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Judith Roberts SetoBy The Author:
HOW THE YOUNG ACTORS' WORKBOOK CAME TO BE
The "germ" of this scene anthology/workbook was a coaching project back in the 1970's. I was hired by an intermediate school on Manhattan's upper West Side to coach a group of young teen-age students preparing for entrance auditions to the renowned School of Performing Arts (of "Fame" fame). They needed brief dramatic and comic selections close to them in age, material with which they could readily identify, material worth working on. But back then there were no scene anthologies on the market to fill all those needs. Many of these teen-agers came from disadvantaged backgrounds and needed my help in finding appropriate selections. Before I could coach, I had to research plays and various non-dramatic sources extensively, so that I could provide each student with interesting choices. Since a teen-age scene anthology of excellent literary quality was clearly needed, I decided to compile one myself and to follow each selection with several pages of acting suggestions. The book would be geared for class work, or for actors preparing audition material, or those simply pursuing acting for their own pleasure.
The Young Actors' Workbook contains 51 such selections—32 monologues and 19 scenes (dialogues and scenes for both small and large groups, including one, from West Side Story, for an entire class). Part I: Dramatic Selections for Girls and Boys (Age Twelve and Older). Part II: Dramatic Selections for Young Adults (Age Sixteen and Older). These excerpts range from light comedy to serious drama, including selections from the works of the world's best-known writers -- Tennessee Williams, Carson McCullers, Lorraine Hansberry, Paul Zindel, Ferenc Molnar, Jean Giraudoux, William Inge, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Mary Chase, Sholem Aleichem, Lanford Wilson and many more.
I included a large number of Afro-American roles as well as those of other ethnic groups. I don't believe that actors should limit themselves to roles of their own race, but on the other hand, they should be able to play such parts if they desire to do so. I also included excerpts from books and plays which dramatize the aspirations of young women and the significant contributions women have made to our society.
I gleaned many of these dramatic selections from non-dramatic sources—fiction, biographies, autobiographies. I found exciting material in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Ann Frank's diary, in Growing Up Puerto Rican, edited by Paulette Cooper, in autobiographies by singer Marian Anderson, dancer/choreographer Agnes de Mille, actor Ethel Waters, photographer Margaret Bourke White, ex-slave/abolitionist Frederick Douglass and writer Claude Brown, in a fictionalized biography of Harriet Tubman, and, on the lighter side, a monologue that made me laugh aloud, from James Lincoln Collier's novel The Teddy Bear Habit.
Each selection is preceded by an introduction describing character, setting and the plot up to that point in the story, and followed by suggestions intended to guide the young actors in their exploration of acting possibilities (rather than my making directorial decisions for them). Two appendices include "Some Hints for Blocking a Scene" and an "Actor's Check List," containing two lists of thought questions: "The Character You Play" and "Specific Circumstances of the Scene."
I begin my Preface with these words addressed to the young actor: "Acting can bring you joy, excitement and a sense of fulfillment if you approach each role creatively, with your entire self —mind, body and feelings all working in unison…. Your goal as an actor should be to merge your whole self with another whole self, another 'you' —the character you play. The 'Suggestions for the Actor' immediately following each selection help you to 'step into the shoes' of that other person. These specific suggestions include stimulating thought questions about your role, relevant acting games and improvisations to play, either as yourself, the actor, or as 'you,' the character…. It is important to play yourself sometimes, to discover what you, the actor, would do in various situations, to become more aware of your own feelings, attitudes, and values. After all, you cannot know another human being intimately, from the inside out, unless you first know yourself."
My book came out of a real need for an anthology of outstanding monologues and scenes for adolescent actors—and for specific suggestions to help the young actors "become" each character.