Mastering Stage Presence: How to Present to Any Audience

Rated 2 out of 5 by from Excruciatingly boring As a beginning actor, I wanted to like this course, I really did. But I just couldn't! It contained nothing - not a single thing - that caught my attention. I tried several times, and was bored out of my wits every time. After listening to a half dozen of the lectures, I just can't force myself finish this course. I'm very disappointed, because I need a class that delivers what this one promised. But this one is a waste of time and money.
Date published: 2017-10-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Love the material. Hate the download. I bought several courses during a recent sale. Took me two days to download all 130 tracks. Too much of a pain, too much effort. Done buying until downloading changes.
Date published: 2017-10-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly Satisfied I am very pleased with the Mastering Stage Presence DVD course. I discovered this program advertised in Success magazine, and it immediately piqued my interest; I recently joined a Toastmasters International Club to improve my communication skills. This course was being offered at a terrific discounted price, so I did not hesitate to take advantage of the offer. The majority of the lectures I've watched (8 of 24), do apply to acting, however as clearly detailed in the advertisement, the content completely relates to the different aspects of communicating. Therefore, even if you don't plan to act, the knowledge you will glean from this well-done presentation is priceless, in my opinion. Ms. Long is very interesting and pleasant to listen to, and her exercises have been extremely helpful. I look forward to continuing with the rest of the dvds!
Date published: 2017-07-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A lifetime of tools for almost any situation This is a course that delivers far more than it promises. Modeling the art (and science) she addresses, Professor Long teaches skills that serve pretty much every situation and occasion. There's no place where it can't help to know more about presenting yourself well and confidently and with some style, and no, it's not artifice to do so. It's just bringing out your own natural capabilities. The course is fun and fascinating. Here's something I took away from the first lecture that's already changed much in my circumstances: "Focus on what you're doing, not how well you're doing it." Cool stuff!
Date published: 2017-06-25
Rated 1 out of 5 by from disappointing This course was advertised as a public speaking class and it was really an acting class. Not what I was looking for.
Date published: 2017-05-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Mostly for Actors Mostly for Actors Although the title bills this course as presenting to any audience, it is taught by Melanie Long, a director and drama coach, and is predominantly oriented toward actors. There is also some spin-off for public speakers, which had been my interest. However, the clear emphasis is for actors. This is available only in video and deservedly so. In fact, it requires more attention than most Great Courses because there are exercises (e. g., breathing exercises and speaking exercises) that you need to devote your attention to in order to get true value from the course. This is not a course that you can play in the background while driving or doing chores. Acting topics include the performance triangle (mental focus, voice and speech, and body), building a character, using props, stage movement fundamentals, and auditioning. These have only tangential applications for public speakers. General topics include voice and speaking including exercises to improve each, and working the crowd. Other reviewers were critical of the instructor, Ms. Long, for her presentation style but I was not bothered by it. Rather I thought that she has a pleasing style and holds the student’s attention well. She communicates clearly. This course is useful primarily for those interested in acting although there is some spillover benefit for public speakers including teachers.
Date published: 2017-05-12
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Big Disappointment This is the only course I've returned because it was way below my expectations. The presenter is a pleasant lady but is not up to the task. The topics are just common-sense observations made into lessons by dragging out the dialog. She spends a half-hour speaking on what should take 5 minutes. Her references are all about herself and her experience, her family, her beliefs. No props, no examples by video or otherwise, only the lone speaker and some occasional silly exercises. After falling asleep watching Lesson 5, I spot-checked ahead and had to admit that this course is not worthwhile. The topic sounds helpful but as presented it isn't. If it were completely redone and shortened to a 12-lecture series with a more dynamic professor, perhaps someone could get some benefit out of it. Not i, not now.
