Theater Info for Maryland

Your Private Production Journal

By • Feb 1st, 2012 • Category: An Actor's Advice

My blog, Always Off Book, is among other things a chronicle of my experiences when in a play. During times I am in a show I like to document how rehearsal went, what the next step in the production is, and what my problem areas are at any given moment. My goals, theories, and interpretations of scenes, as well as some of the adventures with me and my cast mates also show up on the blog. It’s my hope that by reading about how I am doing and what I am going through as an actor, other people that are in all sorts of stages in their acting careers will benefit.

I myself also benefit from writing in my blog. Yet in addition to the blog I have sometimes kept private production journals, for my eyes only. In these, I can be a little more personal, I don’t have to be as specific, and overall feel free to speak about how the production, my character, the director, or any other aspect of theatre is making me feel during a show. It is an excellent exercise that I would encourage all actors to experiment with in some way or the other.

So often actors become their own worst enemies. Whether it be insecurity, a creative block, or the simple fear of the unknown, we often get in our own way as we journey towards an exquisite performance. Naturally we can talk to our fellow actors, to our director, or, if you like to talk, to anybody who will listen, and get some relief as well. Yet private journaling, whether for theatre or for everyday life, offers something that talking even to our closest confidants cannot. It offers the chance say absolutely anything we want to say about the show, without the slightest judgement. We may be feeling something deep inside ourselves about our director, but until the words appear before us, readable on the page or screen, we never quite have to deal with them. By journaling we can get our feelings out-of-the-way of our creativity.

For those reluctant to experiment with this idea, do keep in mind that such journals need not be sources of some life altering catharsis. Nor need they be soft, tearful poems we write to our own soul. If that is what you enjoy, by all means write this way, but production journals can also be more utilitarian than that. By bringing out in words what is weighing on us internally, the issue loses some of its hold on us. From that point, we can begin to solve a problem and make more room for enhancing our performance. Even if you only write “today my dance went well” or “today my dance went poorly,” that is at least something to which you can refer later while trying to improve.

Which in the end is what the production journal is about for the actor. Making it better. Few things give me a shot of confidence in how far I have come more than going back to some of my private production journals from five years ago, and reading up on what I found difficult back then. Especially when I realize that I no longer find such things difficult. It gives a visual to how far I have come in certain areas of my acting. 

And of course an old production journal about a positive, uplifting experience from your past serves to remind you, should you forget, of just how rewarding this theatre thing can be. How much the challenge helps us evolve, and how much the right people at the right time can make a difference to the right audience. Every actor could use a reminder of that at any given time. And though somebody else can do it, nobody can do it quite like your own younger self can.

So the next time you’re in a show, open up a Word file, or lay down two bucks for a blank journal, and start writing away.

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