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Malvolio Production Diary: hack, cough, wheeze

Summer colds suck.

Rehearsal last night was Acts IV and V, which for me are the Prison Scene and the Last Scene. It didn’t go very well. I mean, it didn’t go very badly, it just didn’t go terribly well. My vocal control was diminished enormously by this chest cold of mine, and vocal control is a substantial part of my skillset as an actor to begin with, so that ain’t good. Frankly, with my energy depleted, my physical control was probably down quite a bit as well, but (particularly in the Prison scene, where I am entirely stationary) that isn’t as bad for my particular rehearsal.

There’s a stereotype, I think, of old-fashioned actors rising in the morning and doing their vocal exercises: me, me, me, me, mo, mo, mo, mo and so on. I don’t know how any of y’all feel about that, whether you think of it as a joke. It isn’t. I mean, I don’t do the exercises, but I am aware that if I did them, I’d be better at my (theater) job. Breathing exercises particularly. There are muscles involved that need regular workouts to operate at their best, and perhaps more important to operate at a high level when under inauspicious circumstances. That takes regular work, daily work, work I don’t have the discipline for. I loathe body maintenance—maintenance work of all kinds, really. I can put in effort on new things, sometimes, and I can sometimes buckle down and work on improvements, but maintenance I resent entirely. All that work just to keep things as they are seems terrible. I can’t make myself do the exercises I ought to do for my back or my knee, much less my breath and voice. But it really does make a difference.

I had been wanting to experiment a bit with that prison scene, looking for places to lose my temper and places to pull myself back together. That is, I want three quite distinct states: extreme despair, total fury and a sort or calm(ish) determination, and I want to switch between those states suddenly and unpredictably—to, you know, humorous effect. By unpredictably I mean of course that I want the audience to be surprised by each switch, not that I want to surprise the actors opposite or myself. I want the switches to be plausibly text-derived, which I have been working on, and I want them to work in performance, which I had hoped to be working on last night. My first attempt at peak volume went awry, and I had neither the breath nor the vocal control to make the sudden changes required.

Well, and I will recover, and there is still time.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,