Drama — the Discipline of Hurry Up and Wait

No one likes to sit around and wait, even if it means a few more precious minutes before the doctor gets that needle in you, or until Dad comes home and reams you out for what you did to your little brother that day.

If you’re a kid in a drama class, you’re there for action! Not waiting around. First of all, you’re a kid. You’re all about action, even if it’s just yakking with friends. Second, you’re there to get on the stage and act out lines, not sit around and watch. Well, unless Mom made you be there.

A director can only work with one scene at a time, and, oh boy, if it’s a musical, and that scene involves a song and choreographing the movements of a group of singers, then… you can bet those actors not in the scene or the song are sitting around waiting. It’s even worse when the actors who are actually in the scene have to sit or stand around while others are being choreographed. It’s a bore. It’s a bummer. Actually, it’s a bummer for the director, believe it or not. The director feels the pressure of all those bored “waiters,” as well as the pressure of getting the current scene and song done.

Ask anyone on stage or screen — acting is so often the discipline of hurry up and wait.

If possible, the director tries to keep the “waiters” busy by having an assistant run lines with them. It’s great to have an accompanist available who can take “waiters” who are singers and go practice a song.

But, there is something YOU can do when you are called upon to wait. You can try your best to be as present offstage as on.

Pay attention to what is happening onstage. Think about where you would be, when you will come on next, what you will be doing. Study your lines. Think about the play in general and how you can help make it successful — how you can support everyone else. Be ready when it’s your turn.

Real stage presence is being “present” — whether you are onstage, “in the wings,” or waiting your turn in rehearsal.

[This is the second in a series of three blogs about presence and commitment in a play. See also Stage Presence and Drama — The Ultimate Team Sport.]

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