Preparation is the Key

SIMONE BALL'S AuditionSIMONE BALL delivered a very successful self-test this week for a U.S. series. Her listening was terrificly open and responsive. This allowed her to be different on every run which kept every take fresh. She was confident, engaging and very believable. When I commented that she had done really well she replied, “I didn’t do as much preparation as usual. Maybe that’s the key.”  That was a very interesting observation.

Over preparing can be a big problem. I AM CONVINCED YOU CAN PREPARE TOO MUCH.

Over preparation has a number of significant deficits.

  • It raises expectations trapping the actor into alternatives they think are the best ones for the scene.
  • It therefore confines active listening.
  • It makes it difficult to add extra ingredients because they will often disrupt the planned approach.
  • And it generates stress because in the end the performance rarely matches the expectation generated by the preparation.

SIMONE BALLIt isn’t the quantity of preparation that is important. It is the QUALITY that counts. Preparation that …

  • enables a clear and simple understanding of the circumstances
  • has considered a couple of diverse possibilities for Conversation Goals
  • that has assessed a couple of different possibilities for the patterns of behaviour within the relationship
  • and has learnt the lines satisfactorily but in a flexible way

… should set the actor up for a free and playful audition.

That’s where Simone was for this audition. She was playful, relaxed and confident. The result was terrific.

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Darren MortEugene O’Neill’s “Desire Under Elms” finished playing at Chapel Off Chapel a week ago. DARREN MORT played the ageing Ephraim Cabot in the best performance of his career. It was a performance that was consistent, believable and driven by a difficulty that we the audience clearly understand.  In my view, DARREN created an Ephraim Cabot who was battling to overcome his ‘desire’ to defeat his loneliness. That one desire coherently bound together all his performance choices.

The important success of DARREN’S performance in this good-looking production was that he carried the story. He achieved that goal by recognizing and confronting his desire. And at the end of the play his character had learnt something from his journey and was now in a different place at the end than he had been at the start.

DARREN combined the skills he learnt at The Rehearsal Room with the talents of director Andre Schiller-Chan to produce an impressive result. His achievements were not only a personal reward for effort but were hugely important in the context of this production. It is DARREN’S performance choices that were the key to delivering the play’s story.

DesireUnderElms2It is an on-going theme for me at The Rehearsal Room that the actor’s primary goal is TO DELIVER THE STORY. And it’s a continual battle to make sure that it stands tall as the priority. If you go back through the texts of all the great acting teachers there is little practical focus on story. If an actor can’t engage an audience with the story then all that remains for the audience is watching actors act – and that is a fairly tedious pastime.

The actor’s main job is to deliver the story. Well done DARREN.

The next opportunity to experience The Rehearsal Room’s “Delivering the Story” Workshop commences on 2nd October 2016.
Four Sunday afternoons 2pm – 6pm $480
It will change your view of acting.

For more details click here

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Karla Hillam & Kyahl Anderson

She was lying across a couple of chairs and he was sitting on the floor beside her. BUT that’s not what the audience saw. From the audience’s point of view she was clinging to a life raft and he was immersed in the Atlantic Ocean’s freezing water.   It looked like they would both die.

After the performance a number of the audience said that they had felt the cold. We had shared the experience with them. KARLA HILLAM and KYAHL ANDERSON had done their actors’ job. They had occupied the character’s world. They had experienced the sensations and the feelings. They had pursued their goals. And we had been engaged and believed them.


Glenn Quinn

The guest judge of this third Acting SLAM, “Jersey Boys” star Glenn Quinn, commented that watching them perform made him realize that “this scene embodied the whole point of the movie.” We had witnessed the climax of “Titanic” and in two and a half minutes we all clearly knew what the film was about. That is the highest praise any actor can get. Glenn, who also trained at The Rehearsal Room, made it plain that they had done their job of delivering the story to perfection.

That is the actor’s job – to tell the story.
(KYAHL has completed The Rehearsal Room’s “Delivering the Story” Workshop twice. While KARLA has an excellent understanding of story from her MASTER CLASS experience.)


Yasmin BushbyYASMIN BUSHBY has just completed her debut shoot on “Neighbours”.  She nailed it. Despite rushing to the set from make-up she was confident she knew her role in the story. They did one run through. The director immediately said, “Great let’s shoot it,” and that’s what they did. If she hadn’t been delivering the story or if she hadn’t been believable the director would have had notes for her. There were no notes. The shoot was efficient and fast. YASMIN went home very happy. She had done the job.

As a guest actor she knew she was only a small cog in the Neighbours-story-teling-machine BUT she was very confident she had done the job. YASMIN understands how to assess her place in the story, she knows what to do to deliver it and knows how to check that she has done the job. She is a very story focused actor.

