Getting Off-Book Is Not A Race
Several years ago, I was working with a sharply-tongued firecracker of a director that I simply adored. Her frankness frequently floored me.
A couple of weeks into the rehearsal process, we were beginning stumble-through’s. One of my castmates boldly decided to work without his script; however, he was still in need of it, desperately. While fumbling through a scene, he would often go up and have to call “line.” After a couple of painful rehearsals, the director finally yelled, “Hey, stop using my time to try to get off-book.” Embarrassed, the actor sauntered over and grabbed his script to continue working the scene.
My director’s blunt comment really made me think: getting off-book is not a race.
No one is ever really that impressed if an actor is the first to ditch their script. It isn’t a contest; it’s rehearsal. Even worse, if an actor rushes the memorization process, they may begin paraphrasing the dialogue, which is detrimental to the play. An actor’s goal is to faithfully uphold the playwright’s language, and they can only do so by diligently taking their time with the text.
If each actor works cohesively -- both in the rehearsal room and memorizing on their own time -- they will organically find an off-book point, whether that date is implied or softly instilled by the director.
Use rehearsal to build and explore; don’t use it to try to get off-book.
If I could give one single piece of advice to each and every theater student currently in college, it’s this: INTERN. A professional internship is invaluable, and they bring a wealth of knowledge and opportunity.
During my junior year of college, I applied for an acting internship at Florida Studio Theatre. After a successful interview, I learned that the theater did not offer a summer acting program. Instead, I was offered a stage management internship. Although I had absolutely no previous experience in stage managing, I confidently informed the intern coordinator that I had a vast appreciation of the occupation, and I leapt at the offer.
I moved to the Florida Gulf Coast that summer and started my stage management internship... without a single article of black clothing.
After a whirlwind tutorial by my new supervisor and a couple of trips to the thrift shop for proper clothes, I was ready to assistant stage manage. The next couple of months provided me with my very first insight into professional theater, and I learned more during that internship than I did in my first three years of college.
I met amazing actors, designers, and directors, many of whom I still keep in touch with more than ten years later. I was also invited back after graduation, and I remained employed at Florida Studio Theatre for four wonderful years, working in their education department as a Resident Actor and Teaching Artist.
My first few professional years after college were defined by that terrific internship, and I cannot fathom where I would be without it.
So intern. Find an awesome theatre company and contact them. There are plenty of internships that offer housing and a stipend; some don’t offer anything at all. Regardless, don’t pay for a program out of pocket. Simply start searching online and find a program that feels right. Go for it.
Some thoughts on art, life, and theatre. Stay positive.