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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Throwing Yourself In

What does it mean to "throw yourself in" to a role?

I'm sure it means different things to every actor. Some may make it about spontaneity, the ability to just let go and be in the moment and see what comes of it. For others it may be about creating a detailed back story and having very clear choices and motives from the very get go. For more still it could be about completely inserting yourself into the world of your character, finding out how they walk, what they eat, what their favorite color is, what music they listen to. Lots of people probably use a combination of these kinds of things to create a character from the bottom up. I mean that's the point right?

I use these techniques to help build my characters. Depending on the play, the role, the cast, the director, or just simply my mood, it could be any of these or some other completely different ideas. But "throwing myself in" means something different for me.

It means working in each rehearsal and performance at 100%. I can't say that it happens all the time, despite my best efforts. There are the off days, the boring days, the frustrating days, where I just don't make it to that level. But the rehearsals where I can, those are the ones where I do my best work. I had forgotten what that meant until last night.

The rehearsal itself was pretty run of the mill. Blocking review. Not super exciting. Not glamorous hard introspective acting work (and this is The Little Mermaid after all, not The Cherry Orchard ;-) ) But it was a challenge for me. I'd been battling either some sort of stomach bug or a very serious case of the blahs for about 2 days. I was tired, cranky, and just feeling kind of icky. But last night I arrived at rehearsal ready to work. And work I did. At 100%. I got on stage and was ready to go, ready to explore Coral (yes that's my mermaid name...fitting for a girl who's favorite color is pink, no?), ready to relate to the other characters on stage and make her world my world. And it felt good. I didn't feel sick, or tired, or irritable while I was working. I was perky, bright, and funny. I was swimming through the scenes with ease and eager to keep working.

We finished up about an hour early and as soon as I got to my car I was back to blah feeling, exhausted Mary-Liz. But that's when I realized: when I can forget my life, when I can enter a rehearsal and work as if my world, my problems, my baggage totally melt away and give 100% of myself to the play, the character, and the rehearsal, that is when I have made a role mine. That is when I have thrown myself in.

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