The Late ActorBy Ty Unglebower • May 6th, 2010 • Category: An Actor's Advice
The first entrance I make in the play I’m in right now comes later in the action than any first entrance I have ever made. (20 minutes or so.) Because of this, I have been given the option to show up for rehearsal up to 30 minutes after the official start time. And though this is the latest entrance I have had, there have been other times when I, and others, have been given permission to come into rehearsal, (or even a performance) later than the start time.
I have almost never availed myself of this option and neither should you, for several reasons.
The first and most obvious is preparation. You don’t want to be rushing into place just before you go on for a scene. The more lead up time you have before you go on, the better your performance is going to be. You may pride yourself on being able to jump right into something on a moment’s notice, and I will concede that doing such can serve you well in theatre should the unexpected take place. But aside from that, why risk it? Be there and be ready.
Another reason is that we need to rehearse what we do when not on stage as well. You may not think of it, but it’s true. The stage time is most important, of course, but at least for me, my performance is improved in direct proportion to how acclimated to the surroundings and experiences I become. By being present for an entire rehearsal, even before I am needed, I begin to acquaint myself with what I can be doing when I am waiting to go on. How long it takes me to get from the dressing room to the wings during a scene. How much time will I have and so on. Early rehearsals take longer than later rehearsals, of course, and so the timing changes. Nonetheless I like to get used to the atmosphere of being backstage when I can.
But the bigger part of coming to rehearsal (and certainly a performance) from the start is respect. Simple respect for everything that you and the rest of the cast and crew are trying to accomplish. By showing up for call from the start, no matter how late your entrance is, you are sending a message that it is about more than you. It’s about all of the time, talent, energy and money that has been invested into the play by so many people. By being there the entire time, whether you are required to be or not, you are making it clear that you are not in the play just for your own sake.
As with virtually every tip that I give in these columns, there are exceptions. If the only way for you to be involved in a show is to be present for only the sections involving you, than it is better to be in a show, than to not be in a show at all. Or if you have scored what amounts to only a single scene walk-on role, you can probably get away with showing up right before your walk, and going home right afterward. But in general, if you are going to volunteer your time to the theatre, give what you can to the entire production. Doing so is what gives life to that old cliche.
There are no small parts. Only small actors.
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Ty Unglebower 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 offbook.blogspot.com (for theatre related thoughts) and tooxyz.blogspot.com (for thoughts on personal success from an outcast). Follow him on Twitter @TyUnglebower.