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Old 12-13-00, 08:24 PM   #1
Butterfly Man
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Post Acting vs. Street Performing

I just received this e-mail from Brett Copes and I was wondering if anyone else had any input (my response will follow) :

"My Name is Brett Copes of the COMMIDIOTS. Some of you know me and some do
not. I am a fellow Street Performer.

Taylor Mathews, who saw my show in HALIFAX sent me this question, and I thought some
of my friends/peers in the biz could help to answer it for Taylor. It has
sparked quite an interest on the FANS page of our website. It has sparked
my on interest as well.

"I'm studying theatre right now and I was just curios as to why someone who
is obviously so intensly focused on acting as you seem to be would be doing
street theatre?"
--Taylor Mathews

If you want to send me a quick responce, at your leisure, it would be much
appreciated
--Brett Copes "
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Old 12-13-00, 08:28 PM   #2
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Brett,
I agree, it's an interesting question.

I could probably discuss many different aspects comparing the theater to actual street performing but I think the answer to the question can be found in what theatrical training can provide in way of preparation for a performance, street or otherwise.

The basics of strong stage presence is the development of good acting techniques. These (techniques) would necessarily be thinking, feeling, speaking and moving in character.

The time and effort to develop these techniques would be analogous to the amount of time and effort that it takes to put together a killer street show but there is (with rare exception) one big difference. Street performers practice their craft but usually give no meaning to it (most acts are trick driven). Actors, on the other hand, build their technique in order to support a story. At their very best, street performers try to create a story to support their technique. See what I'm getting at here?

Since both the street performer and the actor perform for (usually) live audiences in real time, both must be able to be seen and heard in order to be understood, both must make emotional connections, causing tears and fears and laughter and both must create an environment in which the impossible happens.

It would stand to reason then that a street performer (if they were trying to achieve excellence) would and should study the craft of acting. And since both worlds are based in theater wouldn't the opposite be true as well? An actor would and should study the art of street performance as both are based on the same kind of craft.

To be a great entertainer (isn't that what we are after anyway?) I think it just might work both ways. The better you are at your technique, the better you are at your craft, the better the quality of your show and the better you are at your performance.

I'm not so sure I've been entirely clear but I've done the best that I can. I never had that good of an act anyway.

Robert
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Old 12-15-00, 01:06 AM   #3
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Robert,
Good response. The only point to which I'd offer contention is the notion that street performing is "trick" based. I'd prefer to see the word "gimmick" used...it covers a broader range of shows and who knows? It may down the road bring someone to the craft who wouldn't have originally because s/he "can't juggle" or whatever.

Besides, is it a "trick" or a "gimmick" to be a human statue, puppeteer, mime, robot, or audience-participatory improv comedian, or one of those shows that are impossible to describe?

My other tangent would be in direct response to the "why are you on the street if you are an actor?" question (I'm surprised you didn't touch on this)

You can make a living on the street.



--Rich

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Old 12-15-00, 04:04 PM   #4
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"I'm studying theatre right now and I was just curios as to why someone who
is obviously so intensely focused on acting as you seem to be would be doing
street theatre?"
--Taylor Mathews

To pay the bills Taylor. Acting in traditional theatre roles, in some communities (like Ottawa) is a tough existance. Street performers and variety artists make WAAAAAY more than the average actor. Most variety artists make more than the average band. As Butterfly points out both street and theatre utilize many of the same skills, so they go hand in hand. My partner in Crime Jon "saliva drinker" Lockhart is a Theatre Grad who street performs full time now, as do a few others that i can think of. Strangely there are plenty of engineers, and science grads in our midsts. Any theories on this??
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Old 12-15-00, 11:26 PM   #5
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"I'm studying theatre right now and I was just curios as to why someone who
is obviously so intensely focused on acting as you seem to be would be doing
street theatre?"
--Taylor Mathews

He wants experience. It is difficult to get a good acting job with out experience. When you want to try something new and you just can't wait, go to the street. You can be bad, you can start over if you mess up, you can do it a hundred times in a row (until it is just right), and you can make money. Most importantly, if you can entertain under the awful conditions of the "street", you can certainly shine on stage. I recommend a book by John Rudlin called "Comedia Del Arte." Comedia developed by a coming together of street and theater in the 1600's (give or take a day). Does anyone else have a book to recommend, I do a lot of flying.

