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2015.11.2.arts.actingclass.williamson_7

“Be con­nected in the moment and make magic happen.”

This was actress Dwandra Lampkin’s advice to the stu­dents in her Acting for the Camera class before they began their exer­cises.

Lampkin brings her expe­rience with film and tele­vision to the Acting for the Camera class for the first time this semester. Lampkin, asso­ciate pro­fessor of theatre at Western Michigan Uni­versity, was asked by Pro­fessor of Theatre George Angell if she would be willing to teach a class here. He had met Lampkin while she was adju­di­cating Hillsdale’s per­for­mance of “Almost Maine” for The Kennedy Center American College Theater Fes­tival.

Senior Catherine Coffey, an English and theatre double major, didn’t really have an idea of what acting for film and tele­vision meant before taking this class. Hillsdale’s theatre department classes typ­i­cally center around acting for the stage. Coffey soon realized the dif­ference between stage acting and camera acting.

“A lot of people, like me, had very gen­er­alized, pre­con­ceived notions about what acting for the camera is and what tele­vision and film is like for an actor,” Coffey said. “I learned very quickly in this class that the dif­fer­ences are bigger than I thought. So basi­cally this class is bridging that gap. We’re all theater actors here and acting for the camera is a very dif­ferent tech­nique. How you angle yourself for the camera, how you speak, how you move, where you look. Even that’s important. I did a scene once in class and my eyes were all over the place and I didn’t think that was a problem because it’s not a problem on stage. But the second you sit down to watch it, it looks ter­rible. It’s very par­ticular and it takes a lot of practice, but it’s been fun.”

Sophomore Elena Creed noted that the face and the eyes play a more crucial role when per­forming for the camera.

“It’s taught me a lot about how to show your emo­tions and how to be in control of your face,” Creed said. “In theater, your audience is far away. They’re seeing your whole body, so your facial expres­sions aren’t really important. Often they need to be overdone so people in the back can see you. But when the camera’s so close up on your face, you have to be really, really focused on every­thing that you want to do.”

Acting for the Camera is also dif­ferent from other acting classes at Hillsdale in the way it’s run. During class, stu­dents film scenes assigned from pre­vious class periods, watch them, and analyze them.

“In acting classes, you just kind of do it and do it a million times over,” Coffey said. “Whereas in film class, you do it and then you watch it and have to pick apart every little thing — which has been really helpful for me.”

Lampkin offers stu­dents per­sonal acting expe­rience — she knows what it means to be a stage and camera actress. Before becoming a pro­fessor, Lampkin pursued both stage and screen acting in New York City, gaining credits on “Law & Order” and “Law & Order: SVU” among many others.

“I was living in New York City doing my acting thing and I got a phone call from a good friend of mine who had taught at Ball State Uni­versity in Indiana,” Lampkin said. “They were looking for someone to fill in for one of their col­leagues who was going on sab­batical, just for nine months.”

According to Lampkin, nine months turned into eight years. After a while, though, Lampkin felt the itch to get back into pro­fes­sional acting. She then found the pro­fes­sional the­aters around Indiana. While teaching and acting, she dis­covered some­thing.

“I realized that all the work that I was doing as a pro­fes­sional actress was only serving me,” Lampkin said. “I was getting the roles and I was getting paid the money to play the role. What teaching did for me was make me realize that every­thing that I am immersing myself in as a pro­fes­sional actress I get to actually pass on to young stu­dents who are trying to do the same thing. So that’s just a wealth of knowledge being in the business everyday. I got to share it with other people and it became rewarding to me.”