English teacher Maya Zabar brought in a friend, actor Michael Leb, to talk to her three sophomore European Literature (E4EL) classes on Friday, March 16. The students had written scripts based off of the play “Macbeth,” keeping similar themes and characters from the original story, but transforming it into either a comedy or drama with a modern setting and colloquial language.
Zabar thought it would be helpful for the students to have Leb come in and talk about acting as a craft as well as his experiences as an actor. “I wanted a professional to come in and tell them that it’s okay to be nervous and to give them some advice,” Zabar said.
Leb is an actor-comedian trying to find permanent work. He participated in many plays when he was younger but currently plays minor roles and does a stand up act inManhattanevery week. He has performed for Big Mike & Friends: Comedy & Storytelling Show and at the Gotham Comedy Club.
Talking to Leb proved to be beneficial to students who were unsure of how to portray their characters. He suggested reading scripts in monotone when practicing, so that more convincing emotion would be expressed when performing on stage. “He helped us convey the right emotion,” sophomore Makie Lin said. “It was nice to have a professional’s help on something new.”
Leb also gave the classes advice on how to overcome their fears and become less nervous when performing on stage for the first time. “In order to keep from being nervous, study your lines well and get accustomed to them. Once you start performing, your nervousness will go down because you will be naturally more into it, but a little will always be there so you just have to face it when performing,” sophomore Mika Schweizer said. Another technique Leb suggested was for the students to close their eyes and envision themselves performing and the audience enjoying it. Leb himself uses this technique to boost his confidence when acting.
The classes then split up into their groups and worked on their modernized Macbeth scenes while Leb walked around and answered any additional questions. Many students saw the chance to talk to an expert as a unique opportunity to improve their projects. Most of the students agreed that the advice Leb gave was extremely helpful, but at times the class was quiet and unsure of what to ask. Zabar acknowledged the quiet atmosphere exhibited early in the class, but clarified that Leb and the students seemed to become more comfortable as the class went on. “It was my first time bringing speakers and I prepared for every possible situation except what really happened. The students were a little uncomfortable at first, but it got better later. He gave some very useful advice,” Zabar said.
The session with Leb proved to be of help when the students performed their modernized Macbeth scenes during the week of Monday, March 19. “The advice he gave was great and helped my group perform better,” Garikapati said. “Our blocking [placement and movement of characters and props] was simple, but more effective, and we knew how to get into character while being less nervous.”