There is a question that every actor get asked…all the time. “How do you memorize all those lines?” For me, it’s rarely a problem. Like my character, Steve Arnold, I have a terrific memory. The only things that give me trouble are lists of things, and repetitive phrases that are slightly different each time I say them. Unfortunately, both of those circumstances exist in this writing.
So, it requires a little more work this time than is usually the case. But that’s not all bad. I have a friend in the New American Theatre Company (that I also belong to), Brendan, who has a similar…if not slightly better facility for learning lines (but he’s also younger than me…and I’m sure many beers behind me in general brain-cell annihilation). But we’ve talked about how there is a challenge when the lines just stick in your head, because there’s some work that you take for granted that you’ve done. What I’m saying is this: Basically learning lines is all about understanding the argument, and once you understand how it works, the playwright gives you the exact words you need to communicate it. Nevertheless, some actors struggle with remembering their words, even when they do understand the argument. And so they have to keep the script with them. Looking at it, over and over. Well, this is not a bad thing. The more time you spend with the script, the more things you find. This has been a very rewarding experience for me, because I have had to spend more time with the script this time out than I have in a very long time. I have epiphanies daily. It’s super exciting, even though there are sections of the play that, until very recently, I dreaded coming to because it was filled with lists and almost exact repetitions with slight variations. I still haven’t had a clean run at it. (Haven’t been word perfect yet, which is very rare for me). Tonight was an invited dress rehearsal, and they got to hear me screw up the same sentence twice…in a row…in exactly the same way. My line is: “That’s what we call the spoils of war, Wilhelm. Different professions, different rules. Why did you escape to Switzerland in January of last year?” What came out was “That’s what we call the spoils of war, Wilhelm…” and I was about to launch into the question about Switzerland, but caught myself and thought…”oops, let’s get this right” and I said, “…Different professions, different jobs…wait…different professions, different jobs. (and in my head I could only silently scold myself and call myself bad names before going on to) Why did you escape to Switzerland in January of last year.” This kind of thing always provides good fun in the dressing room during intermission. I had two other flubs tonight. Neither were very noticeable, but it takes you out of the moment to moment work when this happens. So that’s a drag.
But tomorrow is opening. (Or rather, later tonight). I would love to get through it cleanly. And I feel confident that I can and will. But ultimately the most important thing is that I stay within the moment to moment work of the play and present and authentic life onstage.
I’m really excited to share this project with everybody. It’s really good. Come see it. Please. Everybody is killing it. So proud and excited to be a part of this 99-seat production. It’s an important play, beautifully directed, and performed with love and care. What more can you hope for in a night of theatre? And if you come this weekend, you may get to hear me say something really stupid, instead of what I’m supposed to say. I can promise you that won’t be the case after this week.