsals.  However, my students who are involved in some of these productions often indicate very little is done with diction.  I figured as much and find it sad, but more so, rude and unprofessional.  Music directors or directors have (bravely) said to me, “we worked on diction… I kept telling them to enunciate.”  Weak.  Unacceptable.  Get the damn job done!

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One of my favorite Dictioneers is Scott Stoney, a founder and resident actor of Dayton’s very own, The Human Race Theatre Company.  I’ve never had any issues with the story being told at any THRTC’s shows, and Scott always leads the diction parade!

When I heard Scott sing the role of The Father in CHILDREN OF EDEN I fell in love with this actor’s diction.  I took students back to three more productions so they could hear Scott’s natural and delightful way of “telling the story.” It was the first time I had ever seen CHILDREN OF EDEN and I was not short-changed with the entire company’s storytelling, Scott’s, in particular.

I must add that The Dayton Playhouse’s recent RAGTIME delivered not only a quality production in all areas, but a beautifully told story with exceptionally good diction.

One of my beloved college professors, Dr. Douglas Amman, told The Ball State Chamber Choir: “It’s not the notes – it is what you do with the notes.”

Yes!  Yes!  Yes!

And it’s not the words or the lyrics: It is what you DO with those words and lyrics that help you “tell the story” however it is meant to be told.

Every new student’s first lesson begins with: “What is our most important job as a singer, actor, author, painter, sculptor, poet, dancer, etc.?”

I generally hear, “to entertain.” (from show choir students)  Few students get it correct.  Some finally get there after coaching with clues.

I’ve yet to have any students come in with a working knowledge of diction.  Therefore, I am concluding that school choir directors (I know the one or two who are doing their job) or musical music directors/directors simply fall short in this vital arena.

got_diction_card-p137310079278959791qi0i_400The blasted body mic may also be another factor due to performers, and not just inexperienced performers, making the choice to not concern themselves with “telling the story” because the mic will allow them to be heard.  Yes, the mic will reinforce the actor’s audio but it will not provide the diction necessary to “tell the story.”

Why put the work, hours, effort, sweat, tears, etc. into a production or concert if you are not going to “tell the story” so your audience can understand the story?

Thank you to those wonderful storytellers who grasp this oft ignored component in what we do.  And thank you to my students, past, and present (and future), who make me proud for all the attention to the detail in “telling the story.”

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About Wright Flyer Guy

Darin is a single adoptive father, a teacher, playwright, and musical theatre director from Kettering, Ohio.
This entry was posted in Acting, Actors, Broadway, Human Race Theatre Company, Musical Theatre, Private Students, Teaching, Theatre, Theatre: Professional, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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