As we are over two months in shelter in place, many actors ask me, what can I be doing?
There are many things an actor can do to keep in shape. This month I will repeat a recommendation I give to all my students which is to read a play a week. During this time, how about reading two plays a week. Why not take this time to expand your horizons as well as be entertained. There are several reasons I recommend this:
We need to master the format of plays, as we are the ones who will bring life to the words. By reading plays and film scripts we learn to “get inside” the material, the characters, the conflicts, and the drama. Only through the experience of reading them again and again and again can we get the feel of material. It reminds me of the time I was with two architect friends looking over plans of a new style house. They were so impassioned as they argued, debated, and discussed the issues. The excitement was enviable. All I could see on the pages was a bunch a lines and drawings with the various colors of the walls written in black and white. They experienced the building, the landscape, the colors. They could see it, feel it, it was amazing. We, as the actors must be able to get that feel and be able to translate it from reading words on paper. If you’re new to this, don’t expect this to happen right away. It’s a new form and will take a while. You can even expect to not enjoy it at first. It was hard for me when I started and I thought that I wasn’t an actor at heart because it was so boring, I actually disliked it at first. Now it’s like eating a great meal.
It will help us to understand literature and know good writing. As actors, we need to be well versed in the theatre. By reading a play a week in one year you will have more experience in theatre literature than many actors in this town. How impressive to be able to quote famous lines from plays and be able to have discussions about the great playwrights. We are experts in this field.
There will times when you will be working with other actors in classes or theatre groups and you will be seeking scenes for scene study, showcases, and productions. You will have a library of knowledge, and characters that you will want to play, and recommend to fellow actors. It’s a great compliment to hear or say, “You’d make a great Blanch in “Streetcar”. You will help yourself and your fellow actors.
In a year you will be surprised how much more you know than most actors. It will build confidence and command respect. It will also be a great resource as you move ahead as an actor. Alternate between plays and film scripts if you prefer, but there is nothing like classic literature.