If we have a strategy, a process, a way of going about things that is intentional on some level, the odds are very good that we will perform whatever activity we’re doing as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Let’s say you’re cooking. Maybe you’re making Yorkshire pudding. Maybe you’re baking bread. Or an apple pie. Whatever you’re making, you need some skills. The first time you sift flour, you probably make a bit of a mess (or if you’re my husband, a lot of a mess). You’re a little uncoordinated, or you sift far more than you need.
When you measure the flour, how do you do that without losing the benefits of sifting? How do you make sure the salt is evenly spread through it? How do you knead the bread correctly? Or roll the pie dough?
These are all techniques. You don’t do them particularly well the first time out. The more you do them, the more you understand them. You learn what order to do things in. What has to be done, and what can be skipped. What makes the tastiest bread, the flakiest pie crust. And you also learn how to do it as quickly as possible. The better you are at technique, the better the product and the faster the process.
Which is why, for instance, I can do the Open Door Reading Process so quickly now that you wouldn’t even know I’m doing it. But when I first did it, it was as tedious and sporadically useful as it is for anyone who’s doing for the first time.
Tools are about technique. They are about making you proficient at how you go about acting, so that it is less of a guessing game. And because you are more proficient, you can get further along in the process by the time you get to opening night. What used to take you five weeks, now takes you only three. So now you have time to spare to really fine tune your performance, and to come up with some unexpected and creative choices.
Without technique, it is unlikely that you’ll have time for that. And it is also unlikely that you’ll be able to turn in a consistently believable performance. You’ll toggle between “true” and “false” all night long.
Which is perfectly fine if you’re okay with that. It really is. If you’re working in community theater, and you’re doing it for love and to share time with other people who enjoy putting on plays, then the imperfections in your performance may not matter to you. But if they do, or you hope to act professionally, read on . . . Be warned, though, I’m going to take a little (necessary) detour and talk about the Learning Process for a few posts. It’s directly related to this topic, so don’t skip it, but it will help me avoid having an eight part series . . .