HERE'S WHAT HAPPENED
One day my acting coach told me that he taught film directing students at a local college campus.
He asked me if I would attend that class with another actor to give those directing students feedback on how they gave us notes.
Something magical happened for me as an actor that day.
I was asked to perform the same scene multiple ways for over an hour, and I felt like I could take that scene absolutely anywhere I wanted to.
All of us as actors need to create our own process for breaking down our scenes for class, auditions, and bookings. We also need a rehearsal process.
Class gives us the freedom to experiment and edit our process, so I want to share part of mine thanks to the teaching of my acting coaches at the Film Actors' Studio Charlotte.
In this post, I'll teach you tips on how to rehearse a script that I personally use to avoid "one note" performances.
But first, we need to prepare based on how you've been trained.
HOW TO REHEARSE A SCRIPT TIP 1
If you're a student of the Stanislavski method, then it's possible you've read the book Acting One by Robert Cohen and learned how to use tactics to reach your objective. This is what I learned in college.
My current training teaches me how to use strategies.
To make this exercise work, you'll need to decide if you want to use tactics or strategies.
The difference is simple: tactics are action verbs; strategies are "how" adverbs ending in -ly (i.e. lovingly).
PS--I think you should know how to use both so that you can easily translate a director's notes into your favorite method, especially if they're discussing the scene with you in terms of a method you don't like using as much.
HOW TO REHEARSE A SCRIPT TIP 2
Okay, you've read your script and picked an objective. (Did you break it down into beats? I don't do that anymore. More on that later in this post.)
Now pick either three tactics or three strategies based on your method.
I'll give you examples of each to get you started.
Just make sure they actually help you reach your objective. I'm writing this assuming you already know what that is.
Also, do not try to mix tactics and strategies. Pick your favorite and stick with it.
HOW TO REHEARSE A SCRIPT TIP 3
I know I said this exercise will help you avoid a "one note" performance, so this next part may seem confusing at first, but go with it.
Take just one of your strategy options. Use it for the entire scene. Wash, rinse, and repeat with your second option, then your third.
You'll need to ignore your beat marks for this part if you're still using them.
The benefit is that it will force you to say lines in a way you haven't planned.
Maybe you don't think to say, "I love you," angrily when you first read your script, but after saying it that way during this exercise, a new meaning surfaces. Maybe you'll have a revelation about why that could work.
Forget about the way a line "should" be said. (So much easier said than executed.)
You'll soon realize that a number of options can work for each line, and you'll feel the freedom to take the scene anywhere you want in case a director ever says to you:
"Do something different."
So how do we avoid a "one note" performance?
HOW TO REHEARSE A SCRIPT TIP 4
I have three suggestions for you to try during your rehearsals.
SCENE REHEARSAL EXERCISE 1
Assign your first tactic or strategy to the beginning of your scene, the next one to the middle of your scene, and the third one to the end of your scene.
SCENE REHEARSAL EXERCISE 2
Don't plan which options you're going to use, but rather let them surface as they choose now that they're "in your system." However, only use those three options.
SCENE REHEARSAL EXERCISE 3
If you really want to get crazy, scratch all three of your original options, and pick three new ones and run the exercise again.
This is how you'll avoid ever giving a "one note" performance: you'll have a variety of notes to choose from since you've said every line of your script differently each time.
HOW TO REHEARSE A SCRIPT TIP 5
The point of the rehearsal is to free your mind from planning to say the words in a particular way, but that's rehearsal.
Do you really want to know how you avoid a one note performance when you're filming?
The editor is going to piece together your various takes to create a performance, so give them something different each time.
Unless the director communicates that a particular scene will have the camera on you entire time, they'll most likely cut away, then back to you.
That's when the editor can pull a different take you've given and "splice" it into the overall scene.
Unless they ask for the exact same read, what's the point in them shooting the same thing over-and-over again? Give them options.
However, you should always communicate with your director to see if they want something different each take.
It can be as simple as asking, "Do you want something different?"
I've had a lot of directors ask me, "How did that feel?"
You can simply answer, "Good. I'd like to try something different this time," and see how they respond.
But if you offer something different, make sure it's different! The same is true for multiple audition takes.
HOW TO REHEARSE A SCRIPT TIP 6
You really can't do acting incorrectly unless you don't have an objective.
Your objective should be based on the person in front of you. So should your strategies.
Would you say, "You're my favorite person," the same way to an actor you find attractive versus an actor that broke your new smartphone before class?
It took me a while to understand this concept, but my acting coach always tells me to "throw away" everything I've done in rehearsal to react authentically to the person in front of me.
Maybe I will use the same strategies I rehearsed with. Maybe I won't. The point is that my mind will no longer be trapped by a "planned" performance because I've rehearsed with so many different strategies.
Let's get back to why I don't break my script into beats anymore. I feel like it interrupts the flow of how I speak naturally as a person.
Humans cut each other off in conversation sometimes. But wait! There's a beat! I must pause! If the beats are trapping you into performing the scene with the same timing over-and-over again, strike them.
If you want a quick and easy way to try this exercise, then pick just one line from your script and say it three different ways.
You can also try the tactics or strategies listed above on each of the one liners below. Always work across from another human if you can (eye contact!).
Try running your scene with as many "how" adverbs that end in the letters -ly as possible. Figure out which ones work best for you.
Comment with your questions. If you try this, let me know how you like it in the comments.
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