Be Off-book When?By Ty Unglebower • Feb 16th, 2011 • Category: An Actor's Advice
“Down to the wire.” “By the skin of your teeth,” “Pulling it out of the fire.”
As a writer, I should be ashamed of using so many clichés in one piece. But my point is made. I am sure most of you are aware of times like these. When either you, or someone else managed to pull something together just in time to make it work.
You can’t always help it. There are times when urgency demands that we all at once construct a plan and execute it. In such times this last minute success may be admirable. But more often than not, I dare say these sorts of executions and “successes” are the result of not being prepared for something. When it is only your neck on the line, it becomes a personal decision if you want to subject yourself to this final sprint approach. But when others are relying on your competencies and your preparations, as they do in the theatre, there is no excuse for not making regular progress.
I fully realize that different actors progress at different speeds. Some actors are just better than others, regardless. I am not asking people to be better than they are. But those at any skill level are capable of making choices which do not hold up a production for the others involved.
Too many times I have been in a show where one particular person is too busy, or too tired, or too sick or too…something, to be off book on the assigned day. Everybody else has somehow managed to be close to where they belong at any point in the rehearsal process, but this person for whatever reason will tell everyone, “I just haven’t found the character” or “I just haven’t sat down with the script and looked really hard at these lines.” But then they add this corollary,
“But don’t anybody worry, I’ll be ready by opening night!”
The hard truth is, if you are ready “by” opening night, you are not ready. That is because you are putting your own schedule, preferences and abilities ahead of everyone else’s. You are expecting other people who rely on you to muddle through somehow until you have decided to get caught up. And some such people do actually end up where they need to be when a show opens. But the show as a whole suffers because all of the others working with the “late bloomer” have not been able to put in their best rehearsals leading into opening night. They never got the best from you when you were supposed to deliver it. They were supposed to take you at your word that you would be ready, even though you had not earned that sort of trust from everyone.
If this is you, make sure it isn’t you anymore. Theatre isn’t that last minute bedroom painting you forgot to do before the real estate agent comes to show the house. It isn’t the quick evening of dessert you threw together because your friends are showing up without warning. It is a team creative effort, and asking everyone who is off book, and into character to “bear with you” while you are still fumbling with your script, and stopping every five minutes to ask the director a question when everyone else is solid is as unprofessional as it is insulting.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/6209.
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.