Date published: 2016-09-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another great value and learning experience. This course methodically moves through all aspects of "how people view you and what you can do about it". There is no magic here, just useful, easy to absorb exercises and methods. There is the added benefit some of the content will improve your health.
Date published: 2016-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Super Useful and Comprehensive Skill Teaching I will buy ANY course this lady produces. She is beyond fantastic. The content is extremely useful for anyone who needs to speak in front of people. I am Advanced Gold at Toastmasters, and this course is taking me to a whole new level. One of the most useful and skill building courses I purchased. If she does any other course, like maybe "Understanding Dance and Ballet", I want to pre-order. Thanks to her, now I see live theater in a more understanding light.
Date published: 2016-07-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good for the mind.... and body! As someone who has to spend a lot of time in front of audiences, my hope was this course would contain at least a few fresh insights about stage presence that would improve my public speaking. At first glance, the course appeared too comprehensive and geared to actors, however with a little perseverance I soon discovered the course to be a trove of valuable information. In addition to exploring other elements of stagecraft, Prof. Long also focuses on the numerous small things that collectively give one "Stage Presence" as opposed to merely being on stage. This can be anything from posture, to gait, to breathing, to the use of voice, stretching etc. (It may be the only Great Course where one needs to be wearing loose clothing to appreciate its merits) Unlike other instructors, Prof. Long has what I would call a holistic approach to the subject. "Stage Presence" is not and should not be far removed from "Life Presence". Standing up straight, breathing correctly, speaking clearly and being relaxed are important traits that should not be reserved solely for the stage, everyone should master these vastly under appreciated life skills, regardless of motive. Having "Life Presence" is a reward in and of itself. Master "Life Presence" and one will find the heavy lifting of "Stage Presence" has already been done. A rather simple but powerful idea. Maybe not for everyone but overall, a unique, informative, fun Great Course.
Date published: 2016-01-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extraordinary Course! Worth every penny and more. I just finished the course. Mastering Stage Presence is about much more than just acting. It is about public speaking, about communicating effectively, about polishing your best self, about being a better person. The course is entertaining, dynamic, deep, and incredibly useful. It will teach you not only about perfecting your body, voice, and mind, but also about breathing and the voice, effective speech, preparing for the stage (even if it is an office meeting, a toast, a play, or a big speech), the mental side of presence, and so much more. A special word about the professor. Ms. Melanie Martin Long is a wonderful and spirited teacher! She is generous and kind. And what is more important, she truly leads by example on what exactly is that elusive quality of stage presence She needs to come back again to the Great Courses for another course. Hopefully "Advanced stage presence", but any other would be great! Thank you for this great course.
Date published: 2015-07-28
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Sadly, don't agree with the other glowing reviews I tried hard to get through this course, and spent about an hour and a half on the first few lectures. Really I did. But the pace was so slow and dull as to be painful. Really, how many times in the first hour does the audience need to be told that we're going to start, and now we're really going to start, and now we're really really going to start? Or, "you, audience, will be your "best self"? And yet again, "you'll be your best self." Or, "yes, this will seem awkward"? YES IT WAS AWKWARD AND PAINFUL!!! ( . . . but because of the professor's glacially slow style, not because of the content, which the professor draggggggggged out interminably. I kept wanting to reach into the screen and strangle her. Get on with it, already! Look, professor: your viewers already bought the darn course. They probably WANT to experience the material. The don't need to be persuaded that this stuff is likely to be helpful "in all walks of life, in meetings, in interviews, in presentations, in conversations with your family, butcher, baker, candlestick maker, bus driver, kitchen repairman, PTA leader, surfer dude, boss, ATT Tech Support guy, annoying brother-in-law, Aunt Bertha, Grandpa Cylde, random strangers, Captain Ahab, Wavy Gravy, etc etc etc etc" (at that point think I fell asleep and lost count of all the myriad folks who might now see me as a Churchillian wonder). Really, Great Courses and Professor, don't you know about how TED Talks work? Short, engaging, pointed? Normally, I am wildly enthusiastic about nearly every Great Course I've taken (and I've taken 20 or 30 SENSATIONAL courses from these terrific folks). This is not one of them. Sadly.
