The Java Jive: Depicting Trauma on Stage

It happens. You get an incredible role – with trauma in it. Thankfully, you haven’t experienced anything like this in real life. You haven’t lost a loved one. Or been trapped in a garret to avoid persecution. Or been burnt at a stake. Or walked down the street and be assaulted – or accused of something you never would do. So how do you deliver a real and authentic performance when you have no such life experience to draw from?

We’ve all seen it happen. A normally talented performer becomes wooden and emotionally-affective during a fight scene, retreats during aggressive stage conflict, or worse – “fights the part”. How do we transcend this “fight or flight” instinct? How do we keep it real and authentic on stage?

It answer is simple. What parallels have you experienced that you can draw from? Maybe, thankfully, you have never lost a spouse, parent, or sibling, but, you might have helped a friend through the pain – or know the pain of losing your pet. Think on how you would, with kindness and empathy, help them. Then, use that as your starting point.

The stages of grief are universal. The rules would definitely apply to this pandemic. As humans, we deny. We bargain. We are shell shocked. We grieve. We become depressed and angry. And finally, we find some acceptance. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Because the stages of grief can come and go as we process these painful losses. The loss of a job and our identity. The loss of our childhood home. The loss of a child. The loss of what we thought was permanent and safe and protected.

That is what we take to the stage. That is what we give to the audience. The honesty of the emotion. The bravery of showing it through our actions. And portray hope for the future

Challenges to Percolate:

Be super brave for five minutes today.

  • Think about something you mourn. Remember “the emotions in the room” at that time. Think what got you through it, that you could bring to a role in healing.
  • “Text” a letter to a character you struggled with, showing your support for them, and then read it as that character would. Allow this to be a “moving action” to heal.

© The Pfluger Empathy Movement Method

The Java Jive: Fatal Flaws and Fantastic Strengths.

As you develop your character, think of them in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. What fatal flaws will they conquer? Which of their strengths will help them triumph? What other characters of the stage have complimentary faults that together, could be their undoing? Which combined strengths could be used to help them triumph over adversity? Tag team with your fellow ensemble to create this. Are the tensions internal or external? How can they be heightened? When the audience is sitting in the darkness, what “magic” you created will make them lean forward in their seats?

Create an emotional scavenger hunt for the audience. Before the “moving action” of the play takes place, ask where can you embed foreshadowing. Where might you build tension early on to give the audience inklings of what might happen? Remember, it is only through your action, and little “tells” that anything can be visualized. Your breathing. Your eye contact – or lack of. Your posture changes. Yes. these gifts to the audience allow you to create the backstory to bring forth the tension and build the dynamics of your role, so that the play is going someplace. 

Challenge to Percolate:

  • Pick up a script and take some time to “play”. Choose two areas to build tension as “the stage is being set” in the first scenes.
  • Think about your favorite movie characters. Write down bits about her that make her/him character authentic – that make you “root” for them well before the crisis.
  • Choose a character in a show you hope to act some day. Create a few journal entries, in their voice, over a week. These can even be from a decade before or after the story we know takes place. There are no limits. Just have fun! Play!
  • Look at the relationships between family members in the show. What habits stretch generations? Which are a character developing their autonomy or rebelling?

© The Pfluger Empathy Movement Method

The Java Jive: What’s in a Script, Anyway?

Congratulations! You got the part! Now what? THE SCRIPT! Think of it as the best treasure hunt you will ever go on. It has hundreds of “life hacks” for the  character you are creating.

Some are easy. Who is the playwright? When did they live and what cultural aspects of their world influenced this story?  What political and historical relevance affects the interaction of the characters and ensemble? Be the anthropologist on a quest. Is the play staged in a different era than the life of the writer? Then both eras need to be inlaid in the character.

How will you create the life of your character? What was the clothing like then? How will this affect your movement on stage and your character? What tidbits are in the dialogue of other characters?

Create a journal for your character with all these facts. Write down tidbits about the characters age and relationships. It will affect their movement and spacing on stage. What other characters are they closest to? What characters are there the most conflict? How do these aspects and growth change during the show?

