I Can’t Stand That ActorBy Ty Unglebower • Jun 1st, 2011 • Category: An Actor's Advice
I am about to start a play which also stars someone with whom I do not get a long. Someone for whom I honestly have little respect. I have my reasons for this and they are legitimate but private. The point of this piece however, is that you are likely to find yourself in the same situation at some point.
You have two choices when cast with someone you cannot stand. You can quit the show before it starts, thus giving the director time to replace you. Or you can opt to stay in the show, and make sure all necessary boundaries are in place. I have opted for the latter at this time.
So what should you do in such cases?
To begin with, you should probably let your director know of the bad blood between you and the other performer. Make it clear that it will not interfere with your ability to perform of course, but try to be candid about your inability to get along with the person in question. The director can then possibly rework scenes or schedules in such a way as to accommodate the discomfort. And if not, they can at least be aware of the tension that they will undoubtedly feel between the two of you.
Next, if not on the stage, avoid them. There is no law requiring you to socialize with your castmates back stage, or with any given combination of them. If you do not approve of another person in the cast, do as you would in any other situation. Stay away from them. Ignore them. If you are doing your job as an actor, you won’t need to connect with them on a personal level. I of course believe that your performance will be better when you can have some sort of personal connection with your castmates, but it simply isn’t always feasible. When it isn’t remember the importance of the show as a whole, and concentrate on your job.
If some sort of interaction backstage begins, be up front with the person you do not like. Tell them clearly, once, that you want nothing at all to do with them socially, and that you request that for the duration of the production they leave you 100% alone. That you wish to have nothing to do with them outside of character. And if there is some significant issue with a scene, it is to be discussed only with the director, and not with yourself. Normally I encourage actors to work out by themselves without involving the director as many difficulties with shared scenes as they can. But if it is more likely to lead to arguments, step aside, and let the director handle it.
Also, try to be friendly and interact with others in the cast as much as you are comfortable doing. Your dislike of one member should not cause you to be 100% isolated from the rest of the group, unless that is how you always are anyway. Don’t let the tension between you and Mr. X overcome the fun you can have on stage and with other members of the cast. Even if Mr. X is never more than 15 feet from you, try not to let him dominate your experience.
It will also help if you let others know, just once, that you do not get along with Mr. X. By no means go into detail. Just let your friends and other people in the cast know about the history and leave it at that. That way they can act accordingly without the need for dreadful gossip and backbiting.
Finally, (and this may be the most difficult step of them all), try to accept that for whatever reasons, others my actually like Mr. X. They may not know the bad thing he did in his last show. (Because you will not be telling them.) His flaws may not matter as much to them. They may know something you don’t. Whatever it is, rare is the person that is universally disliked, even among out own friends. This doesn’t mean your reasons for despising Mr. X are wrong. It just means the reasons are yours.
In the end, being in a play is about quality performing, having fun, and telling a story. We all prefer to be able to do that in only pleasant company. Yet theatre circles are sometimes small ones and unless we are willing to decrease our chances of being in a show, we need to find a way to enjoy theatre even as we detest some of the other people who are enjoying it with us.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/6881.
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.