The pitfalls of writing

Rant time.

If you’re not in the mood to hear a rant – press on to here: http://links.laughingsquid.com/ where you can get lost in what’s happening elsewhere.

The rant:

Last night I did something I have never done before: I had my script read by strangers in a public forum. It was a cold-read, which means there was just a person picking up my script and reading it without any direction (she cheated and had the script before the read date so I assume she looked at it before last night… But after last night I doubt it.)

It was painful. I shook from my solar plexus the WHOLE TIME. Not because I couldn’t stand someone saying my words (I have several historical plays that have been produced and enjoyed collaborative direction and I loved the experience!) – no. It was the complete lack of trust in the words. The complete lack of respect for the not just the words, but the punctuation.

HEY YOU. ARE YOU AN ACTOR?

May I suggest a couple things? Watch the last episode of Firefly. There is a quote in there where the character Early says to Doctor Simon,

You oughta be shot. Or stabbed. Lose
a leg. To be a surgeon, you know? Know
what kind of pain you’re dealing with.
They make psychiatrists get psychoanalyzed
before they can get certified, but they
don’t make a surgeon get cut on. That
seem right to you?

I am not advocating getting shot. What I am saying is: if you want to be the best at your art form (here we are talking acting) then you should explore all the facets of that art form. I’m not saying stop your Meisner classes and take up directing or playwriting – I’m saying look into what goes into those types of roles. Figure out why they are there. Try to see their pitfalls, their trials and hardships in their position. Because the eye opener last night was that thing I heard back when I started learning how to read/deliver Shakespeare.

Shakespeare in himself (herself?) is a huge argument. But for this rant I want to talk about how I was taught to approach the text of Shakespeare. Yes, I know that there is a folio/quarto/modern editors…but I was taught that the words have a rhythm (hi, iambic pentameter!) and that the punctuation is crucial. This is why so many Bardolators get uppity around this topic, as there are so many people who have been involved in the punctuation placement game when it comes to his work.

I digress. Last night I heard the cold-reader blatantly disregard not just words (which hurt because it changed the meaning of the text) but mostly when they disregarded the punctuation. It is the one clear thing that a writer can write. Italics, parenthesis, underlining, hyphens – which I adore – all can mean different things. Did the writer mean to stress that or under-stress that word? Does that mean it’s important or should the reading be flippant? But the one thing that is quite clear is what follows:

Periods are full stops.

Commas are half breaths.

Hyphens are a push through, a sudden change even.

Colons are a list.

So actors (and yes I am reading my own words here when I say this) when you pick up and read in an audition room/cold read – please please PLEASE pay attention to the things that are set in stone. THE PUNCTUATION. *And if you bring up Christopher Walken I will mentally kick you in the shin!

The words are there for interpretation but the punctuation is there to help you find your breath (think Shakespeare and musicality) and ultimately the character. The punctuation is just as important as the words.

(side rant: at a reading, the stage directions should not be glossed over. But that’s all I have to say about that. And as actors we seldom get a leg-up. If there is an insight into what is happening in the audition room or the reading LATCH ONTO IT! If you get the sides beforehand: read them. Sorry, sorry… I know I’m supposed to stop ranting now….)

There. That is my rant.

Please rant back. Period.

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