Doing your best is a process of trying to do your best.
Townes Van Zandt
This was the question I would ask myself often as an actor: Are you doing the best you can? The rehearsal period is a confusing and frustrating time for every one. It is particularly frustrating to watch, which is probably why so many directors get cranky. A good director has to recognize process and development when he can't see results.
For the actor the frustrations are myriad. Early on there is getting to know the play and the other actors and how they work, if you don't know them. If one is lucky to have enough table time to discuss the play and hear everyone's thoughts, that process can have long lasting and important results.
Then comes the staging part where one gets to move around and be placed by the director. This is also the period of learning the lines and that has a built in frustration. If you learn 8 pages after the rehearsal one evening, you may know them cold when you go to sleep. But when you wake up the next mooring they're gone. The brain has tucked them away in some hidden chamber and you have to start doing something that resemble relearning them. But it doesn't take long. Pretty soon they reappear. I always liked to know my lines as soon as possible, it's very frustrating to try to develop the play and find the character while holding a script. Some actors don't put the script down until the last minute which is very frustrating for the other actors.
Later in rehearsal is when the details, dynamics and subtleties of the production are worked out. It is frustrating because it requires constant repetition. Sometimes theatre patrons will ask if they can come and watch rehearsals. They think they are going to see a performance in the rough, but what they see is a rhearsal in the rough. They generally leave after half an hour or so.
The tech rehearsal comes close to the performance night. The actors run through the play, but they have to stop frequently while a light is refocused, a costume is adjusted, the phone bell has to be rewired, the glass is changed to a mug, etc. If one is lucky the tech rehearsal only lasts one night. Then comes a dress rehearsal where everything is finished and working properly, one hopes. After that comes opening night.
All the way through this process I keep asking myself if I'm doing my best, my best for the play and the director, my best for the other players and most of all am I doing my particular best.
Even after opening when the play is running I still look for ways that I can be better. Not to remove anything from the production or add anything, but to perform my role with as much color, energy, depth and honesty as I can.
In the arts, settling is not doing one's best.
DB - Vagabond Journeys