What daydreams can you imagine about the character? This discovery and creation process is the backbone of your role! Your time in the spotlight

By committing to invest in the script, you’re allowing yourself to inspire your future audience and create magic in this world.

Challenge to Percolate:

  • Choose a character in favorite movie or book. Write down bits about her that make her/him character authentic.

© The Pfluger Empathy Movement Method

THE JAVA JIVE: Acting Means Inspiration!

You are surrounded by “Inspiration” every day. And that inspiration, channeled, can make you INCREDIBLE on stage. Inspiration is the “verb” of acting. It’s NOT the idle dream of making it big. It’s the lifeblood that allows you to craft your character and bring it to life with nuance, honesty – creating magic.

INSPIRATION allows you to eloquently craft a story as a stage ensemble, because you are developing a wholistic micro and macro world view – not drawing from a single source, but from an ocean of learning and understanding. In short, inspiration EMPOWERS you to be a spherical, unlimited powerhouse.  

Rule Two – Where’s Your Inspiration?

So, how do you get IT? Don’t rush it. Give yourself permission to disconnect from tech as you know it and connect to life differently. Immerse yourself in every art form. Explore an art museum or different cultures. Maybe attend a music concert or a dance form that is unique to you? You will find inspiration in HOW to move differently in character. Explore nature, a zoo, or a National Geographic video. Asking how creatures interact or fight SHAPES our character portrayals.

People-watch, take pics or sketch in public. Take in a nature walk and listen to how your breathing changes. BECOME a student of the world and cultures – in a Museum. Be aware and inspired by the “different”.

Immerse yourself in different perspectives as to NOT lose your perspective. This INSPIRATION will inspire countless people to become their best selves.

Challenges to Percolate:

Devote ten minutes to nurture yourself by:

  • Thinking HOW you would describe your world and story to someone from a different time or culture.
  • Do something different.
  • Read and ACT a classic poem.
  • Make a pact with a friend to share your “people watching” stories.
  • Listen to a This American Life in podcast.
  • Think how art shapes a culture or society or how it reflects it!

© The Pfluger Empathy Movement Method

THE JAVA JIVE: So, how do you even “DO” acting in a pandemic?

Acting Means Staying Active! 

You know that there’s MORE to you than scrolling through Instagram! So don’t cheat yourself by taking your foot off the gas! The secret is to “Push Yourself, but Not Push Yourself Over”! There is always room to grow, on stage – and off. The secret is that ACTING is that it is a VERB! Something that you AUTHENTICALLY and ACTIVELY “DO”!

Rule One – Progress, not Perfection!

To TRULY ACT, we MUST TRULY “BE” present on stage, and present in life… And that takes STAMINA!  And you need to exercise your stamina like you would exercise your muscles… or your brain. First! Give yourself permission to not “be perfect”. Acknowledge that this is a process.

Why don’t you start by setting a timer for five minutes? Try not “zoning out” when you are listening to a conversation in the room, or on a show – and REACT authentically. In short, BE PRESENT!  If you are feeling super brave, read and “perform” for yourself in the mirror. Make friends with your facial expressions, your breathing, and your emotions. Because what an audience WANTS to see is how an ACTOR/ACTRESS responds and reacts with realness. Give them, and you, that gift! Let them see that light bulb moment! Remember, on stage to “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy”. Genius comes through trial and error!

Challenge to “Percolate”:   Show your virtual “audience”/family/friends five different reactions and responses that are unique and let them guess your thoughts and reactions. Go for a BIG reaction. To quote the Frizz, “Take chances. Make mistakes. Get messy”… and prepare to be AWESOME!

© The Pfluger Empathy Movement Method

Car Talk Chronicles – Want to write?

Be the Playwright and maybe Act as well?!?

This a deep dive into our Movement Method, creating something awesome from nothing, and is an incredible experience no one can ever take away from you, with collaborative learning, on and off the stage lessons, and most of all, FUN!

LATTE’s accepting YOUR writing submissions for their Original Play, Car Talk Chronicles.

The play will be a series of bite-size vignettes of 5 to 10 minutes. Submissions can be funny, raw, and real  – just like the “slice of life” real conversations that we share in cars! 

