The Good and The Bad in Acting

Yesterday was my first day off from a rehearsal or performance in 16 straight days. It’s certainly not the longest stint I’ve ever done, and the recent rehearsals could have been more grueling, but last night felt like a good break. A rest I really needed. I’ve another night off before returning to the final few performances of my current show.

As I’ve written here, and talked about with people, this show didn’t have the typical rehearsal process because it was rather short for a full length play. When we opened, I was bit nervous and apprehensive about its cohesiveness, and so I described it as being put together with spit and old tape. Initially our houses were dismally small, and then one night the ultimate in audience disappointment happened – no one showed up. I’ve heard of that happening, but I had been fortunate to never be a part of it. It was an awful feeling. The fact that I was feeling exhausted in the middle of this marathon, only added to the experience and made me rather crabby.

But we persevered.

The following night we had a small crowd and after that an even larger group, which pumped the energy up in a whole new way. It felt like a real show, and we were thrilled.

What I was noticing though, throughout, was a slight inconsistency in my work. (I saw it others too, to some extent, but I’ll mind my own business and really I don’t think theirs was noticeable.) Occasionally I would discover new  thoughts and realizations (this is good) and find I would say something completely differently or say the line completely wrong (this is bad) even if with the same intention.

This past Sunday’s matinee, during the second act, was particularly bad for me. I was all over the place, using wrong words, rewriting lines and completely unable to stay focused and concentrated on the work. It was more like a rehearsal, and a bad one at that.

The more it happened……

the more I noticed it…..

so the more it happened….

the more I wondered who else noticed it….

And just like that, my mind was all over the place.

I felt awful about it. And I felt worse when I noticed during curtain call that a very good friend was in the audience – someone with whom I’ve worked a lot and have known for years and totally knows me as an actor and I’m sure…noticed. Turns out two other good friends were there too.

Why did this happen? What’s wrong with me? I was starting to really wonder if I’m losing my skills (seems rather unlikely) or have some kind of health issue I’m not aware of, or what.

I wasn’t having this problem in the show I did earlier this year (in fact quite the opposite,) nor in the other work that I’ve been rehearsing, nor in any of the other small projects I’ve worked on recently.

I could only surmise that it’s the spit and old tape.

Part of the acting process involves discovering, developing and defining the minutia of every aspect of a character and his goals and objectives. This is all done in the rehearsal process (or primarily) and it gets ingrained, and those objectives and points-of-view become inherent and embodied, and as an actor you don’t have to think about them in the same way when you get to performing.

None of this is to say that there still isn’t development and growth and learning, etc. There is. It’s just different.

I think I’ve concluded that I didn’t complete all that process and I’ve tried to make the leap to a point where I don’t have to think about those things in that way. I think we rushed it, or I did. It’s not even perhaps that we needed more time, it’s that we needed to have used…or I needed to have used the rehearsal time differently.

After that awful performance (awful is my word – my friend said he noticed there were a few moments where “something didn’t seem quite right“) …but after that show is when I realized all this. It wasn’t really a lack of knowledge of the words, or confidence, but it wasn’t ingrained. It wasn’t in my bones. I couldn’t just trust that I knew what was going on. And it makes me think that overall, not just on this one evening, my performance is probably not coming off as being of the quality to which I strive. I just may suck in this show.

At the following day’s performance I chose to work differently, with a different kind of concentration and focus, and it made a world of difference. I got through it much more effectively.

Of course, this doesn’t mean I still don’t suck.

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