Sometimes you read something that rings like a bell to your soul -- direct from the Source.
"At any age, rebellion can make us feel ostracized from the group, turning us into the so-called black sheep of our family or community. But the black sheep are the artists, visionaries and healers of our culture, because they are the ones willing to call into question those places which feel stale, obsolete, or without integrity. The black sheep stirs up the good kind of trouble. Her very life is a confrontation with all that has been assumed as tradition. Her being different serves to bring the family or group to consciousness where it has been living too long in the dark. As the idiom implies, she is the wayward one in the flock. Her life’s destiny is to stand apart. But paradoxically, it’s only when she honours that apartness that she finally fits in."
Read this article for more of the good stuff -- from Your Rebellion is Necessary by Toko-pa Turner.
Many of us tend to err on the side of being people pleasers. I don't have to explain this. If you are a "good girl" (perhaps not PC now but this was the jargon when I was growing up) you should care about what people think about you and you should work on making sure that you are doing all you can to make sure you are well-liked. A dear friend just yesterday told me a story about her father -- how he told her the most important thing was "to have people like you." So how then do we reconcile this with our other side, the wild side -- the personality trait of an artist/rebel?
Be wild and free, fellow theatre-makers. Break 'em! <3
Some actors get really annoyed by this question. And yes -- it is the most basic of elements in terms of what we as actors do to prepare for a role. But considering most normal folks don't even memorize phone numbers anymore -- when you think about memorizing 70+ pages of text -- it is a legit question! How do we do it? The real answer -- each of us has our own techniques. I am currently in the prep-phase for an upcoming show and I am looking down the pipeline of my 2019-2020 season and I have some biggies ahead of me this season! So this topic is on my mind...For real.
How I do it: I read the play multiple times a day when I am in memorization mode. Who has the time to do that? Well, you make the time. And yes, I read the whole play. Not just my lines. What I think maybe the average person doesn't consider is that I also have to memorize my cue (the lines my partner say before my lines begin -- so I know when to talk). We have a joke in the biz, "your line, your line, my line..." I hate this joke. And it is perhaps why some people have a hard time memorizing their lines. If you read the play many times you begin to see the underlying reasoning and logic in character's needs so the text is incredibly logical (most texts...lol). If someone asks you that particular question then of course your response would be ...your line. But that really does require active listening and getting inside the head of your character -- which gets us into whole other aspects of the craft...I digress...Simply: I read the play over and over. If I have monologues I work them over and over. Then --because very thankfully I married the perfect partner for me -- my husband holds book for me and corrects me word perfect. Put in the time...Many days/hours and cups of coffee later and viola! The words are in your head. Pro tip: I take a pencil and literally point to each word of my lines as I am reading to keep me from skimming over the text. I believe that is why some actors paraphrase. You read what your mind thinks is written on the page and then you memorize that. Once you have it - keep at it and place a clean white page over top your lines as you read to make sure you are not tempted to cheat! Read the cue and say your line. Checking to make sure you are word perfect. We try. We really try to get every syllable correct.
Sidebar: Don't learn your lines in the rhythm that you "think" you are going to say the line. It stumps you from being able to freely play with your scene partner. Just learn the text cold. This is a trap. Don't do it. And DON'T count how many lines you have. It is a waste of time -- you could be using that time to read the play. Nobody cares how may lines you have and if you do then you might not be doing this for the right reasons...just saying.
Other practices: There are loads of apps out on the market for this exact purpose. We Rehearse and Rehearsal Pro are all used pretty widely -- it is a matter of personal preference. I have heard other people who use Scene Partner but I don't even know if it is still on the market.
Old school: the philosophy sort of used to be that you would learn your text once you knew the blocking. The idea being that you could connect the text to where you are in time and space and that your muscle memory would help you cement the lines. I believe this is true. My personal practice (when all things are right with the universe) I like to hold my book so I can jot down my blocking the first day of blocking -- but I already know my text. Then by day 2 on those scenes I can be book-free and available to play with my scene partners. My style. Everyone is different. And sometimes I don't have the luxury to play this way --for whatever reasons --but it is the best way I have found to play.
