This week’s rehearsal was… interesting… Well, let’s just say that our actors found out what it’s like when their fellow actors don’t know their lines. Normally I would sugar coat this a little bit more and write a blog about memorization techniques, but I’ve already written that blog. So instead, I’m going to give you the truth – this week’s rehearsal was painful.
However, there were some bright spots. Certain actresses knew their lines and should be role models for everyone else. Lady Merle and her Ladies knew their lines, as did Maid Marian, Bridget, and Annabel, as well as the Sheriff’s Wife and Daughters. Thank you to those of you who were on it. There were a few others who seemed to know what was going on – thank you if you were one of them.
Now, let’s put that behind us, and focus on the positive, shall we? With all the time that we’ve had to get this show ready I think this is the first time in years that we’ve been able to do character work with every single actor. That’s pretty amazing with a cast of 79. Now is the time to start putting that work together with the lines, blocking, and choreography.
What do I mean by that? Most professional actors will tell you that a lot of work goes into each performance. Most professional actors do prep work when they get a role and put notes in the script about their characters’ motivations and objectives (what they want and why), as well as things like beats (natural pauses), memories, relationships, and back stories.
Let’s say that I’m playing a villager in this musical and I have my one line, plus various ad-libs throughout the play. My villager (and I’m making all of this up in an effort to not take an existing character) is named Gwendolyn and she is a cobbler (shoe maker). My line is, “The Sheriff is the one robbing us blind.” (Again, that line is not in the script, I’m making this all up.) From that line I know that I have very little money. Because I’m a cobbler I know that I work with my hands and with leather from animals. Perhaps I can no longer afford to buy the leather I need from the tanner (someone who prepares the leather). I’m now going to have to take the cow I own and use it to create the leather I need to make shoes, which will mean less milk for my family. Of course, in order to sell shoes, someone has to buy them from me and money is scarce all around. So at the fair, when I see the golden arrow, I day dream about what it would be like to win the archery contest and the arrow, but I know that I would never actually win, so instead, I want Robin Hood (well, Cedric) to win. That way, at least the Sheriff’s man doesn’t win the golden arrow. My character is invested in the archery contest for this reason. That is why Gwendolyn pays attention, and why she cheers and boos when she does. This is also why she decides to join Robin’s merry band. She can repair his shoes in exchange for food and shelter, while sticking it to the Sheriff.
Now this is just a small piece of the work that many actors do to prepare for their roles. You may think that you don’t need to do any of this work because you have a small part, or because acting comes easily to you, but none of that matters. A true actor knows his character inside and out and has a reason behind all of the actions that a character chooses to take or not take – even though the actor is not the one who wrote the script.
So, I challenge you. As you continue to memorize your lines (and re-memorize them), review you lyrics, blocking, and choreography, take a minute to figure out why your character is doing or saying something. You can’t use the excuse that “that’s what it says in the script” or “Cindy/Debbi/Lisa/Jane told me to do it this way.” See what you come up with. Giving your character purpose is extremely rewarding and will make your performance that much more believable.
See you Saturday,