Stage presence-the ability to connect powerfully and authentically with an audience-is something we often associate with performers. Great actors, musicians, and public speakers all seem to have it. But this same capacity is something we all need and use in many areas of life, both professional and personal.
Any time you present yourself to others, whether in a speech, a public presentation, a meeting, an interview, a class, or a negotiation, your success depends on far more than the words you say. Your ability to communicate, to inspire, or to convince is heavily influenced by the way you carry yourself, the way you speak, the way you express what you've decided to say, and the way you connect with your listeners and the space you're in. In any situation where you present yourself, your way of being and interacting with your listeners-your presence-is equally as important as what you say.
But is presence something you're born with-an innate talent-or are there ways to develop it? Can presence, in fact, be learned?
As you'll discover in this illuminating and highly practical course, the answer is an unqualified "yes." The skills of poise, physical ease in public, clarity of speaking, and engaging, effective communication are well understood, and can be practiced and developed in ways that will greatly improve your success in presenting yourself in any setting.
Presence: A Learnable Skill
Drawing on the skills and techniques used by professional actors and public speakers, you can learn to offer your best self to the world, by cultivating self-awareness, mental focus, and the freedom of your body and voice. Whether your goal is to act on the stage or screen, speak at a public gathering, present at a business meeting, or even to be in top form over the dinner table, expressing yourself at your very best is a practical and reachable goal.
In Mastering Stage Presence: How to Present to Any Audience, Melanie Martin Long, a celebrated teacher of acting and directing, leads you in an in-depth exploration of the skills-and the joy-of performance and self-presentation, which apply to any situation where you present yourself to others.
Like golf, tennis, or painting, learning performance technique involves building one skill on another. In the course of 24 interactive lecture/practice sessions, you'll learn core principles of modern acting technique that allow you to define and express your purpose for presenting. You'll work systematically to become conscious of your own physical and vocal habits. And you'll practice the techniques of freeing your body and voice for fuller self-expression.
Building on these practices, you'll integrate your new skills by walking through the experience of an audition or interview, and then by exploring the process of preparing a performance or public appearance. Finally, you'll learn how to channel nervous energy into effective performance, how to draw your audience in, and how to keep their attention through the end of your time onstage. With remarkable clarity and thoroughness, this course teaches you the what and how of presence and self-presentation, on stage and in life.
Hands-On Training in the Skills of Performance
In these dynamic learning sessions, you'll study and practice the three building blocks of performance technique:
mental focus and preparation;
your physical life; and
voice and speech.
This is hands-on, high-level work in which you'll explore all of the mental and physical resources that go into an effective stage performance or presentation. Far more useful than any book could be, the video sessions allow you to experience the work directly, practicing physical and vocal workouts in studio sessions with Professor Long.
First, you'll learn that what drives a successful performance is the clear pursuit of your objective (or, in acting, the character's objective), which unfolds moment by moment through specific actions.
Using characters from Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire, study acting pedagogue Uta Hagen's "Nine Questions," which crystallize a dramatic character's circumstances, motivations, and objectives, and see how these factors propel their behavior onstage.
Learn how to specifically apply the principles of purpose and objectives to both dramatic scripts and public speaking, giving your performance or presentation crucial clarity and focus.
Next, you'll work to develop physical freedom and ease onstage-a vital asset for presenting yourself in public.
Drawing on the discoveries of movement pioneers F. Mathias Alexander, Moshe Feldenkrais, and Rudolph Laban, practice movement exercises used by professional actors. These will help you bring your body into natural alignment, release unnecessary physical tension, and move with balance, spontaneity, and freedom.
Stage Savvy: A core element of skillful performance and stage deportment, learn how to take focus onstage, as well as how to give focus and create visual variety through physical positioning, movement, rhythm, and balance.
Finally, you'll work extensively on vocal technique, expanding and freeing your vocal resources over eight lecture/practice sessions on voice and speech.
Explore each facet of vocal technique for performance, from expansive, natural breathing to sound production, resonation, and inflection, as well as how to project your voice to fill the performance space.
Exercise and strengthen the muscles of speech, work out your vocal articulators through speaking written texts, and study pace and phrasing.
Discover the Joy and Satisfaction of Performing
Professor Long, a highly respected theatre artist and performance coach, brings deep technical knowledge as well as extraordinary insight and skill as a teacher to this unique, interactive program. By both demonstrating and leading you in exercises to enlarge your expressive and creative horizons, she teaches performance technique as a path of self-awareness and physical freedom. As just one remarkable example, she illustrates, citing Harvard studies, how practicing physical "power" stances changes your mental outlook and body chemistry, boosting testosterone and lowering the stress hormone cortisol. Emphasizing experiential learning, the course is designed for you to view over and over for extra practice.
In completing the learning process, the final sessions take you through the application of the skills you've learned:
Auditions and Interviews: Learn a complete approach to presenting yourself in high-stakes situations, from your entrance and introduction to your self-presentation, its aftermath, and your exit.
Preparing a performance or presentation: Explore how to systematically prepare and rehearse a stage performance or public appearance, from initial exploration and practice of your material to run-throughs and final dress/technical rehearsals.
Dealing effectively with nerves or "stage fright": Grasp how key principles of mental focus such as releasing self-judgment and focusing on your fellow performers or audience can make your nerves work for you; and
Holding your audience's attention: Discover how claiming your power onstage, keeping your performance simple, and using variety allows you to sustain your performance from start to finish.
Mastering Stage Presence: How to Present to Any Audience takes you deeply into the practical skills of performing and self-presentation, teaching you each element in a highly engaging, step-by-step learning system. With the skills you'll develop, you can confidently step forward as a performer or presenter, offering your best self to the world in any setting.
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