In a second success for YASMIN this week she released her new show reel on Facebook. It is VERY good. The reel has a rich diversity of work. She is engaging and believable and honest. And it is plain that she is being hired regularly. YASMIN can do the job because she knows how to deliver the story. You can have a look at her reel HERE

Yasmin attended The Rehearsal Room’s “Delivering the Story” Workshop in 2013.
The next opportunity for YOU to share this uniquely practical material will be over four Sundays afternoons from 2nd October 2016.   DETAILS HERE

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It Works!!!

Actors 15

This Saturday morning fifteen actors gave impressively good performances at The Rehearsal Room’s third Audition Workshop for the year. Ten of these actors did their best work, on a day when the pressure to perform was high.

IT IS HARD to improve under stressful circumstances. Stress diminishes performance outcomes. When performing for a professional casting director the pressure can be huge. So, these efforts were triumphs of achievement and the reasons why each one of them succeeded were simple. They …

  • made clear and active choices
  • were able to change those choices effectively when asked to
  • took time to make process based decisions when taking direction
  • made sure they stayed on an active Conversation Goal
  • listened beautifully and authentically
  • and played great surprises.

Good processes deliver good outcomes. Many actors did three consistently good takes in a row. WOW!!! If there was room for improvement it was clear what aspect needed to be worked on. There was an enormously positive vibe in the air with actors being confident about what they were doing and proud of the positive feedback they received from Casting Director MELANIE MACKINTOSH.

“I can’t believe how much they have improved,” Melanie said. Referring to the specifics of The Rehearsal Room process “It clearly works,” she said.

MELANIE MACKINTOSH is the third casting director to comment on the high standard these classes are setting. MEL LOCKMAN (2 Divas) had commented at the previous workshop, “What ever you are doing, keep doing it!” And THEA McLEOD (Neighbours) was so pleased with the performances at her session she offered to come back for another workshop later in the year.


Congratulations to all the actors involved. It was excitingly good work.


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Playing Mean or Nice:



Images of Rachel performing her sceneRachel didn’t want to look a ‘bitch’!!
“How do I do that?” she asked this week during a class.
She was considering the performance options for her scene.

One of The Rehearsal Room tools is a really simple way of creating a likeable person … and it works. Although it’s simple, there’s a fundamental understanding of process that sits behind this effective trick. I’m referring to The Rehearsal Room technique for managing character.

An actor creates a character by managing patterns of behaviour. When you describe a friend to someone, it is your friend’s dominant patterns of behaviour you use to explain the type of person they are. “She is very sporty and really intelligent”; “He is totally crazy and very funny”; “She is nice but incredibly flighty and erratic” … are all patterns of behaviour which reveal the nature of that person’s character.

For the actor determining a specific pattern of behaviour to control the performance is the way to create a character.   If your character needs to be a Type ‘A’ personality businessperson then dropping in an unconscious desire with the verb ‘to dominate’ will generally do the trick. But if your character is a quietly spoken academic then ‘to be respected’ is more likely to do the job. You can set yourself to effectively play a character that has those personality traits in about 3 – 5 seconds. What’s more, if your director then decides they want something different you can change to another personality type in a similar time frame.   The technique is as practical and effective as that.

This is not a completely new concept. It’s just using these verbs to label an ‘unconscious desire’ in much the same way that Stanislavski always envisaged. The difference is our approach to using verbs has been simplified to make it manageable and efficient, with a much better chance of delivering the outcome that the actor intended. That’s the key to all The Rehearsal Room processes. They have been tried and tested. Their value and effectiveness has been proven.


(If you would like to understand more about The Rehearsal Room ‘List of Playable Verbs’ email and I’ll send you a copy with some notes)

This is where Rachel comes in. Feeling that in some performances she was a darker and less likeable character than she intended, Rachel wanted to know how she could make her characters ‘nice’. The answer is really SIMPLE.

Drop in the desire ‘to share’, was my suggestion. The question that immediately arises is always …
“Why does that work?”
My explanation is that when using any other verb (‘to be liked’ or ‘to control’ or even ‘to be trusted’ etc) there is always the potential for negative baggage to be attached. For example, a person who wants ‘to be liked’ can sometimes seem desperately needy. ‘To be liked’ doesn’t necessarily generate likeable qualities. But ‘to share’ always does.

There is a simple reason for this. A person whose essential drive is ‘to share’ creates an evenhanded equity in a relationship. They will always want to be heard because they want to share their views and experience, but because they like sharing THEY WANT TO HEAR YOUR VIEWS AND EXPERIENCE, TOO. It is not possible to dislike someone whose desire is ‘to share’.

Rachel tried it in her scene. She was charming and likeable. It worked!! It always works. Even when she conducted a pretty mean conversation she still managed to do it in a likeable way, because she still wanted ‘to share’.