Date published: 2015-05-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous! I'd recommend this to anyone! I thoroughly enjoyed each of the 24 lectures. I know I'll go back to them again and again.
Date published: 2015-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the Best Great Courses I've Taken This course will help anyone who wants to develop their ability to perform for and communicate with an audience, whether in a theatrical or a business setting. Professor Long has an engaging, supportive teaching style and she consistently relates the skills and techniques she presents to a variety of speaking situations, from acting in a play to chairing a meeting or making a speech. I've taken speaking/presentation courses before, but this the best hands-down. It's also one of the best Great Courses I've taken: the content is highly focused, useful and interactive and Professor Long delivers it in a warm and approachable way.
Date published: 2015-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great practical info Love this professor's ability to connect with students and make them feel comfortable. This is helping my high school boys learn skills that will help them beyond their theatre class. Great content. Well-organized and presented. Thank you!
Date published: 2015-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My favorite so far - out of my 72 Great Courses! I bought this course because I am changing employers after almost 20 years. I want to convey a certain impression when I start my new position, and that's essentially acting a certain way through voice, body movements, mannerisms, etc. I should mention that I am an engineer not an actor. While this course did focus on actors, I feel at least 90% of it is applicable to everyone regardless of profession. Even though there's a lot of material covered, I feel it's just an introduction to get you started on various techniques. For example, the Alexander Technique takes years to learn properly. But I believe the instructor has taken this into account based on her selections for "Suggested Reading". There is a wide variety of books, articles, a speech, a TED talk, websites, and even a movie. You could spend a whole year going through it all. I chose the subjects I was interested in and delved into them as I felt necessary, which I am still in the process of doing. What was most useful to me was the following: Body language and mannerisms that will help me project the image I want to convey (as well as those to avoid), techniques to improve upon clear speech and public speaking, and tips on posture and keeping tension out of the body. I also liked how Professor Long points out that none of the mannerisms, etc. that she talks about are necessarily bad. It's just a question of whether you chose to use them or not. One interesting question that arises is if you like the habitual pitch of your voice. I don't think I would ever change mine, but I like knowing that, if I really wanted to, I could resonate my voice in a different area of my body and end up sounding like Kathleen Turner. ;-) And overall it was great fun. Try as I might, I have never been able to get into plays and performances. It's just not my thing. Never in a million years did I think I would be reciting Shakespeare in a booming voice in my living room, let alone be enjoying it. Admittedly, I did feel silly at first but that only lasted for a few lectures. The course is peppered with interesting facts. Stages used to be slanted downwards into the audience, and that was how the terms "upstage" and "downstage" originated. Peter Piper (from the tongue twister) was a spice smuggler (spices used to be referred to as peppers). As an added bonus, several selections from Suggested Reading were able to help me out with recovery from reconstructive surgery on my leg. The body is a system - when one piece is effected, other parts tend to compensate. They helped me identify mannerisms that I had developed to compensate for my limping and identify ways to remedy the situation. Then I was able to choose a physical therapist who was knowledgeable in these areas and skilled in their application. My course guidebook is full of post-its, highlighting, and notes. Just a wealth of information. Professor Long did an outstanding job putting it all together and presenting in a clear, logical sequence that was just so much fun. Would love to see The Great Courses offer courses that expand on several of the techniques covered such as The Alexander Technique, Hellerwork, or Feldenkrais. A lot of us end up slumping over a computer all day, so an entire course devoted to each of those ideas would be extremely helpful. Yoga For a Healthy Mind and Body is a great start.
