Acting for the Stage
If ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage.
We've all heard that one, right?
But what about this one:
If you're in the theatre, and you can't hear the actor on the stage, you best ask for your money back.
When an actor presents their thespianism, live (as opposed to recording their performance for television or film), they need to be
heard, and they need to project their voice. That doesn't mean yelling for the sake of yelling. It means acting with a vibrant
energy that can be felt - as well as heard by the dude in the last row in the back of the theatre.
Suffice it to say that acting for the stage is VERY different from filming a movie or a TV show. And the best way to explain this,
really, is to reference television.
Let's go back to January of 1974, shall we?
The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family have just been cancelled by ABC. Clearly, it's a very sad time in the
land of TV (wink, wink). But wait - a breath of fresh air is about to, uhm…air - in the form of Happy Days, starring
Ron Opie Cunningham Howard and a little known actor-cum-superstar named Henry Winkler who aaayyyed his way into our
hearts as The Fonz, Fonzie and/or Arthur Fonzerelli. (the hood with a heart and no-need-to-comb hair).
Happy Days originally aired as a 15-minute segment of Love, American Style. It was a pilot with which ABC was
unimpressed until American Graffiti (featuring Howard and ironically, a pre-Laverne & Shirley Cindy Williams)
started doing gang-busters at the movie plexes. Consequently, ABC reexamined Days, and gave it a spot on its regular
schedule. This Days was filmed like a movie (like they used to do TV sitcoms, in the past of That Girl (and in the
presented of Arrested Development, produced by Winkler). In other words, there was no live audience.
As such, the acting was intimate. Richie, Potsie (Anson Williams), Ralph (Don Most), Mr. & Mrs. C.
(Tom Bosley, Marion Ross), etc. all conversed with one another in regular speech, as we do in reality (though less today's edgy,
Soon, however, things changed. ABC's then president, Fred Silverman, saw the potential of Winkler's Fonzie, upped him to a
starring role, and moved the show to film in front of a live audience. Consequently, the low-definition HD actors started
projecting more, speaking a few octaves higher, and playing more to the audience, instead of the camera (which, technically
speaking, is really, really the wrong thing an actor can do, character-interpretation-wise).
Ultimately, the no-live-audience Happy Days lasted only the first and second seasons. From the third season onward, until
the series ended its initial network run in the Spring of 1984, the Days were numbered in front of a live audience.
So, here's your homework for today. If you want to learn how to act for TV and film in an intimate way, watch the first and
second seasons of Happy Days. If you want to understand the complexities (well, at least the basics) of acting for the
stage, run the last eight seasons of Fonzie and the Happy Days Gang. Oops! Wait a minute. That was the name of the
animated Days series that ran on ABC's Saturday morning line-up from 1980-82. But that's okay, because you can also
learn a lot about acting for the stage by listening to those voiceovers (especially Fonzie's new dog, Mr. Cool) of
the Days cartoon. Shoot, any cartoon (er...animated series) for that matter - because they're all
littered with exaggerated sounds and magnified emotions, all of which are ideal to employ (but not overcompensate with),
in regards to…acting for the stage...
Herbie J Pilato was born to Frances Mary Turri and Pompeii Pilato in
Rochester, New York, on Erie Street, in the historic High Falls
District across from where now stands Frontier Field. He graduated
with a B.A. Degree in Theatre Arts from Nazareth College of Rochester,
moved to Los Angeles, where he studied Television and Film at UCLA,
and served his Internship in Television at NBC-TV in Burbank. As an
actor, he's appeared on television shows such as "Highway to
Heaven" and "The Golden Girls," as well as daytime serials like
"The Bold and the Beautiful" and "General Hospital." As a
director, Herbie J has guided live stage productions of Leonard
Malfi's Birdbath, Christopher Frye's "A Phoenix Too Frequent," and
"Little Shop of Horrors." Herbie J is also the author of a number
of media tie-in books, including "The Bewitched Book," "The Kung Fu
Book of Caine," "The Kung Fu Book of Wisdom," "Bewitched
Forever," "The Bionic Book," "NBC & ME: My Life As A Page In A
Book," and "Life Story - The Book of Life Goes On: TV's First And
Best Family Show of Challenge." As a producer, he's worked on
Bravo's hit five-part series, "The 100 Greatest TV Characters,"
TLC's "Behind the Fame" specials (about "The Mary Tyler Moore
Show," "The Bob Newhart Show," "L.A. Law" and "Hill Street
Blues"), A&E's "Biography "(for segments on Elizabeth Montgomery
and Lee Majors), and the SyFy Channel's "Sciography" series (the
latter for which he also directed). Herbie J has also served as a
consultant and on-screen commentator for the classic TV DVD releases
of "Bewitched," "Kung Fu" and "CHiPs" - as well as an Editor for
numerous websites (including MediaVillage.com, TV-Now.com and the
family-oriented PAXTV.com). Also too, he's contributed to many
magazines, including Starlog, Sci-Fi Entertainment, Sci-Fi Universe,
Retro Vision, Classic TV and CinemaRetro. Herbie J presently has
several films and TV shows in development, and is is the Founder and
Executive Director of the Classic TV Preservation Society, a nonprofit
organization dedicated to closing the gap between positive popular TV
and education. For more information, log on to
To contact Herbie J Pilato, email: ClassicTVPS@gmail.com.
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