Theater Info for Maryland

Can You Be Too Ready?

By • Jun 6th, 2012 • Category: An Actor's Advice

I always teach being prepared. Paying attention during rehearsal. Working on speeches in your own time. Even running scenes with scene partners in your spare time to give you that extra edge during your next rehearsal. All of it is good advice that I follow myself.

Yet can an actor practice or rehearse too much or with too great an intensity? The answer is yes.

Everyone needs to rehearse a performance many times in order to get it right. To add the extra special personal touch, the script must become nearly automatic. To be most aware of potential mistakes one has to run through the scenes over and over away from an audience so those mistakes can be ironed out as best as possible. It’s exhausting but necessary labor.

Yet like any labor, when rehearsal begins to work against the goal of improving a performance and/or a production, it is being overdone, and should be altered. 

Your creative mind needs room to breath. To paraphrase Shakespeare, your soul must hath elbow room. If your blocking, lines, motivations and performance are pounded into your head day in and day out with little to no respite from them, you will begin to crowd out any creative juices that might otherwise begin to flow. Before long you will begin to resent your role and your responsibilities. You burn yourself out on them, and find yourself numb and unable to grasp them, which can lead to poor performances. Even worse, it could lead you to apathy about the play and your role, which can lead to even worse consequences.

Think of rehearsing at any point like a couples dance. There is always a leader. But he leads during the dance, as opposed to doing everything. He does not hold the dead weight of his limp partner and drag them across the floor with him through every step. Not only would that be exhausting and not at all pleasurable, it would be dangerous. The same is true with rehearsals. Rehearsals lead the dance, but you must follow. You must make the steps, and guide part of the proceedings as well. Throwing yourself into rehearsal with your eyes closed and beating yourself into the play until you are half-conscious serves nothing. (Except those with a theatrical martyrdom complex of some kind.)

You must both give and take. Teach and learn. Trial and error. Some days you must be able to discern when a problem will have to wait for another day, and take a step back from it and just go through the motions of rehearsal.

And of course, there will be many other days before you open. And when you do open, if you remember to put in as much as you take out each day leading up to opening night, you will be ready. As with so many other things, balance is all important. Don’t shirk rehearsal, nor drown yourself in it.

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