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Old 12-16-00, 03:09 AM   #6
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I have a book or two to recommend.
Street Theatre and other outdoor performance by Bim Mason/ Routledge an excellent book.
Also the Welfare State Handbook.

I kinda agree with Butterfly man as to the difference between acting and street performing. Theatre is often about a story and often will not make money in a traditional hat sense. (sometimes not in any other sense either)
Street performance I find is theatre on the street that is structured so as to be able to have a hat passed after the show.
There are of course exceptions.

I also have a book Radical Street Performance that is a series of essays on street theatre as activism and social change as well as celebration and a way of being heard.

This book looks at action taking place on the street as having a function way beyond entertainment.

Apart from the money aspect, thats what attracts me to this artform because it has the potential to really alter people. This i believe is so because people find these "happenings" where thay were not prepared or expecting them.
I also find that street theatre has different Boundaries to normal theatre. Not so many conventions and is easier to get into no auditions and no judgement before the actual performance. I am still quite afraid of the theatrical and cinematic establishment even though i would quite like to do more mainstream stuff at times.

Blake



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Old 12-16-00, 06:56 AM   #7
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Cool

i guess the reason that more money is made at street performance is that it is more accessible, and the goal of many street artists is to make money. Unlike theatre, street performance often isn't intended to educate the masses or make a political statement.

Everyone walks on the street, but how many individuals walk into a theatre. A select few.

It's nice to see acts that aren't strictly money driven. I'm a big fan of the fun of street shows; how they push you as a performer to be spontaneous, of the "free" lifestyle they provide, and the entertainment provided to the masses in a live format at a reasonable cost. I am however not a big fan of acts who use loads of old hack material and do the same old tricks. Originality, personality, and entertainment value is what it comes down to, and i suppose if you have an entertaining show and a decent hat pitch that you can make a decent living.

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Old 12-16-00, 01:32 PM   #8
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I have bin a street performer for some time now, and have done "traditional" theater. (off bway, off off bway and the ever popular nowere near bway ) and most of my schooling has bin geard to traditional theater.

street performing is the purist form of theater, i.e. you go to N.Y.C. to see a bway show. You spend 60$+ on tickets, get a babby sitter, get all dressed up, maby hire a car, make dinner reservations, all up to sevral months in advance (depending on ticket avalibility) you go to the show and .....

you hate it!!

do you walk out? probly not.
do you get your monny back? not if you stayed till the end.

do the actors care? sort of. they got paid, and it was so'n'so's falt, the director was an idiot, the lights were wrong bla bla bla...

now you see my show...
I am the wrighter, director(idiot ),prop manager, stage manager, house manager, usher, advertising director, ect. all that and more and I havent started performing yet!!
And how much do I charge for such a feet?
NOTHING!!!
For this I often get gifts, some times 1$ some times 5$, some times nothing. no one gives monny grudgingly to a street performer
$1. may not seem like a lot but remember this "it is easer to get $1. from 1,000,000. people than it is to get $1,000,000. from one person."
theater is, at the base, one person entertaining two or more people. street performing IS traditional theater, the first theaters were bilt in the late 1590's (ok the romens had them but rome fell in or about 420) we had streets befor that!!!

Pokie poke

ps sory for the rant but I take this stuff sereiosly
P.P.S.sory for the spelling but the last time I used the spellcheck it crashed and I am L.D.
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Old 12-17-00, 10:13 PM   #9
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To me the Street Performer IS in a theatre, one of community construct, "The Theatre of Imagination" and it's walls are a real as those that hold up Albert Hall. It should also be remembered that a great deal of street performance is not busking oriented.

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Old 12-18-00, 09:34 AM   #10
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I know this is not completely on topic...I may start a new topic just for this type of discussion...but, a Great book for you to read...not on street performing per-say but on the world of comedy and writing material...I have found that the book "Zen and the Art of Stand-Up comedy" by jay Sankey has had a great impact and helped immensely on writing material and seeing everything as funny...
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Old 12-18-00, 12:02 PM   #11
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I want to take this topic back to the origional question and that is why would someone interested in acting be so interested in street theatre.

I have read a history of street theatre and most modern "traditional Theatre" origionally came from street theatre it was the first form of theatre at least in early greek times and before that outdoor celebration was it.

I think this discussion is headed in the what is theatre direction.

I would like to offer that i feel all creativity is relevant some of us have taken on the mantle of being the "sharman" for the tribe.