Date published: 2015-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great for Singers and Actors I sing in a comedy barbershop quartet, and have for years, and I love performing comedy. One of the members of the group has crippling stage fright, so I bought this course hoping to discover something that would help her. I was impressed by the instructor as well as the material. I find that the information is helpful for singers as well as actors, because performing requires similar skills. I now use the DVD in helping another friend learn to sing. Now, if only it will help me get over my dislike of public speaking!
Date published: 2015-02-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Speech Lessons A course designed for actors but has relevance for anyone who presents. Lots of emphasis on speech exercises that I didn't find helpful. Would have liked to see more emphasis on public speaking techniques.
Date published: 2015-02-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Course is about acting not public speaking Based on the title of the course, I listened to the first 6 lectures and lecture 22 on stage fright. This course is about acting not public speaking. As such I returned the course. In all fairness to the professor, this is an excellent course if your main goal is acting. To apply it to public speaking requires too much extrapolation. The teacher is well informed, easy to listen to and has excellent suggestions. The course is also very thorough in all aspects of self awareness for stage presence. In any case, I simply wrote this review to inform TC students to buy the course if you are interested in acting. If that is your goal, you will not be disappointed.
Date published: 2015-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Great Courses DVD so far This course has been extremely helpful for me! I wish I had studied this course early in my career. The course is interactive, and the recommended body and vocal exercises are extremely helpful. Assistant Professor Long explains that, although a few gifted people naturally do all the right things in public speaking, most of us can hone our skills by becoming acquainted with modern acting technique. She is winsome, articulate, and convincing as she demonstrates how the public speaker can remain focused on his or her purpose, not on how well presentation is going. She explains techniques for better understanding oneself and one's audience to maximize communication. She helps public speakers minimize unconscious, distracting habits. She convincingly addresses stage fright--a topic that everyone must face sooner or later. Her enthusiasm and passion for her work are absolutely contagious! Assistant Professor Long exemplifies the techniques she recommends. I had no idea how useful this course would be. I will look for additional Great Courses DVDs of this superb quality on public speaking.
Date published: 2015-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating, Original Course This course is not really about acting so much as presentation or performance or delivery, which is a much larger category that includes acting but also includes teaching, public speaking, and so on. Professor Long concentrates on the elements that they all have in common, such as body and voice awareness and control She does so through a combination of lecturing, and physical and vocal exercises which seem a little silly at first (I must admit) but are obviously designed to loosen the student's inhibitions. I had never really thought about it until she pointed it out, but of course the conference room or the class room are like theaters! I had also heard the various personas we are called on to adopt every day was "wearing different hats", but had never heard anyone suggest that they are actually like different theatrical roles that can be understood and prepared for just like any actor. She presents these ideas in a relaxed, not particularly "theatrical" way that made them more generally applicable and less intimidating. On the whole I would say this is an extremely useful class for anyone interested in polishing their business/social skills.
Date published: 2015-01-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from How to Present to any audience The title of this course is confusing. It teaches you more about acting than to present speeches at any audience. I should've waited for reviews before I bought this.
Date published: 2015-01-13
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Mastering Stage Presence: How to Present to Any Audience
Course Trailer
The Performance Triangle
1: The Performance Triangle

