Word on the street is that grad school is hard. But you know what I hear is even harder than regular grad school?
Now, I’m not a medical professional, but I assume that the reason for that is you don’t want your doctor going, “Oh shit now what does this attach to?” in the middle of open heart surgery. You want her (that’s right, it’s a lady doctor, why’d you assume it was a man? BOOM.) to be like “God I’m so glad I’m so well prepared for this moment so I could save your life! BOOM.”
Oh my God, wait a minute, I forgot to introduce you to our Dad!
No not Jon Stewart! (Although I bet he’s a great Dad.) Dr. Evil!!
Obviously in the universe where Britt and I are twins except we are both the evil twin, hence “Two Evil Actors,” Dr. Evil is our Dad. Isn’t he cute? Britt totally has his eyes but I hear I take more after Mom, who was a dragon. She left pretty soon after we were hatched. I don’t think she had a very strong mothering instinct.
Anyway Britt and I were recently discussing the importance of preparation but we thought that, really, Dad said it best. Plus he’s a doctor so you know. He’s probably right.
Every damn time.
You’re all like “BWAHAHA Nothing can stop me now! Check out my Preparation H!” And then BOOM.
Thanks Jon. Exactly. BOOM! Austin Powers shows up and ruins your plan.
In two days I am going to open the THIRD PLAY that I am currently in. That’s right, in case I haven’t kvetched about this enough, I am in three plays. As in, I am actively playing three different roles in three different plays simultaneously. Talk about preparation. We have been rehearsing these plays for over five months, basically. We started rehearsing “Blood Match” and “The Servant of Two Masters” in late August, then in early November we focused all our attention on “The Seagull.” After Christmas break, we came back and rehearsed all three. And now I am in the middle of the third week of technical rehearsals.
Actually no it’s not that bad. That was last week. Now I feel more like this.
My god though. If the goal of doing these three plays in repertory was to teach me how to be prepared for work as a professional actor, then mission accomplished. Grad school has been hard, but the challenge of applying what I’ve learned to the process of doing repertory theatre has been the most valuable learning experience ever.
Like, again, I’m not a medical professional, but if you are learning how to do surgery, I’d think you can’t just have a kind of vague sense that the blood comes into the heart sort of on this side and it kind of goes out on the other side and start chopping up tubes and sewing things shut. You also can’t be in mid surgery trying to remember what the hell it is you’re supposed to be doing while the patient is just chillin’ there.
There are no lives on the line when it comes to acting, thank god, but it is kind of a similar beast. You can’t just kind of know what words you say and where you stand and call it a day. You also can’t stop a performance and go “Wait, hang on, I forgot what I’m doing here.” And damn, doing three plays at once has illuminated the importance of preparation for me.
Last fall when we began rehearsing (read as: preparation) for these plays, I was in a bad place in my mind. My heart wasn’t in it and I had lost faith in what I was doing, so the quality of my preparation was lazy. And the bummer about rehearsing without discipline or self-awareness is that, by rehearsing over and over again you are training your body to have muscle memory of the story. So if you are doing a crappy or mediocre or lazy job in rehearsal, that is what your body is going to remember when you are on a stage in front of a bunch of people. I’m being more than a little hard on myself, but I felt that what I’d built at the beginning of the rehearsal process was like this:
And it has been an absolute BEAR trying to rehabilitate that work to a place where I feel like I am ready to perform these plays in front of a bunch of people.
The good news about preparation is that it is really about quality. It’s about what you do and how you do it. You can half-assedly kind of mumble words and try to memorize them for a week and it will be less useful than spending an hour of quality engagement with the text.
Because at the end of the day, you can prepare all you want, but Austin Powers still might burst in and ruin everything and you will just have to adapt. You can’t actual control live theatre and that’s the fun of it. As long as I feel that my own work has integrity then I can sleep at night and take pride in what I’m doing. And I have gotten to a point of pride in the work I’ve done. I’ve turned that scary bear into this bear: