Rehearsals for the play I’m in “Glutton for Punishment” go on with increasing anxiety as opening night approaches. Lines, lines, lines. When you watch an performance, you don’t see the hours of memorizing lines and analysis of character that goes into the craft. Even though this play is only ten minutes long, it’s bigger than my last role. It’s not the sheer number of lines rather the context. In the last play I was in “Beyond therapy” there were six characters spread out over two acts. So I had a little scene here, a little there. This one has just two characters and is like a fencing match as they argue back and forth. The plot briefly is thus: Wendy (me) has died and gone to hell where she squares off with Satan, insisting she doesn’t belong there.
“Only when we surrender our ego can we achieve true happiness.” Wendy intones. Indeed actors are often told to sublimate their own to perform. I usually roll my eyes at such existentialism but one really does need to step aside to let the character speak for themselves. Actors have to believe in their characters, even if they are evil, stupid, or ridiculous. In comedy, the more serious you are, the more ludicrous they are.
“I’m supposed to be reincarnated - so I can come back and cut green house gases and reverse global warming.” she insists. You try saying that with a straight face.
Reading a play to the point of memorization is a great way to understand not only the character but the playwright as well. I learned more about play writing while sitting backstage during “Beyond Therapy” than I ever did in a class. Try writing out a song or a chapter of your favorite book and you will get a feel for the author’s voice.
Meanwhile I have 11 pages of dialogue to learn in 2 weeks.