Consider how people learn stage presence-a process of cultivating self-awareness and practical skills in an environment of trust and support. Begin with the three building blocks of performance technique: a "triangle" formed by mental focus, your physical life, and your speaking voice. Create a safe and comfortable physical space for the work you'll do.

31 min
Modern Acting Technique
2: Modern Acting Technique

Discover how modern acting technique is built around a commitment to enact a specific purpose onstage. Then explore two psychological approaches to performance: performance from the "inside out" and performance from the "outside in." Begin to look at ways to find purpose in dramatic material, and also as it applies to public speaking and presenting.

30 min
Building a Character
3: Building a Character

Now learn an effective system for clarifying and connecting with your purpose onstage, or in front of any audience. Using the characters of Blanche and Stanley from Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire, explore acting teacher Uta Hagen's "Nine Questions," which elucidate a character's identity, given circumstances, and motivations.

32 min
Analyzing Backstory and Motivation
4: Analyzing Backstory and Motivation

Continuing with the Nine Questions, learn how a dramatic character's circumstances affect their behavior, and how actors use a character's obstacles and tactics to overcome them in pursuing the character's purpose onstage. Then, see how to use the Nine Questions in public speaking, using the example of a famous speech by Barbara Bush.

31 min
Identifying Your Unconscious Habits
5: Identifying Your Unconscious Habits

The "habitual self" is the complex of physical and vocal habits that we adopt as a response to our life experience. Through the stages of life, observe how human beings develop habitual physical patterns that may be limiting, and how awareness of these patterns serves freedom of expression and the needs of performance.

31 min
Recovering Your Natural Alignment
6: Recovering Your Natural Alignment

Learn the principles of the Alexander Technique, a system of movement training designed to achieve natural physical alignment and freedom from unnecessary tension. Explore the relationship between the head, neck, and spine, and practice a series of exercises to bring awareness and freedom to basic movements such as sitting and standing.

28 min
The Body Balanced at Rest
7: The Body Balanced at Rest

In this course, "balance" is a state of equilibrium produced by an even distribution of weight, through which we can direct our energy in the most effective ways. Begin to balance the body in a lying position, practicing small movements that create release in the connective tissue of the shoulders, hips, and joints.

31 min
The Body Balanced in Motion
8: The Body Balanced in Motion

Beginning with a physical warm-up to bring freedom to the joints, experiment with vertical, horizontal, lateral, and sagittal planes of movement, and how using all the planes in performance gives visual and emotional variety. Find ways of moving through space with balance and freedom, and observe how ways of moving affect and evoke emotional states.

28 min
Intent, Purpose, and Character
9: Intent, Purpose, and Character

Learn about the work of movement pioneer Rudolph Laban, who created a system for understanding and notating qualities of movement. Explore eight fundamental movement types, which describe the range of direct and indirect forms of movement we use in daily living, and consider how we can shape our physical movements to tell stories.

33 min
Playing Status Relationships
10: Playing Status Relationships

How do our movements and gestures communicate our purpose? Study how our interactions with others are governed by our status or power position within the relationship. In life and onstage, observe how we "play" status with others through specific physical tactics, stances, and gestures that convey our intentions and further our objectives.

30 min
Stage Movement Savvy
11: Stage Movement Savvy

Discover the physical techniques that stage performers use to direct the audience's focus and maintain visual interest. Learn how to take and give focus onstage, using body position and orientation, as well as movement and stillness. Learn also to create visual variety through stage geometry, as well as the use of physical planes, balance, and rhythm.

31 min
The Glorious Human Voice
12: The Glorious Human Voice

In this first session on vocal technique, take a tour of the physical mechanisms of sound and speech. Practice free and expansive breathing, and experiment with the principles of phonation (sound production) and resonation (sound amplification). Conclude by exploring articulation-how speech shapes sound into words.

31 min
Accessing the Breath
13: Accessing the Breath

Continue with an extended session on breath, the source of sound. Begin with a full-body warm-up to release any physical tension that may obstruct sound production. In a neutral, lying position, practice free, clear breathing, using deep, natural breath to connect with the voice and to access vocal power without creating tension.

34 min
Your Vocal Energy
14: Your Vocal Energy

Building on our previous breath work, experiment with the range of your vocal potential, letting go of any preconceived notion of how you should sound. Using text from the Prologue to Shakespeare's Henry V, invoke the element of play in exploring tone, sustained breathing, vocal variety, and free, spontaneous vocal expression.

33 min
Vocal Dynamics-Your Best Voice
15: Vocal Dynamics-Your Best Voice

What makes a voice expressive or lackluster, rich or strident? Explore the parameters of resonance (sound placement), pitch, and volume. Understand how they give your voice its overall quality, and experiment with altering them at will. Also delve into inflection and intonation, see how they convey meaning, and learn about vocal projection.

32 min
Clear, Energized Speech
16: Clear, Energized Speech

Now study the tools that make speech clear and energized. Consider how vowels carry the feeling behind words, and practice clearly pronouncing our language's 20 vowel sounds, including pure vowels and diphthongs. Continue with consonants, both plosives and continuants, building awareness of how consonants communicate meaning and create emphasis.

