Producers announced that Alec Baldwin (30 Rock and newlywed) will be returning to the New York stage this season in the first Broadway production of Lyle Kessler’s acclaimed drama Orphans. This news probably causes you to think a number of things such as “isn’t that the play that made Steppenwolf actors stars?” or “wow, it will be great to see an actor of Baldwin’s depth and star magnetism back on the stage” or “I hope they have an ambulance on standby at that theater for fallen paparazzi.”
However, my first thought was “Orphans? People actually do full productions of that play instead of just scenes in acting class?” You see, if you’ve spent any time in an acting program, you will be acutely aware that there is a syllabus of plays that are done and done and done–until they’re done–in acting classes. They are performed so frequently (and often with such…well…lack of finesse) that they lose all meaning as freestanding works of drama and begin to feel like they were written for a text book like those mysterious reading samples on a standardized test.
These classic Acting 101 scenes are popular because they break down into nice, easily memorizable 5 minute chunks and feature two (preferably youngish) characters, few props and a set that can be made from two or three wooden “acting cubes”. For your edification and amusement, let me break down the four most popular scene types (in this case from Contemporary American Drama, though there are analogous examples from Shakespeare, the Greeks and Chekhov) with video aids from actual acting classes. [Note: I recommend you skim across these videos like delightfully buzzing hummingbirds, getting a nip of some of the sweet, tantalizing nectar then moving on.]: