Sorry so quiet lately at this Tohu Bohu. Busy, busy, busy. Enchanted April opens on Thursday, for one thing, and there are all kinds of other things as well.
Here’s a quick thing to pass along from rehearsal last night: one of the two-person scenes was going slowly, and our Dear Director diagnosed the problem as the actors listening, then thinking, then speaking. That is, person A would speak (I have a thorn in my foot), and person B would listen, process the information, decide how to respond, and then speak (a thorn?), followed by person A listening to the response, considering and then speaking (yes, I did say a thorn), followed again by person B considering and responding (well, I didn’t stick it there) and so on. Although all of the considering and so on was fine acting, she said, it was slowing down the scene.
This, of course, is one of the difficult things about acting to a script; the audience wants both (a) not be carried along by the dialogue without having to wait while the actor/character thinks, not a very entertaining spectator sport, and (2) to believe, at least temporarily, that the dialogue mimics actual conversations that actual people have (assuming it’s that kind of show). Actually, I think it’s a bit more complicated than that (who guessed?), and that the audience wants to believe that the dialogue is the dialogue that they would have, if they were in those conditions, because they are really that clever and funny and impassioned and persuasive and poetic, underneath.
But anyway, what I wanted to ask y’all about was your reaction to the Director’s next statement about that pacing and acting: that would be great on film, said she, but not it doesn’t work on stage. Now, on one level, I was just impressed by this as actor-handling, as both of the actors in that scene have worked in film. Still, I was wondering if it made real sense. I mean, when I say that thinking isn’t a spectator sport, clearly lots of people like those shots in film where a person is thinking, acting with her forehead and the corners of the mouth. The reaction shot. I’m always a bit irritated with them, honestly, although I don’t mind watching Person A while Person B is speaking, or watching Person A do that forehead-and-corners-of-the-mouth thing whilst carving the roast or manipulating the cards. But I recognize it as a thing that Great Film Actors win lots of awards for doing.
On the other hand, I think (I think) that in a dialogue, the pauses for thinking in between lines would be excruciating, however foreheady the actors were. Or is that just me?
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,