Saturday, July 25, 2009

Good Guidance 7/25/09

You cannot prepare enough for anything.

James Galway
Batter up.
One of the most annoying and disruptive things for an actor is to go on stage and try to work with another actor who is not properly prepared. Some beginning and amateur actors think that if they are dramatic and try real hard the role will take over and play itself, that the inspiration will come. That is total nonsense. Without the necessary preparation an actor will forget lines, miss cues, mispronounce things and be in the wrong place. Inexperienced actors simply don't know how difficult it is to prepare for a role and how many hours of work it takes. It can't be done just in rehearsal. I think of rehearsal as a daily test to find out if my homework was done. The lines have to be known so well that you don't have yo think of them. The story has to be known just as well. Nothing happens automatically. Yes, sometimes the role takes over and plays itself, but that only happens to serious, professional actors who know the role so well they can get out of the way and let it happen, Everything has to be rehearsed, on the stage, at home, with the script, in your head, walking down the street. It's not unusual for an actor in a major role to go into that role a hundred times or more before going into performance.

In my whole career I only had two major fights with a director. One of them was about preparation. It was a 2 character play. I had the role of a bartender. A girl comes into the bar and orders a lemonade. In the course of the play she has two of them. He makes them from scratch, slicing the lemon, squeezing the juice into a container, filling the glass with ice, dumping the ice, filling the glass with water and sugar, mixing them, pouring in the lemon juice, stirring and placing it on the bar in front of her. This business had to be carefully done because the lemonade would be placed at a very specific moment in the play. Meanwhile the dialogue between the two of us was going on.

The director would never let me rehearse the lemonade making. She kept saying we would do it later. Finally we got to dress rehearsal and I said I couldn't do a dress rehearsal without knowing the lemonade business. She said "We don't have time for that." We don't have time to rehearse the play, in other words.

So I sat there for the half hour before the dress rehearsal going through the business in my head, deciding when to cut the lemons, at what point the ice went in the glass, on what line I had to put in the sugar, and so on. I ran it over and over in my head. And when the rehearsal came I did it just right. She came backstage after it and was in a rage. "What happened? You lost all the contact you had with her yesterday. What the hell were you thinking about?" "What do you think I was thinking about? I was learning the business. Business must be rehearsed." And the fight was on.

When you see a play, a film or a TV show and there is activity going on know that it has been carefully worked out and rehearsed. Nobody makes it happen by pushing a button. If there is a fight scene on stage, there is a fight rehearsal before every performance.

I was hired to coach some people who were readers in an episcopal church. Those are the people who read from scripture during the service. I began with a roomful of people who had decided that it wasn't right to prepare because thy didn't want to interfere with the holy spirit and it's inspiration. I showed them that if they didn't prepare their normal human propensities for making mistakes would get in the way of the holy spirit. To err is human.

It is said the President Kennedy used to prepare for his news conferences by having his staff ask him the most embarrassing and difficult questions they could think of. Like a batter on deck swinging three bats to warm up.

Things may go right the first time. But I have seen too many awful things happen to people who tried to do something for which they were not prepared.

DB - Vagabond Journeys
A joyful weekend is here.


Big Mark 243 said...

It is a simple equation ... the 5 P's: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.

You have to eliminate the chance for something random occuring in all things. It always seems to be that whatever you take for granted, will be where you make the first and usually the biggest mistake.

Never assume that what you hope for will happen, if you don't prepare for it first.

Ally Lifewithally said...

I never realised the hard work that must go into acting ~ I remember doing plays when I was at school and I hated having to learn the lines :o) ~ it was like a punishment to me ~ Ally x

Dannelle said...

Can you imagine what would happen if a chef didn't practice a new recipe first before giving it to a customer- Life isn't Iron Chef! You had to concentrate on the lemonade instead of the girl- bad choice, director! But I bet your timing was perfect! I love Big Marks 5 ps!

a corgi said...

Mark's 5 P's are great!! they need to be a motto for a lot of acting classes, I do believe

I would think it would be essential to practice something like making lemonade as part of rehearsing a play. It had to come natural to you on how to prepare it, like it would come natural to a bartender employed in that field. I can't imagine why the director wouldn't think this was essential....


Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Methinks that Kennedy was the model for modern day debate preparations. You cannot do much without proper preparation.

Bonnie Bonsai said...

Preparation is application in everything. No matter how smart and clever a person is. Ah ...they think acting is Easy because the actors need no university degree. If only we knew.

Bonnie Bonsai said...

typo- sorry - applicable instead of application. See, I did not practice my typing. To err I am human. ;)

Gerry said...

I have seen too many awful things happen too, like in college we were rehearsing a 3 act play called The Silver Cord, a melodrama which none of us liked too well, so we put off memorizing, goofed off in practice, and then experienced the nightmare of having to make up the play as we went along as nobody knew anything. Total nightmare and lesson learned! Gerry