Acting in the Studio

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Back in June, Pip Nixon wrote a post about his experiences with directing in the Haywood Studio. Today I’m going to give you my thoughts on what it’s like to perform in that same space. I have been given the opportunity to perform in the studio several times now and I don’t mind saying that it’s a completely different experience to performing on the main stage.

So what’s so different about it?

The studio traditionally houses somewhere around 50 seats, meaning that you are instantly much closer to the audience. There’s a level of intimacy and (for lack of a better term) immediacy that you don’t quite get on the main stage, making the studio ideal for more emotional and dramatic content as opposed to something maybe more traditional or theatrical. When performing to an audience of 250 people on the main stage, a ‘bigger’ style of acting is required. The people all the way in the back row won’t necessarily be able to see all of the little nuances and smaller characterisations you bring to a performance. Meanwhile in the studio, you’d be lucky to avoid being caught twitching an eyebrow. The audience can see everything you do, so it’s hard not to feel nervous.

I would say it encourages a more natural style of acting as opposed to the theatrical style you might employ on the main stage. As someone who has performed on both the stage and in the studio, I can honestly say the most nerve-wracking performances have all been in the studio. At the same time, some of the most fun and enriching experiences I’ve had as an actor have been in that space. It’s very rewarding. The audience’s engagement is much more focused in the studio.

The minimalist nature of the blank space also encourages diversity and experimentation. One of my own favourite parts was in a gibberish two-hander called Out of the Frying Pan. It was tremendously fun and utterly ridiculous, but perfectly suited to the studio space. Neither of the actors ever left the performance space, so we were constantly trying to engage the audience. In that regard, for us there was no escape or respite from performing so it required a high amount of discipline, attention and awareness. The energy and the relationship we had built with the audience was incredible and something I feel is much more tangible when you’re given that kind of closeness. Whether it’s something completely ridiculous or something deeply emotional and grounded, there’s a definite tangibility to the relationship between performer and spectator that is definitely more noticeable with a more intimate space.

So whether you’re a budding young actor or a long-time veteran of the stage looking for something new, the Haywood Studio might just be the place for you.

Shane Curiel

Check out our latest studio offering coming in September, ‘Company’.