A series of You-You-You-You-You and voices chorusing "Three Blind Mice" in tones from a whisper to quiet to loud to LOUDER rose from the meeting room at the Huntington Public Library on Thursday evening.
A-A-A-A, B-B-B-B, C-C-C-C, through the alphabet, then a series of Zip, Zap, Zops followed. Anyone walking by the Broadway Boot Camp theater games class, part of the library's summer program, also would have heard lots of laughter.
At the final class in a three-part series teaching about basic acting exercises, students learned how to warm up their bodies and vocal chords. Instructor Helen Murdock-Prep, a Huntington area theater educator, taught students about subtext in acting, physical action and ensemble acting and improvisation.
The students delivered variations on two words – "Don't go" – with different intent in an exercise geared to teach them how delivery of a line can change its meaning. Subtext is the meaning underneath the spoken words, Murdock-Prep explained. "If I go to the theater, it's the way the actor does the subtext that brings it to life," she said.
Murdock-Prep also said that she hoped to teach the kids that acting takes plain words and twists them. "It's what takes place between the actors that counts," she said. In one exercise, students took turns sitting in a chair, telling about their day, incorporating different situations as she threw them into the mix.
Page Montecalvo started off telling about walking to camp and playing soccer when he was told, "You lost your wallet." Then he started walking around the stage, patting his back pockets and turning over the chair to look under it. Then it was, "Scratch an itch" and he was scratching his arm and rubbing it, looking at the elbow to see what bit him. Then he was told to "freeze," but interrupted to ask a question when he got stuck on whether he should stop moving or act cold.
Murdock-Prep asked how the students felt after doing the exercises to which Christi Reinertsen simply said, "Weird." The instructor nodded in agreement, adding, "It's like putting on a coat that doesn't fit well."
After running through dialogue and set pieces, the students practiced walking. "Use your neutral walk, like when you walk downtown," Murdock-Prep instructed. "This walk is who you are. Get in touch with that body." Then she switched it up. "Now, walk like you're walking on honey. Now, marshmallows. Confused. Ashamed. Back to neutral. Now, lead with your right elbow. Walking in the snow. As though you're starving. Like you're a gangster."
The session ended with an improvisation exercise, the students sitting in a circle, adding onto a story in alphabetical order. When it's your turn, Murdock-Prep told her students, "Stick with listening to the other elements everyone brings in and build on that. It shows you're accepting it."
Everything went swimmingly till they hit Y, when it was Montecalvo's turn. His story segment was to start with Y and he started by asking "Why? ... Wait, that starts with a W, not a Y."
Alanna Harvey laughingly added, "He's using texting language," as Montecalvo held up his hands in the shape of a Y.