I personally feel that when something is presented outdoors outside of the majical indoor environment there is a feeling of more connectednes (scuse spelling) with the nature we are part of.
Just a thought
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Old 12-21-00, 07:24 AM   #12
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Mediocre buskers can get more ________ than mediocre actors.

-money
-women
-experience
-influence
-chance for experimentation
-alcoholic friends
-free room and board
-schedule freedom

The street is not like the stage though. If you dominate the street you will not always do well on stage. Street doesn't take the same amount of responsibility or consistency. You can make your entire crowd mad in 80% of your shows and still survive. With stage you often have to audition and plan ahead to get jobs. You sometimes have to play political games (more than running faster than the cops). On the stage you can focus on your focus instead of thinking about what's happening within your crowd and without.

There are lots of people that are famous for acting and not really anyone who is famous in the mainstream for busking.
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Old 12-21-00, 07:47 AM   #13
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The relationship between the two forms is amorphous. You can bicker until the cows come home but there is no real relationship, other than theatre, between street and stage. I know people successful in both, but they are a rarity. Obviously everyone wants to defend their home turf.
Why bother?
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Old 12-22-00, 08:22 AM   #14
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The question "why someone(interested in acting) would be doing street theatre" was asked because within a vast majority of indoor theatre (especially here in the UK) there is a lack of understanding on the merits of street theatre...within any career there is usually the tendancy to want to further yourself, achieve "greater things". This is very much the case with indoor theatre as work is so hard to get...And it stands to reason that the more famous you are the more work you seem to get (although not always "good" work!) and so they are always trying to be "seen". So it would not make sense to a thesbian that we would be happy out there on the streets(were we spit,tramps sleep and cockroaches make love) as where would we go from there? (I often wonder how much further one can go as a street performer...I travel the world,i make money when i need to, i party a lot,i do a show that i enjoy and hopefully others enjoy,what more can we do?... except perhaps gain an understanding of artistic integrety within generisism!)We don't have to wait for work as we can create it ourselves...if the money won't come to us then we will go to it!
But for me personally, I enjoy the accessability of the street and being able to perform for all different types of people without exception...indoor theatre especially main stream can be, by its very nature, classist.
However,having had experience in both forms, I love working inside for the subtlety and i love working outdoors for the freedom.
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Old 12-22-00, 08:57 AM   #15
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Great comments Em
I have to agree with you on all counts.
some points i would like add to this discussion are to do with ego and being seen.

A friend has now twice been approached by major record labels on the street.

and so i think one can be seen on the pavement

I also would like to comment on the nature of the acting profesion as i see it.
today i think the fame factor is what drives a great deal of actors to get out there.
one thing i get out of the street is the anonimity factor.
I finish i get out of costume very few people ever recognise me.
maybe i dont get millions of dollars but i get to see every one i cause to smile and touch many beautiful young people and receive the gift of seeing the innocence of some really swwet young kids and some older ones.

fame kinda wierds me out and at the end of the day i know my friends are my friends cause they like me not cause im the star of big budget hollywood hype.
Although having said that if i could be in a film i would jump at the chance.


dunno just some thoughts
i like this topic gives good cause for reflection.
regards to all
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Old 12-23-00, 12:26 PM   #16
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I got that same email from Brett a couple of weeks ago and the question has been doing back flips somewhere in the deepest reaches of my brain ever since... A lot of really useful information has been posted here... Some a wee bit off topic, but still related... Here again is the question -

"I'm studying theatre right now and I was just curios as to why someone who is obviously so intensely focused on acting as you seem to be would be doing street theatre?"
--Taylor Mathews


Robert astutely pointed out that the techniques used by an actor on stage are indeed very similar to those used by a performer in a street setting. The motivation may be different, but the techniques very similar. It comes down to whatís motivating for the performance...

Money seems to be a popular reoccurring theme in the discussion, and certainly a good street show is structured to get money out of peopleís pockets at the end of the show... Street Performers use tricks and/or gimmicks to hype the crowd for the purpose of collecting cash...and hey...what a great motivator! A professional stage actorís motivation in performance has the freedom to be much more emotionally based and story driven as the money is usually not in question. The motivation thus determines the action, but the techniques used are certainly related.

Martinís claim that there the street and the stage are amorphus may in some regards be true. The two art forms are very different beasts, and just because youíre a good Street Performer or Actor doesnít mean youíll be able to make the transition between art forms, but this I think has more to do with the fact that individuals may end up focusing too much on the motivation of their known art form with out allowing their technique to be swayed by a different set motivating factors...

