Friday, January 14, 2011

ROBBLOG # 207 W E E K E N D Edition



How do you keep all those words in your head?

I get asked this question frequently, as most anyone who stands upon a stage and recites copious amounts of dialogue to a captive audience. I should be clear here, that it’s not a question of reciting. It’s more of a question of being the character you are portraying in the particular piece and letting the words flow as you would in a “real” life situation.

As far as how to get the dialogue to stick in the “grey matter”, I am not sure how that happens. Repetition of the play during the rehearsal process is one way but as an actor you need to do your homework as well. With the Norm Foster play- “Looking” I am doing with Mariposa Arts Theatre, there is quite a lot of dialogue- there are only four actors in the show- and it’s quick, snappy and funny. Unless, you’re lucky enough to browse over a few pages of dialogue and retain every word- it can be a long process.
Fast memorization would be a Godsend. Some actors can do that!

I have a bit of a photographic memory, so that helps some. I find if I remember the blocking-that’s where the Director tells you to stand and sit and walk and whatever, that’s helpful. A Director will “direct” you to “say this here”. “sit and say that there”. “Walk and talk over there”. Then, you place the lines in your head along with the blocking of the scene.

Thinking about the character is helpful. How would he walk or smile. The body language. Does he shuffle when he walks or takes definite steps? Does he play with a ring on his hand. Does he wear glasses. Is he clean shaven or does he have a beard? All these things are a part of the preparation for the character- the image the actors wishes to portray on stage.


Getting inside the character’s “head space” is probably more difficult than learning dialogue. Sooner or later the dialogue seems to flow-albeit there are always some tougher parts of a script to remember than others.
Sometimes, that has to do with the playwright and how the lines were written. Sometimes, it’s the actor’s mental block with a few lines here or there. A Director once told me instead of saying I can’t remember those lines, say- I will remember those lines!
It usually works!

I suppose it’s a bit like a crossword puzzle. If you do crosswords it helps expand the memory and I believe as you go along the process of “memorizing” becomes somewhat easier and less “stressful” to deal with during the rehearsal period.

So that’s the long answer for – how do you keep all those words in your head?

I still stress about it some.
Gee, what word did we use before stress became the “root of all evil” in these past few decades? Everything has “stress” attached to it. It can affect your appetite or the way you appear to others. It can affect how you go about your daily routine. Stress is a pain in the patootie- just like learning dialogue for a show.

In the end though, it’s a wonderful experience being out there, on stage, either alone or with fellow actors, reciting two acts cramed full of dialogue- with a “live” audience taking it all in and enjoying it.

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