We have been testing these theories for a long time. In 2007 Michael was working his way through all The Rehearsal Room’s classes. One day he was returning some clothing to the dry cleaners because he had found when he got the items home that they weren’t clean. The manager of the dry cleaners watched him as he arrived carrying the items and Michael knew from the start that he wasn’t going to get any joy from the conversation. The manager aggressively rejected his claim. After quite a bit of heavy-duty argument Michael realized he wasn’t making progress. He told our class that night that he decided, at that point, to drop in ‘to share’. “The change was instant,” he said. The conversation quickly became quite pleasant and in a short time the manager agreed to take the clothing back. She re-cleaned it free of charge.

Maybe ‘to share’ works in life, too.

AND … If you want to create an unlikeable character use ‘to blame’.
It has the opposite effect to ‘to share’ with equal impact and equal efficiency.


(Email The Rehearsal Room for your ‘List of Playable Verbs’ NOW.
I’ll send you a copy of the list with some notes about this uniquely practical technique.)

Rachel has completed 4 terms at The Rehearsal Room.  
This is her first MASTER CLASS.
For this scene she was working with Jessica.

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Academic Writing is CRAP Storytelling


TV PresX1Over the years university students I have met have told me there is a simple formula to writing an essay –

  1. You EXPLAIN THE POINT you are going to make in the essay
  2. Then you MAKE THE POINT by presenting the arguments


A very different approach is required when presenting a story for television. For example, when we discuss storytelling in the TV Presenters Workshop we ALL agree that there is a simple and functional formula for Story Structure –

  1. There’s a BEGINNING – where the audience is engaged with a problem
  2. There’s a MIDDLE – where the difficulty in solving the problem increases and the audience’s engagement with the issue increases
  3. There’s an END where either –
    1. the problem is resolved (happy ending)
    2. the problem can’t be resolved (a tragedy)
    3. the solution to the problem is still to be resolved (leaving the audience to decide).


If you assess the structure of a academic essay and compare it to the structure of a story, then you discover –

  1. EXPLAINING THE POINT you are going to make DOESN’T engage the audience with the problem. In fact, it delivers the ending at the start. That means there isn’t a beginning.
  2. MAKING THE POINT by presenting the argument generally means ordering a list of facts or opinions that support the point you are making. This means that rather than the difficulty increasing along with the audience engagement – it is most probable that both those elements are being constantly diminished.
  3. At this stage EXPLAINING THAT POINT HAS BEEN MADE is entirely redundant and a waste of space. It is already plain to the audience that the argument has been made as we have just read it. What is more the beginning has already told us what the outcome will be. Telling the audience something they already know is unlikely to provide a sense of story completion. The reader/audience is now back at the beginning where they started rather than learning something new at the end.
    And whatever that ending is will make the reason for telling the story clear, because every story has a point to make.

The structure of an academic essay is not a linear and progressive journey but circular and self-fulfilling one. That’s why university essays have a very high likelihood of being very dull reading.

If you are a presenter on television you definitely DON’T want to use the academic essay structure when creating your piece to camera. The common sense approach is to USE STORY STUCTURE …

  • ENGAGE the audience with a ‘difficulty’ …
  • increase that difficulty …
  • and land an appropriate ending (that makes the point).

Both for actors and TV Presenters this simple and practical approach to story is the one we use in workshops at The Rehearsal Room. We use it because it works.


tvpres10The next TV PRESENTERS Workshop starts on 17th July 2016.
FOR DETAILS … go here!           Enrol here.

SKILL BUILDER     Saturday 4th June 2016
A one-day workshop for those who have completed the TV Presenters Workshop. Four presenters will record 4 pieces to camera.

FOR DETAILS … go here!               Enrol here






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An improvisation

JOAN LEO working on an impro in the SLAM SKILL BUILDER

A TIP FOR SLAMMERS:         Endings are HUGELY important in leaving the audience (and judges) with a feeling that an impro was a success. Don’t let the impro trickle on while you look for a logical ending that completes the story. When the time is up grab the FIRST opportunity that has some chance of working and do two things …

  • say it really loudly and really importantly
  • say it to convince your scene partner that this is definitely the end of the conversation

We tried this technique in our SLAM SKILL BUILDER workshop and it had a high success rate.

Endings are important. It is the last thing an audience hears. That last impression informs their view about the story and the experience.

SEE YOU AT THE SLAM 7pm this Friday … book tickets HERE
ore info … here

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Simple Ways To Change a Performance 1

Actor Han Tran

Every time you have a conversation you have expectations about the outcome. In last night’s MASTER CLASS, HAN TRAN tried changing his expectations to an “opposite” possibility. So, on the second run of his scene HAN swapped his expectations to an “opposite” point of view to the expectation he tried in his first rehearsal. He found it had a significant effect on his listening and on the outcome of the conversation.

