Reggie Guyton, from Springfield, has been doing theater for close to 20 years. His current project is directing the Muni's performance of Ragtime The Musical, June 17-19 and 22-26. He is also a regular actor on staff at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
Guyton recently took the time to give ReGeneration his thoughts on enhancing realism in theater – the process of adapting real life for stage presentation.
Listening. Acting when you are not speaking is harder than it looks. "People often forget that listening is just as important as speaking in a conversation," says Reggie Guyton. "It's more than just taking in the information and responding in conversation. Body language, tone and facial expression all help translate what a character is feeling or experiencing without having to rely on explicit text.
"Listening is important, not only because it keeps you in tune with your fellow actors or audience, but it also helps you stay focused to on the outcome," Guyton explains. "And should you find yourself in a situation where you have to improvise, you have an opportunity to direct the conversation based on what you've heard."
Cue pickup. It's a lot more than just waiting for your turn to speak. "Sometimes it's a lighting change or a motif," says Guyton. "It can mean the difference between an entire scene being derailed, having to wait or improvise to fill in the space. Picking up your cues correctly helps to ensure that everyone, including tech, has the opportunity to do their jobs to the best of their ability."
Cheating out. The art of readjusting your body to present the proper picture to the audience. In theater, to 'cheat' is to turn your face or entire body 'out' to the audience to be seen and heard better without completely turning (so it still looks natural, but you are not completely in profile). The actors stand not quite natural – cheating reality just a bit.
"I have a pet peeve of showing my butt to the audience," says Guyton. "If it isn't necessary, it makes me feel like the whole audience is not worthy of a show. This is a blatant disrespect.
"When an actor upstages themselves, they block the view of themselves and others around them as well as suppress their voice," Guyton explains. "Cheating out ensures that not much is missed."
Scenery. There are lots of clever tricks to make a stage look bigger than it actually is. "Sometimes having tall/longer standing set pieces can help," says Guyton. "Other times, using less traditional sets can help too. It's important to know that if you do not have a scene designer, you may need one. Another thing to consider is how the lighting will show up on the set design."