Again back to Robertís original post -

The basics of strong stage presence is the development of good acting techniques. These (techniques) would necessarily be thinking, feeling, speaking and moving in character.

Allowing yourself to change your motivation will produce a strong shift in character. This isnít something people are necessarily comfortable with, thus they stick with what they know and never bridge the gap between the two art forms...

All this to put whatís already been said into some sort of perspective.

To it Iíd also like to add the following...

I had a great Theatre History Prof. in University... I really enjoyed the way he took what we thought we knew and then made us rethink it a bit... The year started with the question...where did theatre come from... There were various interesting responses from the class following which he introduced this question... Why do we call a piece of theatre a ďPlayĒ... Take a look in a dictionary and youíll find a long list of meanings. For the purposes of this conversation I think itís interesting that a Street Performer going out with a bag of gimmicks or tricks, is going out to ďPlayĒ, and a Stage Actor goes into a theatre with his technique to ďPlayĒ a role in a story... The two really arenít that far apart I donít think...itís just a matter of getting your head around what is motivating the Playing in each venue.

Venue... I remember talking with a veteran Street Performer early on in my career and saying that I might use Street Performing as a stepping stone to other kinds of work...perhaps TV, perhaps Theatre, Perhaps Film... At the time I really didnít know what I wanted to do (still donít really). My mentor stopped me in my tracks and forced me to rethink what I had just said... The Street he argued was just as legitimate a venue as a stage, a TV screen or a movie theatre. If I was using it as a stepping stone to other things I wasnít necessarily giving the Street Venue the respect it deserved. Each of the above venues comes with itís own set of challenges, itís own hurdles and itís own rewards, but not giving the proper respect to the venue itself is doing yourself and your audience a huge disservice. Street Performers may not always be given the same respect that Actors in other venues receive, but I feel that part of it may be as a result of Street Performers not always treating the Venue with the respect it deserves...

Street Performance may not have as trackable a history as Stage Acting, but the two have co-existed for as long as history has been recorded... As a Street Performer, whether you are just starting out or a seasoned veteran, you belong to a long long tradition of people who were able to take their ďPlayĒ to where the people were as opposed to getting people to come to you. I think that taking the show to the people has a richness and a resonance that an indoor venue, a tv set or a sound stage never could. You are performing for a cross section of humanity and as a result you are forced to be that much more in tune with humanity to get your show to work. Itís perhaps for this reason that I still enjoy the Street much more than any other venue that Iíve been exposed to... Itís not for everyone, but those who like it...like it a lot!
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Old 12-24-00, 12:33 AM   #17
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Excellent discussion here-- wanted to jump into the fray.

I would say that the vast majority of street acts are <B> SKILL BASED</B> Juggler, Mime, acrobat, magician, equilibrist, etc. -- the typical street acts are about displaying your skill. Your character and method of presentation are of course important, and are the diff between a big hat and a small hat, but that's not what the people are paying to see. They are there to see you do something amazing (and preferably within 10 minutes of watching you)

The actor on the street (agit/prop, outdoor stuff, etc.) is trying to create a fictive reality where he is not a guy who is entertaining people, but is some other person-- the king of Denmark, the Scottish Thane, etc.. The show is about a story, and not about a skill. It's hard to pull off a long play, because the distractions are great, and unless the story telling is riveting, it's pretty damn easy to move on.

The clown, I would say is in between the actor and the skilled performer. He's not skill based (usually) or story based, but character based. The skill of the clown is in the interaction with the audience. And his ability/skill to get the audience riled up about something that he can barely do...

Naturally, all shows are not pure 1 or pure the other. They are a mix of all three, in various degrees, depending on the skills and interests that each performer has an actor, clown, or skills guy.

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Old 12-28-00, 02:48 AM   #18
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I did an Impro workshop with Kieth Johnstone last year in Calgary and we had an excercise that went like this.

All members of the class are the audience they are instructed to leave the room when the feel you have lost their attention.
You then step into the room and attempt to do something to hold their interest.
This excercise teaches a number of things and is extremely challenging and much like the street.

Basically the premise of the excercise is that the audience will continue to watch as long as the performer continues to take the story into the future with confidence. As soon as they sense a lack of confidence or that the story is no longer moving forward they will give you a couple of minutes to see what will happen and then will walk away.

