The life of a script

There are some actors who keep their scripts in pristine condition throughout the rehearsal process, protected by a binder or laminated or just treated with proper respect.

I am not one of those actors.

My script for Plaza Suite has been with me since last winter, and it’s been in my pocket most days – called into service whenever I’ve had a few minutes on a bus or train or waiting for a meeting to start (or end, depending on the meeting). It’s joined me for road trips, baseball games, parties, and even a Bocce Ball tournament (I didn’t win).

The first time I read a script (after I know I’m playing one of the characters) I don’t deface it at all – in fact I try not to think at all, and just read to enjoy the writing.

The script starts evolving into the mess you see above during the second reading, when I highlight all of my character’s lines. I once worked with an actor who despised this very common practice, claiming with righteous indignation that highlighting your own lines implied egocentric arrogance (sorry – that was how he talked). It may be self-centered, but it sure helps you find your next line until you’ve got them all memorized.

On the next few trips through the script, I start jotting notes in the margins – mostly questions at this point. I’ll come back to these questions, and sometimes write down the answers, during rehearsals.

Once rehearsals begin, I start writing notes into my script to help me remember my blocking and stage business – all the physical movements that need to be consistent in performances. As we get deeper into exploring the play, I scribble more notes into whatever space is left – a reminder that an exchange of dialogue needs to move quickly, a new motivation for a line, a note pointing out a phrase that I can’t seem to remember correctly, and so on.

By the time a show is ready to open (four days from now as I write this), my script looks like it’s been through battle – or at least a long journey. And in a sense it has been through both – and hopefully it’s reached its destination and can claim victory.

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