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.