Oh no. Tonight is the first off-book rehearsal. It’ll be fine, right? Your lines haven’t been too rough up to this point. You’ve even put your script down a few times to run a scene. You know them.
At rehearsal, things go fine, you’re even enjoying yourself. Then all of a sudden, in the middle of a particularly funny dinner table scene, you find yourself holding the salt shaker, and… nothing’s there. You know it’s your line. It’s always been your line. To make it worse, you’ve never actually struggled with this one before! What’s wrong with you! Why are you standing there like an idiot?! “*%@$!”, you think to yourself. Or maybe you said it. Oh, you definitely said it. “Sorry…” you mumble, in part for swearing, part for absolutely ruining a perfectly smooth scene. Self-abased, you sigh, “Line…”
The stage manager comes to your swift rescue. “Salt, mother?”
You already know what I’m going to say, don’t you? A good director has probably told you before, too, “When calling for your line, just say ‘Line.’ Don’t swear, don’t apologize. Stay in character.”
We know this, we understand the value, but why is it so hard to just say “Line”? And how can we control ourselves? I believe it boils down to what we tell ourselves before rehearsal and in the moment. Let’s remind ourselves what is actually true:
- I’m human. I make mistakes. Everyone else here has made mistakes.
- This mistake does not make me a less-valuable or less-talented actor.
- It’s still rehearsal. This is the time to make these mistakes without any real consequence.
- I can learn from this. Apparently I need to strengthen my thought process for this line.
- It might just be that my brain is prioritizing the new blocking, or a new prop, or a new stage.
- The other actors aren’t upset. At worst, they’re just glad it’s not them this time!
- The director isn’t upset. She understands the above truths (PS – if your director does get mad and make you feel stupid in rehearsal, please give me his/her name and I’ll step in and say a few words!).
Soak these in. Believe them. Repeat them to yourself. You’ve got better things to do than beat yourself up over missing a line in a rehearsal! Getting mad and flustered will actually make it more difficult to move on with your other lines. Your primary job as an actor is to stay in character. When you need to call for line, stay in whatever emotional state you find yourself. Is your character crying? Weep “Line!” Is your character ranting and angry? Scowl “LINE!” Is your character laughing at what the other person just said? Laugh “Line!” Receive the line, deliver it, and keep on plowing through, you professional, you!