Los Angeles actors are spoiled by film and television. Most of their auditions are for film and television so they learn to use subtlety, to speak with their "inside voices," to keep things small and realistic. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I had to get into this habit since I came from a strong theatre background. I had to pull back and make things very real and believable. Of course, I've done it so long that I used the same style for my last theatrical audition. I didn't vary my vocal volume for the size of the space and I kept things so small they might not have communicated to the back row. I'm glad I wasn't cast so I could learn that lesson.
I've seen a few plays recently and I've seen a few actors who seemed more like they were performing in film than in theatre. They gave these beautiful, low-key performances which can totally work with the right material and an intimate black box theatre. The problem was that they were in very presentational productions. They were hard for me to hear at times. They seemed like they were out of place in the world of the play. They were as quiet and subtle as I was in that audition.
So how do we fix L.A. actors for theatre? How do I get my groove back so I can nail the next theatre audition? Here's my personal strategy:
1. Read more plays.
2. Decide whether each piece is presentational, representational, or on the grayscale in between the two.
3. Assess the performance venue and/or audition space.
4. Use my Arthur Lessac training to fill the space with my voice.
5. Be as big or as small as necessary to bring the character to life within the realm of the play.
6. Accept my bouquets of flowers at the end.