Sometimes conscious choices that have to be made. This doesn’t mean that you can’t change them down the road if you realize there is a better alternative. Blocking choices are an obvious example. We’ve got to get you off stage somehow, so we explore the options we think are available and choose from among them. We may revise it later, but we’ve got some place to start.
When it comes to comedic action, I do a lot of exploring in rehearsal and choose the funniest alternatives. I once directed a play that had a young woman sneaking through the window of her own apartment in order to spy on her roommate. We worked to find all the ways we could to make it difficult for her to do so and comic ways for her to overcome the difficulties. The exploring happened over a number of rehearsals, and with each rehearsal, the bit got longer and deeper and funnier. Explore, then choose.
These decisions often have to do with storytelling.
This is one of the times when the director is invaluable as a third eye: Yes, that works. No, that is too small for the audience to be able to read clearly. What if we do this instead? Or even better, what if we try . . .? Yes, that’s good. I like that.
It’s intentional, conscious decision-making, but it comes out of trying alternatives. It’s for the actor to say, Yes, this is emotionally true and I can play it, or No, we need to find something better. But we can choose something that is dramatically interesting, that tells the story as well as we think it can be told right now.
The second sort of decision is when you’re rehearsing and a moment happens and we recognize its goodness and say, “Eureka!” or “Thank God.” Moments when we know that something has fallen into place the way it should. Again, it doesn’t preclude the possibility that we can find a way to make it even better. But we know we are moving in the right direction, and so we choose to stick with it, for now at least.
The third sort of decision is the one that just seems to make itself, over time. This is your subconscious at work. Just keep providing it with information and trust that it will do its job. Most of your decisions will be made this way.
What if you find, three-quarters of the way through rehearsals, that there are decisions that it hasn’t made? Now you can feel free to make them consciously, and spend the rest of your rehearsal time to really making them work. They are decisions that have not been rushed to, that have considered everything you have learned about the character up to this point. You aren’t forcing anything on to your role. Rather, the role has revealed itself to you over time so that you can make the best choices possible.
To read How to Make Decisions About Your Character, go here.