Thursday, April 30, 2015
From Unrehearsed to Rehearsed and Back
How do you teach an actor to listen to their scene partner? How to you teach an actor to be ‘in the moment’ on stage? How do you cure an actor of stage fright? The answer to all of these questions to me is to simply have the actor perform using the Unrehearsed Cue Script Technique.
Now, I’m not saying it’s this magical style of performance that will make great actors out of anyone who does it. What I am saying is that this technique relies so much on each actor truly listening to each other – not just for their cue lines (since each actor is only given their lines and the last few words of their cue) but also for stage directions that other actors may throw out at them that are in their lines. Your attention and focus has to be 100% on what is going on onstage. Plus, you have to trust in the technique and in each other for it to truly work. If an actor slips into old habits of acting that aren’t the technique, it takes the audience and the fellow actors out of the performance and ceases to be the style that everyone has been working so hard to develop.
As a professional actress, having performed in several Unrehearsed shows, it’s helped me greatly with my listening and focus when I’m in a Rehearsed production, too. It’s also helped me with my preparation. The Unrehearsed technique is truly grounded in the text. We don’t add superfluous subtext because Shakespeare didn’t use it. ‘Subtext’ is a relatively new invention for actors. When I’m handed my part in a Rehearsed show, I thoroughly read it over and over again to derive my character choices from what the playwright has given me in the text – much like how we teach our actors to do in one of our Unrehearsed productions.
Another aspect of performing Unrehearsed is trust. If you have your scroll in your hand, are surrounded by professional troupe members and have a reliable Prompter on stage – you know you are in safe hands. We only rehearse the fights, songs and dances, so all of the regular blocking comes ‘in the moment’ on stage. The performer knows what he/she will be doing, but has no idea what the other performers may do. Each actor has to listen very carefully to each other for directions that are spoken on stage by their fellow actors. Fortunately, we cast actors who can trust each other to go along with whatever gets thrown at them on stage. It’s such an exciting, thrilling and exhausting performance technique, which is not for the faint of heart.
Several actors who have worked with USP have told us afterwards that learning this technique has helped them in several ways when they’ve done Rehearsed projects from being braver on stage to delving into the text in more detail to even using a scroll when understudying! We love that we are helping to prepare these already talented actors for what we have coming for them as well as for the opportunities that they will encounter in other productions.
See you at the show!
-Elizabeth Ruelas, Artistic Director
The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project