This week I tried something different. Johnny, who teaches me Meisner, was telling me about the amazing opportunity we have in this class, to rehearse scenes with each other before filming it in class, being able to watch it afterwards…I realized that I wasn’t taking advantage of the rehearsing with scene partners between classes, so I did something about it.
My scene is from Rabbit Hole, which is some pretty heavy, emotional stuff. Last week, we all teared up, but for me it was because it’s a sad scene, not because I was internalizing any of it.
Usually, I am nearly off book from the first class where we cold read the scene, so during the week I will maybe think about who I am and what I want, answer some questions I have come up with over the years, then I learn it on the day of. I don’t want to be late or driving in rush hour traffic, so I leave home hours before class, park my car, then I walk around or sit in the car and do vocal exercises with my lines, making sure I have them. This system gets me off book and doesn’t take too long, but it also leaves a lot out.
I had wonderful intentions for this week, and I won’t make excuses, because I really don’t have any, other than I didn’t put in the time. I read the scene a few times over the week, and tried to imagine what it would be like to go through the loss of a child, but I couldn’t really bring myself to go there. I also got busy and sidetracked and did not make the scene a priority. I knew I had asked my scene partner to meet me and rehearse together a couple of hours before class, but it didn’t register with me that I hadn’t learnt my lines. The scene was longer than our usual scenes, and a few of the lines repeat themselves, but had I put in the time (even the minimum amount of time) I would have nailed them.
This meant that the rehearsal I had asked for, which would have been a lot of fun to use some of the new Meisner techniques I am learning, or just play off a scene partner rather than running lines on my own, was instead spent learning lines. This would have been really helpful if we had done it a few days before, then met up again for the actual rehearsing, because it is so much easier to learn lines when running the scene instead of on your own. It still was a lot of fun; running lines and catching up, but even at the end, I didn’t have time to go over the trouble parts and make sure I had them, we just went to class, where we were first.
Our first take was okay, in that we both got the emotions, but we weren’t connected. We were two people mourning, but not together, which is also what’s going on in the scene, but not what we want as actors. And there was a little hesitation on the lines, but I luckily remembered what I was supposed to have said and added it in so he could say his line.
The second take, I said a line wrong, which completely threw my scene partner, so we had to restart. The third one was better, although I was not in synch. My eyes would well while my voice would be normal, then I would sort of force it to sound sad and…we got the lines and there was a lot of emotion, but there were also a lot of pauses (from me, it was all my bad for not working on the scene and leaving it to the last minute, when I should have known I couldn’t) and I was a bit all over the place emotionally.
The fourth take is probably my favorite. There was less hesitation with the lines, and then somewhere near the end of the scene, at the place where I usually go out of synch, something happened where my voice dropped and I was connected. I didn’t just try to have the sadness on the surface, I felt it in my chest, and the tears started falling. I broke down and it felt awesome.
The last take, he broke down and I didn’t, but I am told it was the most connected of all of our takes. I have a theory that we couldn’t both break down at the same time.
Unfortunately, I learnt two things from watching the different takes. First is that Johnny is right about my weird facial expressions and neck movements, that I definitely need to get under control. Second is that even when I broke down and had tears and everything….I still look like I’m smiling. Basically if my mouth is open and you see my teeth, I look like I am smiling. So I will have to work on keeping my mouth shut.
I am proud of what I achieved in this class, but also ashamed of my lack of preparation, when I know that I need it. I set out to do more work this week, and ended up doing even less, which I am really not happy with myself about, but I am going to do things differently from now on. I will still go over the scenes when I get to class abnormally early, but I am going to make it a priority to do all the work of my process and getting off book within the first couple of days that I get the scene. And I’ll try again for the scene partner rehearsals. But this way, even if I procrastinate and plan other things before class, all I will need is a quick review because I will already have done all the work.
“Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.”