Physicality: Stance and Posture of the Narrator

Despite the realization that vocals are the main ingredient, there are copious amounts of other necessary components that comprise a Prose. One of these being physicality. When a character is created through acting some sort of physical transformation must be present. For Prose, this transformation is generally an observably slight one, yet a change nonetheless.

Nature of the Beast

The reason behind this small use of the physical can be seen in the event’s full title: Prose Reading. This event is meant to be a dramatization of a (non)fictional work. Prose is like Reader’s Theatre in that respect. The audience is to be “read” a story but with some acting. The voice is to fully embody the text; the body capture the essence to a lesser degree. The reader should hold themselves in character, but not as extreme as say in a Dramatic or Humorous Interpretation. That extent of physicality is just not what Prose is about. In fact, using larger-then-life physical representations of characters hovers precariously close from turning Prose into a DI/HI. Yet another rational for keeping physicality to a minimum? The binder. This reading apparatus limits the use of roughly half the body. Not quite the ideal circumstances for DI/HI characterization.

Narrator Stance and Posture

A Prose typically makes extensive use of a narrator with few secondary characters interjecting within the piece for a handful of lines. Because of this, the narrator is the character needed to have the most physicality. Readers should always fully read the source material and take note of the character. Look to the cutting as well for clues on how to portray this individual. Are there specific mentions of a unique physical appearance? What sort of person is this? Shy, bold, poor, rich, shifty, self-important, etc? Does this person alter themselves when in the presence of others? Know them (and this goes for all other characters as well). Then, picture this character. How are they envisioned? Can they be related to a personal acquaintance or a celebrity/actor? Find a way to stand which embodies this character’s personality.

However, this is still Prose. Refrain from developing a character with as big of a look as one in DI/HI. In Prose, usually the posture and hand gestures/mannerisms are where physicality is embellished. The legs and stance are largely ignored because it is what happens above the waist, book up, that counts. Typically though, unless the reading states/implies that the character is timid and hunched (or powerful with a highly held head and thrust back shoulders), most performers keep a natural stance with feet placed shoulder width apart. Competitors want to establish a look of authority. Control. By having a powerful and sturdy lower half, the look feels like they have confidence and are comfortable owning the room. It also should be mentioned that the narrator is not stuck looking into one focal point. Scan the audience and make eye-contact at moving moments for an intense impact. Prose physical presence is subtle and less explicate than DI/HI, but an audience should be capable of telling if a character could be categorized as weak or strong--and whichever else the tone of the piece uses.

The Other Character

Notice how the narrator’s body defines the character in little details? The same applies to other characters. Know them as well as the narrator is known. Create a physical representation that gives some insight into who that person is. But remember, do not over-dramatize everything as a HI/DI would. In fact, physical changes in characters are "small" in comparison. Creating a focal point, having different mannerisms, and altering posture slightly might be all that is needed. In three tiny, quick motions a new character is present. Note, it is the vocalization that compiles most of a character in Prose, not the physical. If any more changes are wanted between characters, a performer can slightly change how the binder is held/manipulated. The narrator can hold the binder in the comfortable, standard position. The new character can hold the binder higher or lower or even in a new position (such as more in front of the body than normal) to add another difference.

Though Prose physicality can be perceived as such a tiny detail it becomes trivial, do not let it become overlooked. Yes, it is minute, but the subtlety and precision adds layers to a performance. Not all acting is meant to be gargantuan. Prose is just less concerned with large-scale physicality than other events. Holding the character in the proper stance and posture can add real presence to the piece. Audiences will be able to focus on the real draw of Prose, the vocals, while subconsciously taking in the physical interpretation. Overall, this leads to a well-done Prose that delivers strongly physically, while letting the attention be placed where it must.