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How to become a Melodramatic Actor
Transcript of How to become a Melodramatic Actor
A Little Bit of History...
In order to become a Melodramatic actor. there are definitely some must-know basics and rules. This type of thing doesn't happen over-night! First of all, there were 6 different types of Melodramatic characters and personalities. First, the Hero. The Hero is meant to be a brave and strong protagonist. He has no fear and and is always there to save the day. Second, the Heroine. She was essentially the damsel in distress. Slightly naive, the heroine is the stereotypical princess and is often quite brave like the hero and is very dependent on him too to carry out his duty and save her. Third, the villain! There are usually two ways to categorize a Melodramatic villain. There is the silly, un-organized, and cowardly villain and there is the evil, menacing, manipulating villain. They each have their special traits and qualities that make them "The Bad Guy". Now that we have the villain, there must be a servant or the villain's side-kick. This character is sometimes very wise but comes off as a goofy person who has no control over their life because they are usually catering ti the needs of other people. The last Melodramatic character is the old lady/man. This character is usually wise and walks with a cane. They can also be the grandmother/father of the Hero or Heroine.
Rules and Guidelines...
Melodrama is a very exaggerated and elegant style of theater. There are also many "rules" that a Melodramatic actor has to have. To start off, there is a very specific stance for each type of character. The Hero, stands in a stance that is called the "Teapot Stance". This means he has one hand on his hip and the other extended out, the position is very regal and it is part of his characterization as the hero. The Hero also has to walk in a very exaggerated way, he must glide across the stage. The Heroine stands in the "S Shape". This means that she curves her body to resemble as "S". This indicates that she is fragile and vulnerable. The way she must move very gracefully and her movements must be very fluid. The Heroine character is usually trained in ballet. The Villain normally takes an evil stance which consists of hiding his face with his cape and creeping across the stage, sometimes trying to go un-noticed.. The Servant's stance is very predictable, a hunched over, crabby, and cunning little person. He would also creep around the stage and look as if he was being pushed around. Lastly, the Old Man/Woman. He or She would usually use a cane and have a hunched over back. He/She would also hobble around the stage sometimes with the help of another character.
Now you may think that Melodrama has slowly made an exit from our world but if you think that, you are very wrong. Some of the modern day Melodrama movies may surprise you! These are movies like...
-Phantom of the Opera
-Red Riding Hood
These examples are modern Melodramas and they have evolved a bit as we can see but they are still classified as Melodramas with a slight twist.
What is Acting Anyways?
By definition, "Acting is the work of an actor or actress, which is a person in theater, television, film, or any other storytelling medium who tells the story by portraying a character and, usually, speaking or singing the written text or play." but in reality it is so much more than just that. The acting industry has developed in so many different ways over the past century. When a person is asked what comes to mind when he/she thinks of the word "acting", the repsonse is usually something to do with film or TV, Hollywood, or that magical red carpet that is rolled out a couple times a year to honor some of the greatest actors known today. Though all these aspects of acting play big role in the industry today, it definitely didn't start like this.
Acting started long before Hollywood existed.
Specifically in the sixth century BC with a well
knows actor named Thespis and he was known
to be the founder of the profession. Thespis
would say that acting is a natural talent and cannot be taught. This was before acting and theater became an art, a way of living.
After these times in Greece, acting started to evolve and ,many people took an interest in it whether as a spectator or on the stage. By definition, "Melodrama refers to a dramatic work that exaggerates plot and characters in order to appeal to the emotions." Melodrama followed an era of acting that needed change and that is when it stepped in.
Melodramatic acting started in the 18th century and was defined as a technique of acting that included short recitations sometimes accompanied by soft music. A very fulfilling way of acting. The earliest known full Melodrama was Rousseau's Pygmalion. This kick started the Melodramatic era into full gear. This was around the 1760s and 70s.
Melodrama was a very specific type of acting. There were definitely certain ways how to and not to do something. It was also a very by-the-book type of acting. Another aspect of it was that there was a very informed audience. In those times (Late 1700s) people knew what Melodrama was and they also knew how to perform it and they knew exactly how to execute it perfectly since this was one of the main forms of entertainment. If one of the actors was to do something different from the script or try something new on stage the audience would not receive it well and there were scenarios when actors were boo-ed off the stage. This is very different from now-a-days because audiences today want something un-expected an they want something that will surprise them but if was very different back then.