I suppose what im saying is to do with what people are paying to see. I have heard this debated a lot and i am unconvinced as to what people actually pay for. I think it has something to do with energy focus and confidence as well as a solid structure.Maybe the fact that they wish they could be out there doing what we do. And sometimes i know its because a little old lady thinks i've been in the sun for too long.

Neway just my thoughts thanks for this thought provoking discussion
bb

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Old 12-29-00, 08:35 AM   #19
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Brett here.
I Could've responded to Taylors original question alone, but I am much more excited about the imput from you. Thank you all.
Taylor obvoiusly looked at my acting resume on my website, which more than likely sparked the question.
I spend 6 years in College, being trained as a classical actor, and several smaller schools around the US working with profesionals in the buisness to further my acting skills and market ability. (even meeting Street Performer Peter Sosna along the way).
Rather than get lengthy about my treck from ACTING 1 class into Interactive theatre (street performing), I'll use some words of another that have stuck with me along the way.

I once asked fellow Performer David Deangelis, who has a simlar College Acting experience,about performing his show:
"David, what about all that classical acting training...?"
he replied simply ( in regards to his show)
"I use all of it, every day."

I could write at length the benifits, just in my acting, that being a street performer has done for me.
Doubled my Confidence.
Solidified my Character abilitys,
taught me comedy the hard way,
TO LISTEN TO THE AUDIENCE
and
I have always said, after my first professional-Union Play the most actors are trained in a vaccuume, and once what you eat, where you sleep, and your entire income depends on your performance ability..you learn very quickly what in your training was crap,and what is truely important to the audience and the buisness.
Street Theatre and Professional acting both taught me that.

and Blah , Balah, Blah..about the money, travel, friends and other jobs it has gotten me.

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Old 02-10-01, 06:34 PM   #20
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On the Boundaries Between Street and Stage

Perhaps a more clear question is What are the boundaries between performing/acting on stage and performing/acting on the street.

Two vey diferent disciplines linked by a fundamental similarity.

[Bare with me, this is long.]

An actor on stage is given the benefit of the doubt by an audience who arrives to follow the actor through the story s/he tells. The date is predetermined and the public come to see the actor. The story departs from any moment in time, abstract or present. The fundamental medium of performance, i.e., Time and Space, change at any moment depending on the actor. As an audience member we give the actor permission to do so.

For the street performer, getting the public to watch the show becomes part of the story, setting up the plot is part of the story, and all the little interuptions are part of the story. If not, we try hard to write them into the story, cover them with a line or action or try to avoid having them happen again. For the public, the exact beginning and ending of the show is undetermined. The story told is the story of our interaction in real time with eachother. During the performance we set the time and space, enter it and leave it behind. (Example: a one-liner pulls you in, makes a point and lets you go.) Even if the street performer achieves altering our sense of Time and Space we are easily reminded of being on a public street. (Example: moving in "slow motion" is funny partly due to it's contrast with usual motion.) The subject of street performance is the creation of a performance in the present. A street show cannot begin "in the middle".

But the boudaries between stage and street performance are also blurry. Street performers act. A street performer who writes a drop line into their show is acting. The time and space for the drop to occur is set up; it is a script to be delivered. At the same time, a stage performance can be in real time, drawing you in and spitting you out as do Penn and Teller. P&T need a stage to produce some effects but their delivery could, I think, work on the street. They draw you in to a story, deliver, and let you go.

Most of my practical performance experience is on the street. When I performed my stage monologue "In Stitches" something happened I didn't expect: I couldn't see the audience so I was performing almost as if I were alone. If there was any contact between me and the audience I did not know. But when the first laugh came I became aware of the audience as in a street show. Suddenly, the entire space changed. I had connected. In that moment I could have been doing my street show. I was suddenly aware of the emotional state of my audience Ė I could sense them. I knew the audience was with me because I had formed an emotional conversation with them. I was leading them through my text but we were conversing with our emotion. The text was timeless; the emotion present. I think this sense of unity represents success on stage and success on the street. It is the success of communication. And I think communication, within oneself as with others, is the ultimate gaol of performance.

Knowing street helped me immensely on the stage and I know some stage actors who would love to have the experience of street. A stage performer has a lot to learn from the street performer whose virtuosity is knowing his audience and the present. The street performer has a lot to learn from the stage performer who rehearses in a studio, and finds depth and meaning in text. The union of these two disciplines would make for one killer of a performer.

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