An Actor Prepares

Rehearsals will begin for my next project (Hamlet at Georgia Shakespeare) in two weeks.  I’m entering a predictably jittery period, in which small problems at home take on earth-shattering importance, and minor issues cry out for immediate resolution.

Fortunately, I’ve learned to ignore these seemingly urgent problems in the run-up to first rehearsal.  I know them for the imposters they are. They are standing in for the real culprit:  fear.

Oh yes.  Despite years – decades – of successful work in professional theater, I start every rehearsal period with a combination of euphoria and dread.  I am always excited to start a new project, and I am always nervous.  There’s a first-day-of-middle-school element to it all, a social anxiety that never quite goes away.  Will I make new friends?  Will people think I’m dorky?  What should I wear?

And, most important, can I do this?  Sure, I’ve acted many roles, but I’ve never played this one.  Will I plumb the emotional depths?  Will I find the nuances?  Will I look right, sound right, tell the right story?  Will I do this character justice?

Justice for the character is my ultimate goal.  I consider it my job to plead the character’s case.  I am her advocate, but instead of addressing a jury, I’m acting a role.  Since the character can’t speak for herself (she is, after all, made up of words on a page), she needs me to be her body and voice, to carry out her actions with full commitment.  How else can the audience, or the other characters, know her?  How else can she be fairly judged?

I have two more weeks to plan and prepare.  Then it’s into the fray with my fellow artists, to speak my character’s words and tell her part of this gripping story.  Until then, I can read, write, think, analyze, and dream about how to do that.  And when I start trying to solve other intractable problems, I can breathe and pick up my script.

Because there will always be problems to solve.  But I only get one shot at this play.

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