30 min
The Muscles of Speech
17: The Muscles of Speech

Here, exercise and strengthen the muscles we use in shaping words, an important practice for clear expression in both professional and everyday life. After warming up the breath and voice, work out your vocal articulators using combinations of consonants and vowel sounds, followed by practice phrases and tongue twisters for enunciation and clarity.

32 min
Vocal Color-Pacing and Phrasing
18: Vocal Color-Pacing and Phrasing

Learn to keep your audience engaged using the rhythms of speech. Begin by studying pace, how vocal pace affects listeners, and how variety of pace aids clarity and communication. Then learn about phrasing-how you group words and punctuate your speech with pauses-and ways to improve phrasing and change limiting speech habits.

29 min
Accents and Dialects
19: Accents and Dialects

As performers or public speakers, we may at times need to either acquire or reduce a dialect or accent. Study the process of adopting a new way of speaking: learn to place your voice where it needs to resonate, incorporate new ways of shaping sounds, and find the intonation and rhythm of the new speech pattern.

29 min
Acing the Audition
20: Acing the Audition

The principles of auditioning in the theatre apply equally to interviews of any kind. Learn a comprehensive approach to presenting yourself in high-stakes settings. Study each phase of the process, from entering the room and introducing yourself to doing your audition or interview, the moments after, and your exit.

28 min
Preparing for the Performance
21: Preparing for the Performance

Building on all the work you've done, this lecture takes you through the rehearsal process step by step. For both stage performance and public speaking, begin with hands-on exploration and practice of your material in small sections, moving gradually to run-throughs and final dress rehearsals, approximating your performance conditions as completely as possible.

29 min
Using Stage Fright Energy
22: Using Stage Fright Energy

Look closely into the phenomenon of nervous energy or stage fright. Study key principles of mental focus for performing at your best, such as putting your performance experience in perspective, subduing self-judgment, using mental images of success, focusing on your partner or audience, and pinpointing specific fears.

28 min
Working the Crowd with Confidence
23: Working the Crowd with Confidence

Connecting with your audience and holding their attention is essential to an effective performance or presentation. Here, grasp three strategies for sustaining attention: learn to claim your power and set the scene; keep your structure, language, and movement simple; and engage your viewers from start to finish through variety and creativity.

29 min
Stage Presence-A Way of Life
24: Stage Presence-A Way of Life

Conclude by contemplating what great performers do, and how presence can be a way of life. Consider how master performers engage and question the world by reflecting what they see, telling the truth, taking risks, transforming what they receive from others into something new, and finding what gives them the greatest joy.

32 min
Melanie M. Long

You can share your experiences with other people and you can do it with passion and clarity-with joy, even-because what you say and how you say it is a powerful expression of who you are and what you believe.


University of Minnesota


Kennesaw State University

About Melanie M. Long

Professor Melanie Martin Long is a professional theatre director, private performance coach, and part-time Assistant Professor of Acting and Directing. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of The College of William & Mary in Theatre and English, Professor Long holds a certificate from the Alliance Theatre Acting Program in Atlanta and a Master of Fine Arts in Directing from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. She completed further theatrical studies as a Dunn Peace Research Scholar to South Africa and as an assistant director to Joe Dowling at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.

Professor Long has directed productions ranging from classics such as Hamlet, The Tempest, and A Midsummer Night's Dream, to her original adaptation of the Gabriel Garcia Marquez short story A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings for the Lincoin Center Theater Directors Lab. As a performer, Professor Long has appeared on various Atlanta stages, including the Alliance Theatre, Theatrical Outfit, and Theatre Gael.

Professor Long's publications include two annotations of Shakespeare (The Tempest and Julius Caesar) for Teacher's Discovery and the book and lyrics for The Frog Prince with composer James Woodward.

Professor Long has received numerous awards, including the Ken Bryant Outstanding Directing Award, three Lotta M. Crabtree Theatrical Trust Awards, and multiple Certificates of Merit for directing from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.

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