Theatre Information

Take All of Your Medicine

By • Nov 3rd, 2010 • Category: An Actor's Advice

The biggest mistake people make when they are prescribed antibiotics for something is to stop taking the medicine once they begin to feel better. “I’m not sick anymore,” they say, so they reason that there is no need for medicine. So they stop taking it. And after a few days of feeling fine, they start to feel sick again. Eventually they end up as sick as they were before.

Why? Because they were not yet well when they stopped taking medicine. They were merely symptom free, and there is a huge difference. When we don’t take the entire regimen of a prescribed medication, we don’t completely knock out tenacious viruses and such. We beat them into dormancy, only to let them run lose in our systems again by not taking the medicine for the full intended time period.

A similar temptation can arrive when one is off book for a play.

Going over lines, especially on one’s own, can be a tedious thing. The repetition. The constantly flipping of the book back and forth. For some reading the entire script into an audio device. Actors just want to get on with acting, even though we know we have to memorize our lines first. So when we find ourselves solidly off book, we welcome the relief. Finally we can concentrate all of our time on developing character, and the other goodies that come along with performing. No more tedious line rehearsals!

Only, as often as not, we are not actually totally off book. Just being able to get through the whole script once or twice without referring to the book does not constitute being off book. And even if it did constitute it, we still need to keep running lines to ourselves. And when you can, with other actors in the show before rehearsal.

The mind tends to ease up on that with which it is familiar. Or that with which it thinks it is familiar. Especially when boring tasks are possible otherwise. And if you are under the impression that you are familiar with your script, your mind will often begin to fade from it. And you will find the distance between the lines, and what you recall to be greater than you anticipated come the next rehearsal. (Or heaven forbid, the next performance!)

Rehearse your lines even when you have them down. Yes even when you have them cold. Even when there isn’t the slightest doubt in your mind as to what every word in a scene is. Run lines when you would consider that activity to be among the most boring you could spend your time on that day. Run them incessantly. Bury the lines deeply into your mind, just as you must bury the medicine deeply into your system to make sure it is effective.

By doing so, you will arrive at opening night with lines being almost reflex reactions. (I say almost because I do not subscribe to the notion that lines should be delivered without any thought at all. But little thought, certainly.)

Keep at it. Yes it is tedious, but the more you do it, the more you will become immersed in the script, and that will actually allow you to better add the extra ornamentation to your performance that you so want to get to.

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is a Maryland native and has been acting for nine years, having studied it at Marietta College in Ohio. He has been schooled in Shakespeare, improvisation, public speaking and voice articulation throughout his career. His credits to date include over 30 plays and readings as well as 2 films. You can also read his blogs (for theatre related thoughts) and (for thoughts on personal success from an outcast). Follow him on Twitter @TyUnglebower.