In developing character, I am constantly trying new things, even small things, to help me establish myself as my character. As a director, I get to see how other actors benefit (or not) by these same techniques. Unsurprisingly, I learn a lot about my process when working with other actors in this way. I also learn from these same actors, new ideas and concepts.
Recently, I have been directing a play, which I have previously appeared in, and due to a rather dreadful audition turnout, I am also having to replay my previous character. Director and Actor. While I am thrilled to be able to appear in a play that I am directing, and not as a cameo, but a major role, it does introduce some rather interesting obstacles.
Couple with this, we are working to a very tight deadline. I am very used to a rather lavish two to three months rehearsal period, consisting of 2 to 3 nights a week, and an afternoon on the weekend. Plenty of time to work on character, blocking, and so forth. This time around, I have three weeks. Only three weeks. We are half way through this already…
So I decided that I was going to use a very different directional approach to what I was used to. A gamble? Maybe.
When rehearsing for film, the rehearsal period can be incredibly short. Days, or even hours in some cases. As the production is broken up into small bite-size chunks, it means that rehearsals can be focused on specific scenes. The problem is in character development, which can become fractured as you hop from scene to scene.
Most often, actors Workshop their characters, not focusing on the lines or script too intensely, in order to build a personal story, or connection that helps them to relate and feel their character. This process can be very intensive asking the actor to delve deep in to themselves in order to find reasons for their choices. Reasons they can connect with.
So this was the approach I tried to use, focussing on the why. Asking the actors to find something that would connect them to their characters, even to believe that they could even be their character.
What has occurred so far is somewhat incredible. While the cast are not completely off-script at this time, they are so very close. More importantly, their characters are living, breathing entities. They feel natural. Through this process, my vision for the show has been challenged with some very interesting, and naturally made choices by the cast. That’s the key thing here, naturally.
Being able to react in character, to me, is very important. Probably more important than acting the character. It means that your character is always in motion, able to respond to things that are different, which makes them a little unpredictable. I just love unpredictable.
So do most audiences. I am not talking shock stuff. I’m talking about those little subtle moments that make an audience feel they should keep watch so that they don’t miss anything. The “Oh, I didn’t expect that” response that keeps an audience alert, and on the edge of their seat.
I have always tried directing a little differently each show I have done, experimenting with various methods. This time around, I am astounded at how well things are going, and I think I will be using this approach more in future.
That said, having an experienced and very talented cast helps a great deal, and I am incredibly fortunate to have just that. Four of some of the best talent Perth has to offer. I am blessed.