Auditions and Practices start in February. Sessions will include: scene development and  dramaturging, a literary, socio-emotional, and cultural analysis, Movement Method synthesis and collaborative critique. Breakout rooms will be used as part of rehearsals. 

Memorization of your part is required. Set to be performed on Zoom, prerecorded, or live.

  • Submissions Due  – FEB 1st   
  • Selections Chosen – FEB 7th   
  • Auditions – FEB 7th  on Zoom by Audition slot.
  • Performance in May – TBD 

Scene Writing Guidelines:

  • Comedy, Suspense, Dramatic. Your Choice!
  • 5 – 10-minute vignettes with 1 – 4 characters
  • Rated for all audiences.
  • Written by teens 11 – 19
  • Include a small scene description, character list and description enough to help us “meet” your “people”!

Send submissions in PDF to: lattetheater@gmail.com

Questions: 708-655-0989

Winter Acting Training Workshops – Gone Virtual!

ACTING TRAINING IN A PANDEMIC

At LATTE Theater, the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, staff, volunteers, guests, and the entire community are always our first priority. As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, we continue to follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, and the Illinois Department of Health and Human Services

Please remember the 3W’s so we can perform and practice in person sooner!  Wear, Wait and Wash. https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/materials-resources/know-your-ws-wear-wait-wash

We will still have fun with LATTE’s acting training program!  Our Winter/Spring programs include our Uncommon Grounds Master Class Series, runs from January – May on the second Saturdays of the month from 11 – 12.

Our Upcoming Production

Get Tickets for Porchlight

LATTE Theater presents…

The Porch Light

 An original work by Chicago Playwright, Felicia Pfluger that chronicles over 120 years (from 1893 through the present) of American life and family. Through powerful, hilarious and fun vignettes, we explore times of radical change in history, the context of cultural change, changes in the family unit, social awareness, wars… and our humanity. The Porch Light is on, children. It is time to come home.

Plymouth Place Auditorium

315 N. La Grange Road
La Grange Park

Show Times

Friday, Nov 8:  7:00 PM
Saturday, Nov 9:  2:00 PM and 5:00 PM

Discount Presale Tickets

Tate’s Ice Cream
25 S Ashland Avenue, La Grange, IL 60525
$12 Adult Presale Price

Tickets at the Door

(Unassigned seating, so come early)
$ 5 Students/Seniors/First Responders with ID
$15 Adults

Celebrating 10 Years

LATTE Theater, the La Grange Area Teen Theater Ensemble, is proud to have brought it’s patented movement approach of stagecraft and life development to La Grange and Chicagoland for a decade. We recognize the potential in each teen, the ripple effect to our community audiences, and even have won the 2019 Illinois “Leading Age’s Honoring Excellence Award” for our community impact and our intergenerational partnership with Plymouth Place.

Though our quality performances, LATTE entertains with full length comedic and dramatic shows and explores real emotions and current issues. Family dynamics, relationships, domestic violence, aging, mental health, literacy, estrangement, alcoholism, Alzheimer’s, social responsibility, free will vs comfort and abandonment are themes we have brought to the stage in works that range from Shakespeare through Neil Simon. These thought-provoking shows amuse and entertain our wonderful community; all while giving a beautiful launch point for discussions and introspection.

Illinois Award – Honoring Excellence

LATTE Theater is honored to announce winning Illinois Leading Age’s Honoring Excellence Community Impact Award, with their wonderful, long term community partners, Plymouth Place.

When LATTE Director, Felicia Pfluger, approached Plymouth Place for the opportunity to have the LATTE teens perform for the seniors over a decade ago, she never guessed what wonderful things would happen! Directing the talented senior citizens at Plymouth Place is always an incredible gift. And watching the seniors share their joy, wisdom, and enthusiasm with the LATTE teens, while the teens reciprocate with their enthusiasm and vibrancy. It was a perfect match from the beginning.

Fast forward ten years to a partnership that makes a beautiful community impact. These comedic and dramatic full-length theater shows explore real emotions to current issues such: as domestic violence, aging, mental health, literacy, family estrangement, alcoholism, Alzheimer’s, and abandonment. This “backdoor” of stagecraft positively impacts people both on stage and off… all while producing exceptional shows for our wonderful, supportive community. Here’s to the future!