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Sixteen Lines: Fifth Line

Nine years pass in the twinkling of a Fresnel, and I have my Big Scene (with the rest of my lines). The scene begins with my character pressing the Governmental Authority (in the presence of the Man and the Husband, although they are not their in those capacities, nor do either of us minor characters know this about them) for approval of the fostering of the Child. The scene will expand to include the Child and the Woman (or, as we may now call her, the Mother); it’s a lively scene with much of interest. And I get the first line.

I tell you, Governor Bellingham, a Christian interest in Hester Prynne’s soul requires us to remove this stumbling block from her path.

Asking our questions: I am for the removal I speak of, although of course I am against the Woman. It is to the Governmental Authority I address by name, and it is (within the context of a play) entirely to him, seeking a response only from him. In fact, the line is phrased so as to elicit an tell-me-more response, rather than a final approval; this is a lead-up to the point, not the point itself. However, that tell-me-more response (“Stumbling block?”) is almost compulsory; not to provide it would be outright rude.

It is a major-key speech—I should take a moment a talk about the music of the speech. Nearly-Legendary Director admonished us that while in conversation one almost always wants to end your line—that is, end the bit you were going to say, whether it is one sentence or a few—by lowering your pitch, on the stage, it is generally better to end a line with a rising pitch. This is not the Valley Girl tic of turning everything into a question, but an emphasis on the final word (because the last word of the sentence is likely to be the most important, or at any rate, quite important) as well as leading the audience in to the next line. Let me demonstrate:

Here’s the line as I might say it under a different director (pardon the pops and hisses):

And here’s the line as I might say it tonight at rehearsal:

Do you see?

And it goes on: in my Second Line, it ends take the scarlet letter off thy breast on a rising pitch rather than a falling one, as might be more natural—but the reason the falling pitch is more natural is that it serves to put a finish to the discussion, to make anyone who wishes to disagree re-open the subject rather than continue it. One can’t score every line like that, of course, but more than you might think.

One of the great things about having sixteen lines with a Near-Legendary Director is that the odds are pretty good that he will listen to every one of them at least once, and may well give me notes about each one of them. He is extremely attentive to details of intonation, of course, as well as the blocking (ours is a thrust stage with two extra bonus columns for added excitement) and the timing and all the rest of it. Evidently we can expect to get detailed notes scrawled in his handwriting—maybe there will be something I can scan and post.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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