Interestingly, HAN didn’t change anything else. The purpose of the conversation was the same. His desires about the relationship were the same. The immediate circumstances surrounding the conversation were the same. Simply changing his expectations had a significant effect.

Even small changes to the expectations about a conversation’s outcome will have some effect on your listening. That in turn will change the nature of the impulses that drive your responses. But changing to an “opposite” expectation can have quite a large impact on the conversation and its outcome.

Han’s plan for this particular session was to play with “opposites” to see what he could learn about their function and value. His exploration delivered interesting results. Considering “opposites” has many uses … this was one we hadn’t considered before.

Well done, HAN.



 The Rehearsal Room is also now on INSTAGRAM … rehearsalroommelbourne
An abbreviated version of this article was first published on Instagram



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Actor Bernadette GollanA highly successful Audition Workshop with JANE NORRIS concluded on Saturday with everyone learning heaps. There were many pleasing performances.

One of these was from BERNADETTE GOLLAN who had a place in the Saturday afternoon session. BERNIE was performing a scene that we had seen many times over that day but she made it her own through a specific set of choices.

Firstly, BERNIE chose not to do too much preparation. She didn’t learn her lines until the morning of the workshop. Her session started at 1.30pm. She deliberately does this so that she doesn’t spend too much time thinking about the specifics of the scene. The aim is to not be too committed to a set of choices

The other choice she made was to personalize the scene in a specific way. She decided to sing a line of a song rather than just state its title. And she added a simple image to another line that helped her connect to it in a personal way. Adding extra lines is not a technique that I would regularly recommend but on this occasion it was appropriate and simple. It worked well.

BERNADETTE was very free and playful with her scene. The playfulness was so trusted it seemed spontaneous.   Similar techniques have served Bernadette well over three or four auditions now. It’s an approach that is bringing consistently positive responses from casting directors and as a result BERNADETTE has a growing confidence in the audition room. Good results from daring to be different.

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Opera Singers on stage 

KYAHL ANDERSON is a director and acting coach for Opera Scholars Australia.   This is an organisation that provides classical singers between the ages of 18 and 24 a platform to develop their performance skills. In January KYAHL ran a weeklong workshop for the group.

He wrote the following about this experience …


On the first day of workshops, all 25 of the scholars performed for each other and the assorted teachers and coaches. The singers had varying levels of singing ability ranging from those who are ready to begin their professional journey to those whose voices were still very much developing. But one thing struck me. I had no idea who any of them were singing to and why.

Not one.

Even those with years of experience performing with some very talented directors, did not have this basic acting tenet solidified.

Over the next four days I worked on various performance exercises based on techniques developed at The Rehearsal Room. The level of trust and engagement from each performer clearly grew with these acting exercises. But what would happen when they had to sing?

It has become apparent to me that many singers assume that the notes on the page tell them exactly what their character is feeling and wants. They craft each line in much the same way some actors often craft each line of dialogue and the results are the same. The point of the scene or song is lost along with any chance of a clear character.

Opera Scholars Austalia in performance

So with this in mind we joined with an accompanist for the second last session of the week. I asked for a volunteer and up came a very talented performer.   She performed the opening minute of her song, as she had prepared it, before I stopped her.

“What were you trying to achieve just now?” I asked.

The answer I received was long. She was trying to sing her dead partner back to life while also pleading to the gods. I received a description of what she tried to do with each line of music and what it all meant. But what I had seen was an actor trying to do too much with each line of music, each note, and not a character who had just lost her beloved. The singing was lovely but I had no connection with the story.

We briefly discussed Conversation Goals and chose the gods as the target for her conversation. Our first option was to test the gods to see if they would show grace. On her next run the change was immediate. You could feel the attention of all in the room fixed on her. I stopped her at the same point I had previously. Where I had needed to start the applause for her first run, this time the room exploded into applause. The feedback was glowing.

“What was different for you that time?”

This time she could feel more connection to the music and more connection to the character. No longer thinking of her technique or the ‘meaning’ behind each word, she was in the moment.

At this point the accompanist spoke up. “That time I knew exactly what you wanted to do with each phrase before you sang it. I could feel your intention.”

Wow!!! That nailed it on the head! From the accompanist’s own mouth. By having a Conversation Goal the intention in each note of every phrase had become totally clear – not just to the audience, but to her fellow performer (the accompanist). And the complexity of her performance had skyrocketed. Everything about the sound and the performance had improved drastically.

Why, you could even tell who she was talking to.

The Rehearsal Room’s Conversation Goals are excellent for actors to find a way through the scene that is simple and communicates the story. But this exercise made it plain they are of equal value to the singer.

Posted in Acting, Conversation Goals, Storytelling | Leave a comment