Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why I Love Murder Mysteries

This weekend I performed with my actors' company in my bazillionth murder mystery.  I memorized a 40 page script in one week, had one rehearsal and got paid a whopping $75 which barely covered my gas.  But guess what?  I enjoy them more than anything else I do. They're outrageously fun and have taught me more about acting than anything else I've done.

Sometimes I get judgmental looks from other actors when I tell them I perform in murder mysteries.  I mean isn't dinner theater really about the lowest gig there is?  Now that I'm a "professional" actor (whatever that means), it's been even harder to get others to appreciate my reasons for continuing with these shows. 

But I act for the love of performing.  The things I do for free and cheap are often the hardest work and the greatest reward.  They are my guilty pleasure and my dirty little secret.  I'm going to let you in on it though.  Nothing has sharpened me as a performer quite like performing in these silly, raucous, fly by the seat of your pants shows. 

Never, never make the mistake of thinking you're too good for taking gigs like this.  They are a privilege to work in and a great proving ground for any actor.  You will learn to think on your feet, get out of your comfort zone, react to what's going on around you in the moment, be as big as you want, develop characters and memorize scripts quickly. 

Here are just a few of the invaluable skills that I've learned in my years of being in murder mysteries:

  • Terrific improvisation skills which have served me well in audition after audition.  Interacting with and being interrogated by an audience will sharpen your ability to improv like nothing else. 
  • The ability to adjust on the fly and jump in and out of the script.  Because the shows are so interactive, we have all developed the ability to find where we are in the script and keep the show going.  You learn your lines and everyone else's so well that you can always save your castmates and keep the story line progressing.  This is a great skill to have in live theater, you must be able to save your castmates if they forget a line. 
  • You get paid to make a total and complete fool out of yourself.  This one is my favorite.  The audience enjoys it more that way.  You get to be as dramatic as possible, go completely outside of your comfort zone and look ridiculous.  I can't think of many things more fun than that. 
My parting quote for today has to do with letting yourself go.  If murder mysteries have taught me nothing else, they have driven this point home.  Go ahead, act a fool!

When in doubt, make a fool of yourself.  There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on Earth.  So, what the hell, leap! - Cynthia Heimel

Keep on keeping on. 

1 comment:

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    This is a great blog!!