May 5 – Tools of the trade
So we have attacked the text of the play we have been studying from all sorts of angles. The way we have learned to break down text so that you as an actor have a fighting chance of pulling out a good performance is as follows:
Read the play or script, a lot. Read through a few times just to read it, as an audience member, for enjoyment, whatever.
Then read the play and go through and pick out all the things said about your character by your character, by other characters, and by the author in the description. Things are are stated out plainly and things that are implied.
Research things. The author, the culture and history of the time period in which the play takes place, and in which the author lived at the time they wrote the play. You should also go through and find words you don’t know and learn how to pronounce them, learn what they mean. If there are names of people in the play that are real people, find out who they are, and try and learn why they were included by the author.
Look at all the relationships in the play. Who wants what from whom? and why? Who are you allied with? Who are you against? Who has power? Who doesn’t? And does the power shift?
Find the main conflict of the play, and the major turning points throughout. Look for changes in the dynamics and tactics of the characters, especially your own.
Then start looking at the scenes. What is the conflict of the scene? What does your character want and how do they go about getting it? Is this scene a private scene between characters or is it “public” among the other characters? Important to know since people behave differently in public and private. Yes, you have to pretend that a bunch of people aren’t watching you on stage for your private moments.
Then you have to start looking at the beats. Why am I saying this? What am I trying to get from the other character? How do I want them to react to what I’m saying? Is it working? Do I need to change tactics? What is my stake in this situation? What are my obstacles? Are there secrets that I have that other’s don’t know?
What about the physicality of the scenes? Why do you move to a certain place when you say this? Are you close, are you far away? Is your back turned, and how does that effect the dynamic and power plays between characters? The director will do a lot of this in blocking, but trying it on your own in rehearsal can be very enlightening. I found myself moving to one part of the stage, only to feel that it wasn’t right, or maybe tried sitting on a line or standing, to see if it had a different feel, a different emotional effect.
This is only some of the things to ask yourself, there are more, but these are the ones I could remember off the top of my head. You can spend, and should spend, a lot of time with this. If it seems overwhelming, it is. I’m overwhelmed. We are about to start our final scenes that we will present at the end of our nine month journey. We are to use all the things we’ve learned to help us. It’s a lot of stuff. I’m not sure I realized that until now.
I guess it’s good that we have a bunch of tools to use. Nothing is more annoying than trying to build something, fix something, put some IKEA furniture together and not having the right tools. The more tools, the more likely we will have what we need. So I will take the overwhelmed feeling I have now, and try and enjoy it.