Melodrama started becoming a thing in the early 1800s and the late 1700s. It became popular in France and in the Victorian times in Britain. Melodrama mostly appeared in European areas. Melodrama has very interesting etymology, "Melo" referring to the greek word "Melos" meaning melody. And of course, "Drama" referring to theater. This makes a lot of sense because Melodrama has been known to incorporate music as an essential asset to a Melodramatic performance.
Physical appearance is very important in Melodrama but another very important part is the voice. Each character has a distinct voice that characterizes them. The hero must have a heroic, deep, and strong voice. To put it simply, the voice of a Hero. The Heroine must have a soft and innocent voice. It also must be a but helpless since she is usually the one who is being saved. The Old Man/Woman voice should be a bit shaky but sweet at the same time. The Villain's voice should be plain evil, a bit cowardly if it is the "silly" Villain type but mostly evil. He should also have an evil laugh and his voice should be a bit raspy. Lastly, the Servant's voice should be very distinct from everybody else. He should have a sweet but cunning voice at the same time. He should also have a weak way of speaking because his job is to cater to the needs of others.
There are also conventions of Melodrama that are very important. There are 4 basic conventions: Plot and Structure, Stock Characters, Acting Style, and Staging.
In regards to the plot and structure, there is always a simple and moral plot to a Melodrama. The audience would always be exposed to a struggle between good and evil and always end fairly and the audience would see the restorations to society.A large aspect that all the plays relied on was opposites. There wold always be complete opposites that would set the play; honesty vs. dishonesty, justice vs. revenge, etc. There were also three elements that a usual Melodramatic plot would include: Provocation; the event that makes the evil characters want revenge, the cause for the action! Pangs; the suffering of the good characters that somehow end up in the evil doings. And Penalty; this is basically the plot twist where the evil character is defeated and punished, everybody lives happily ever after.
The second convention is Stock Characters, The characters that were mentioned before, These characters were not created to be life-like or very relatable, they were created with intentions of having characters with strong and identifiable personalities. All these personalities were referred to as "Stock Characters"
The third convention is Acting Style. There were three acting styles that appeared a lot on Melodrama, Exaggeration, Audience Interaction, and Asides.
Exaggeration was a very known term for Melodrama, everything from facial expressions to gestures had to be large and over0exaggerated, They had to show emotions rather than feel them. They also had to have very loud projection voices and exaggerate syllables and consonants.
Audience Interaction was also a very big part of Melodrama, the actors wanted the audience to be a part of what was going on, They also would encourage booing or hissing at the villain,
Asides also played a big role. This was when a character would directly speak to the audience and reveal to them something that the characters didn't know. This should distract the audience and excite them about the "secret".
The final convention of melodrama is Staging. This includes settings, stage effects, costumes, and music. All of these things played a HUGE role in Melodrama because this is what increased their impact and appeal. The special effects would include earth quakes, volcanoes fires, etc. The only problem with the fire effects was that it was possible for things to catch on fire as the costumes were flammable. There were also instances where the dress of a character would catch on fire thanks to the stage lights.! The costumes wold also be very elaborate and having that image was very important. There was also stage machinery used around the 19th century that consisted of tricks with mirrors and the typical trap door for surprise entrances or exits. Lastly, music would be played throughout the show and would help make and impact on the audience whether it be leaving them at a cliffhanger or signaling a certain response from them.
In the 19th century, Melodrama started to change a bit thanks to the introduction of Realism. This led to old Melodrama traditions being left behind and the use of newer and more advanced technologies became popular. For example, the use of electric lighting led to the need for more scenic realism. Also, new techniques started being used to improve the old ones.
Congratulations! You now know everything you need to know about Melodrama and you can go on to inspire the world with your skills! Remember to make your character shine whether you are the Servant or the Hero and try to stick to the script, wouldn't want you to get boo-ed off the stage! Good luck with this traditional and very entertaining style of acting, I know you'll do great!
By Isabel Jordan
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