It’s difficult to walk and talk at the same time.
Don’t ask me why. We do it all the time in real life. But on stage? You’d think we’ve never done it before. God forbid you have to do anything more complicated than that. I know actors who find it nearly impossible to do business that really requires their attention and talk at the same time. The play comes to a screeching halt while they do the important bit of business required by the script.
Given that I read recently that once an audience gets jarred out of its reverie, it takes a good five minutes for them to get completely back into the show, this isn’t very helpful.
Granted, it’s easier for some people than it is for others, but EVERYONE needs to work at it. Your physical life on stage must be as real as your emotional life for us to believe in you. And yet making physical movement – even walking – look completely natural is harder than you probably realize.
This is partly because acting is sort of like rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time. You’re trying to put three new things together, things that you’ve never done in this particular way: words, emotions, and physical activity. That’s like juggling. The words and the activity are complicated enough, but now you try to add multi-layered emotions to the mix? Holy $@%&#!!!!!!
So how do we do this? The same way you get to Carnegie Hall.
Understand that it’s like (here comes the golf analogy, Charlie) learning to play golf. Learning to separate an egg. Learning to use your non-dominant hand for everyday chores. You don’t do it particularly well the first time. Or the second. Or the third. But persist in doing it over and over, and you get better at. You start to figure out when the words need to take precedence, when the emotions move front and center, and when you need to move. And (miracle of miracles) how to do all three at once.
If you pay attention to what you’re doing, that is. Self-awareness, on some level, is essential to improvement. It’s about letting both your left and right brain be active at the same time. The right brain does the acting, the left brain observes and makes choices.
This is why you need your set taped from the first rehearsal, so you know what space you have to play with. Why you need rehearsal furniture that closely approximate the dimensions, firmness, etc., of the set pieces you’ll actually use. Why you need rehearsal props, especially for any complicated piece of business. The more repetition you get with physical activity, the more it looks like a real human being is on stage, not some actor. . .