I just watched this wild documentary on Netflix called Memory Games all about the US and World Championship for Memory...Very different than what we do but super interesting. They talk about memory vaults or memory castles and creating stories as a way to memorize abstract numbers or names... I can't even begin to imagine that this technique would be applicable for actors but who knows -- all of our brains operate differently.
One last note -- I personally continue to read the play even during the course of the run. I come to the theatre early and walk the stage and say the words. Most of the contracts I work are 8 show weeks. But for some theatres whose schedules are shorter work weeks they practice a brush-up rehearsal either mid-week or require you to come in early as a cast on the show night to begin the week with a speed-thru or walk thru of the lines...just so everyone's brains are clicking together.
How do you memorize your text? Would love to hear what works for you. <3
...I continue to take the road less traveled.
First off --not the beginning of my adventures in blogging but since I have not posted in OVER 4 YEARS and A LOT of shit has happened professionally and personally-- I am going to start at the top (and if you really give a damn you can go back at look at the archive).
This is harder than I remembered. I have written an entire piece and erased it already a couple of times now. Why? Well quite frankly I can't really write honestly about some of this jazz. What I really want to say -- I don't have the balls for just yet.
So you are an actor? yeah. We are out here. We are working. We exist. And you don't know recognize my face and I like it that way frankly. We consider this AS MAKING IT! We are not "waiting for our big break." We are DOING the work. I am a huge fan of Stephen McKinley Henderson (most folks wouldn't know his name either but you probably know his work). He was asked on the red carpet what advice he would give his 20 year old self. He said, "I would say THE WORK is enough. If you are doing it differently in Toledo than you are doing it on Broadway -- you don't deserve to do it either place." Words I truly live by.
I have often asked myself -- why isn't there a blog written about acting and the work BY regional theatre actors?And now as I sit here with my coffee and Nina Simone singing in the background, I am beginning to pick up a clear answer to that question. Nina tells me -- We are bound. We are bound in all kinds of ways. The politics of the industry. The politics of institutions. The politics of our community. And people seem to enjoy getting bent at all kinds of things these days - so I am bound to write something that royally pisses someone off... It's not all sunshine-glamour and glitter-rainbows out here for a player, friends. And those of us in the trenches know it. This is an unforgiving business even for those of us who are the lucky privileged few who work consistently enough for health care coverage. And those poor souls who are in purgatory in the audition-hell-circle-just-trying-to-book-a-gig...#bless. (1st insider tip -- an actor who works enough to get healthcare coverage year after year makes up a VERY small percent of our union members). From Actors Equity Association re: our coverage --In order to qualify, you must have at least 11 weeks of covered employment in any 12 calendar months “accumulation period” to qualify for 6 months of coverage. If you attain 19, or more, weeks of covered employment in an accumulation period, you may qualify for 12 months of coverage. This is rehearsal and performance weeks.
Dry as hell but grown up shit...That equals approx 3 shows a season for those counting. And while you can't read it on a program bio -- that is steep for most actors. The odds are not in our favor. There are only a few thousand contracts out there season to season and millions of actors in America. My hubs and I are proud to say we have been in that small quadrant of artists who have worked enough for consistent coverage for many years now. So we are working actors. I'm qualified to discuss this stuff. In a world where all have opinions, I am actually an expert witness with a track record to prove it. Why do I sound like a candidate running for office?
I will say this now. I am going to stay diligent and keep this bad boy up. I will discuss my work in the room. I will discuss my prep process. I will try to examine what is happening in American Theatre during the reign of the Orange King. I will talk about actor life in NYC vs. life in the regions and why we made the choice to live outside of the city... I will attempt to unravel what an ensemble means and how it affects the work...I will try to be brave and tell you like I see it. Thanks for reading and for sharing with fellow travelers. <3
I'm a southern gal with liberal politics who has worked my ass off and sacrificed a lot in order to be a working regional theatre actor. There are lots of working actors who are out here grinding without begin famous. And we consider that we have already MADE it. I really like to tell stories and solve the puzzle of the text. I LOVE untangling scripts and unlocking characters. I really give a damn about the planet and am an avid gardener. I love to get my hands dirty. I am completely fascinated by fellow journey(man) actors and how we survive and thrive. Ballin' on a budget, Baby. http://www.rachelburttram.com/