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INTERVIEW: Director Don Stephenson On Presenting His Virtual Bay Street Theater "Acting For The Camera" Classes

T.J. Clemente

Director Don Stephenson. (Photo: Courtesy of Bay Street Theater)

Veteran Director Don Stephenson is gearing to lead a virtual 12-part course, Acting for the Camera, that will start on Tuesday, October 6 and run through Thursday, November 12. The classes, being presented through Bay Street Theater, are designed to provide an introduction about acting for the camera. Stephenson said, "Students will gain knowledge in techniques specific to television/film using a variety of scripts from productions currently or formerly cast/shot in the New York area or in Los Angeles, and will provide a practical method of acting for the camera through intensive scene work."

Stephenson, originally from Tennessee, was so friendly, smooth and convincing that after the interview, I was ready to sign up for the series.

About the Acting for the Camera course, Stephenson relayed, "It's designed to provide an intro to acting for the camera. The students, the people who take this course are going to gain knowledge, techniques specific for television and film acting. I have a lot of different scripts and scenes from different TV shows that have been shot and done."

He continued, "What I am going to do with those scripts is assign the students a scene, usually a one-on-one, a one-person to one-person scene, and instruct them to memorize it and do it and we will then talk about it and then do it again. I think through the course they will get better and better and better at it, and by the end, they will develop an understanding to the techniques specific to acting to the camera and the difference between the acting techniques for the camera and acting on the stage."

So, what is most appealing about the class? Stephenson shared, "The thing that is most appealing about the class is that it's just a very practical class. I am very practical and I really give the students the nuts and bolts of what it's like to get a job on a TV show where you have to go there and what would be required, what you would need to do and then we just practice, creating a sort of acting on camera gym. I really think the way to learn to do something is to not talking about it, but to actually do it. So, we are going to do it and we are going to do it a lot!"

Why is that important? He explained, "Because it becomes easier like exercise, the more you do it the easier it becomes. Sometimes you look at the camera and you see this scary thing looking at you unblinking. It can be a little intimidating. You might get all tight and freeze up. I try to eliminate that and make it a friendly thing because I believe you have to make friends with the camera. I plan to make it a positive thing as opposed to a negative thing. Everybody with a phone, a computer or an iPad these days is on camera, so we all are acting for the camera in this new world that we are living in - especially post COVID-19."

Don Stephenson's credits are overwhelming and impressive. He has directed at many prestigious venues, including Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, Bay Street Theatre, Alley Theatre, Goodspeed Opera House, Asolo Repertory Theatre, MUNY Opera, Pittsburgh Public Theatre, Theatreworks/ Hartford, Barter Theatre, Hangar Theatre, Theatre Aspen, The Marriott Theatre, and New York Musical Theatre Festival. On Broadway, he has acted in The Producers, A Gentleman's Guide To Love and Murder, Parade, Dracula, By Jeeves, Titanic, Private Lives, Rock of Ages, Wonderful Town, Pardon My English, and The Bandwagon, as well as Death Takes a Holiday and Take Me Along Off Broadway. His TV/ film credits include Law and Order - both Criminal Intent and Special Victims Unit - The Good Wife, Glee, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Three Pounds, Now and Again, and Irrational Man.

In closing, Stephenson said, "Knowing even how to make an audition tape is very important know. To do that successfully, you have to know how to effectively look into that camera."

Acting for the Camera will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4 p.m.

For more information, visit www.baystreet.org.

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