I’ve been asked several times for advice from actors, directors, playwrights and producers about this business we call “Show Business” and I’ve decided to write this blog to offer some insight to what I’ve learned over the years working as an actor, director, playwright, theatre producer, novelist and motivational speaker. I hope this blog is helpful. Please feel free to ask me questions and share your experiences in show business and maybe I will address your concerns and share your experiences in future blogs.
Q: What are the THREE “Ps” that every artist should live by?
A: Being Present, Prompt & Prepared. I was trained with the school of thought, while attending the High School of Performing Arts in NYC, that as an artist when we commit to a project we should be present without making excuses. The teacher or director should not have to spend time listening to an actor’s excuses for why they couldn’t be at rehearsal, they should simply be there ready to work. The second “P” is being prompt. This was a must. In fact getting there early was even better, so you could have time to take care of any personal things you needed to tend to so that at the start of the session or rehearsal you are ready to start working. The third “P” is being prepared. That means whatever was due for that particular day you made sure you were prepared to do what was expected. If that meant being off book for a particular scene you made sure you were. If that meant having your script, along with a pencil for taking notes and blocking you made sure you had a couple of pencils just in case one broke.
Q: Is it okay for an actor to accept a role in two shows that are in rehearsals at the same time?
A: I think an actor should make sure that they are not taking on too much by doing two plays at the same time. Sometimes one project can suffer, but it all depends on the actor’s skills and their ability to manage their time effectively. It’s also a good idea, if possible, to review the rehearsal schedule for both shows in advance to make sure there are no conflicts. It’s also a good idea to let the director know that you are already in a show, because the director may want an actor who is totally free, just in case there is a change in the rehearsal schedule that allows them more freedom to add or change the rehearsals if needed and possible. I know in this business an actor may have a dry period when they can’t seem to get cast in anything, and then when they do get cast it seems like everybody wants them. But I think it’s important to weigh all options before making a decision. If you accept both projects and then feel overwhelmed because it’s a lot of work, one or both of your projects may suffer for your lack of ability to give the project the attention it deserves. The other thing to think about is do you want to take a chance and burn your bridges and lose an opportunity to work with that director or anyone on that production team in the future. Sometimes actors don’t think about this. Not only can you jeopardize your ability to work with the production team in the future, but your fellow cast mates may one day also be in the position of hiring you or referring you for future work, and based on your work ethics they may decide not to.
Q: When I’m at rehearsals over a period of time I find that I make new friends and its fun to socialize. If I want to chat and catch up on what’s going on with my new friends why can’t I do that? I don’t do it often.
A: Making friends with the people you’re working with is great, but it’s also important to be focused when you’re working. While you’re busy talking you may miss something important that’s being discussed in rehearsal and your talking can also be distracting to others who are trying to listen. I think it’s best to socialized before and after rehearsals or during your breaks. Keep your focus on the work at hand. After all, that’s what you’re there for anyway, isn’t it? If not, then maybe you should find something else to do if socializing is your main focus.
Q: What if I find myself in a rehearsal and I’m not being used? Shouldn’t I be excused from rehearsal?
A: If you’re not needed in a rehearsal you should be excused, but I think it’s best to check with the Stage Manager or Director to make sure it’s alright to leave. Another approach might be to see if there’s something constructive that you can do while you are at rehearsal. For instance, can you use this designated time to work with your scene partner or learn your lines? Sitting around during a rehearsal with nothing to do can be frustrating, but I would say get used to it. Just like working on a film or on television, you will find there’s down time while they are setting up for a particular scene. I suggest you try to build good work habits on how to use your downtime constructively so you don’t feel like you’re wasting time. Bring reading material or other work that you can do while waiting. Be creative and productive. But make sure when you are called on to work that you are prepared and on point. There will be no excuse if you’ve had a few minutes to get it together and then when you are called to work you’re not ready. Also, be observant. Learn from the rehearsal process. Watch the other actors working. Get in tune with the rhythm of the play. Develop an awareness of the rest of the play and where your character fits into the story line. Remember you contribute a part to the whole play. Think of the play like a relay race, once the baton is passed on to you, you should be able to run with it and keep it moving. Not being aware of what comes before you, the rhythm and flow, you’re likely to fall and stumble and break the rhythm of the play. If you are focused during rehearsals you can absorb the necessary elements that are around you and they will feed you to help you be at your best.