As I said earlier, it’s been a long time since I’ve actually done any acting. There’s a lot that I’ve forgotten- mainly that it’s an art form that varies just as widely in style and form as visual art- and artists- do. Some directors like to do acting exercises before looking at the script and have you doing touch sound or physical movement for a long while before you address the play itself. Some directors don’t even want to look at you until you’ve learned all your lines and know the play inside out. Some directors throw stuff at you so crazy that it might seem completely unrelated to the work of producing a play. And there’s no way to know what you’re getting when you audition.
Perhaps that is why as an actor I have a deeply rooted need to please the director. I’m reading every facial expression, watching every movement, hanging on their words to try and figure out if what I’m doing is “right”. It’s a reflex, something I don’t do consciously but which dictates almost all of my reactions in rehearsal. And I was reminded of that tonight.
My director seems like a pretty grounded guy so far. We started off reading the script and last night jumped right into blocking. Blocking, for those of you not versed in theatrical lingo, is figuring out where the actors need to stand, when they need to sit, what props they need to position themselves near and what lines they’ll be saying as they do. So last night we walked around the fold-up chairs as if they were the sofas or tables that would eventually be there and figured out where we’d need to move throughout the scene. We read our lines but the focus was on the physicality.
Having only read the play once and wanting to better understand my character I was full of questions about why she was acting this way or responding by saying this and therefore had a really hard time clamping my tongue down to keep from asking him. He did a lot of thinking- looking at us as we stood there and trying to figure out where he wanted us. I interrupted his train of thought a few times with “Should I start from my line…?” or by starting to read again when his cogs were still turning. He had to stop and explain that this is how he works, we’d get to the character later. And I- in classic Bev style- was over-apologizing for interrupting the process of a man that I’ve never worked with before and therefore had no way of knowing I was interrupting. And just like in karate, my colleagues are already teasing me about it.
I now have a pretty good idea of where I need to go and when but my mind is buzzing with all those questions I didn’t get to ask yet. My next task is to learn all my lines so that the next time I go in there I’m ready to tweak the delivery and actually interact with the other actors instead of looking down at my script. The rehearsal schedule itself tells me that this process is going to pick up steam really quickly starting next month so I better get ready. It’s gonna be a hell of a ride.