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Acting for the camera: Dr. Malcolm Raeburn Read teaches acting workshop

Dr. Malcolm Raeburn Read lectures students about the differences between stage and television acting.  (Northern Review photo/Dominic Turnea)

Dr. Malcolm Raeburn Read lectures students about the differences between stage and television acting. (Northern Review photo/Dominic Turnea)

Ohio Northern University students expanded their skills in acting and camera work in a special workshop, “Acting for the Camera,” from February 15-20. The lecture and workshop was taught and instructed by visiting Salford University professor, Dr. Malcolm Raeburn Read. At his university in Manchester, England, Read has taught various classes involving media, television, and theatre. Along with working at the university, he has performed in various shows, radio dramas, and films, including “Prime Suspect: The Lost Child” and “May 33rd.” 

Read explained the differences between acting on stage versus television. There were nine key points to be taught to students, but he was glad the students were already well-taught beforehand from their undergraduate classes at Ohio Northern.

The one thing I didn’t have to do is teach the students how to act. I found the students really talented, able, hardworking, professional,” said Read.  

When it comes to television and stage performances, Read explained that a key difference is the continuous acting on stage, but in television the scenes are shot in bits, sometimes taking more than one shot. Read remembered one scene he performed that involved opening a door knob, which was re-shot forty times. 

Another difference of acting styles in television acting involves body language. On stage, there is no frame to limit audience’s eyes. On camera, it focuses on what the audience must see. The camera focuses on the facial expressions and body language of the actor or actress. 

What feels natural can feel unnatural if you watch it on camera. On camera it looks just right. Frame dictates the scale of the performance. If you watch the actor’s eyes on camera, 90-percent of their performance is in their eyes,” Read explained.

One other key concept for camera acting is how to work with objects. Within the workshop, students were instructed to work with a pencil and act with it. Emotions can be portrayed by how the actor or actress handles an object. For example, if an actor or actress is gripping the pencil with intensity, his/her character could be considered angry, tense or agitated. While the person acts with dialogue, the audience focuses on the body language. 

“It’s about people putting on an act while doing something else. All it takes is a prop,” Read described.

The purpose of Read’s workshop was to teach students specific techniques that are used solely in television and radio business. This is the second time Read has led workshops at Ohio Northern and he looks forward to returning in the upcoming year. 

“What inspired me to come back a second time was that I enjoyed the first time. At first, I didn’t know what I was coming out to. Several colleagues had given output, said warm things about ONU. The only problem was me being jet-lagged. But I had a happy time.”