Happy Post-Thanksgiving, Constant Reader! (I suppose I could say Happy Cyber Monday, but I’m not here to sell you anything, except perhaps the idea of my cultural relevance.) I hope you enjoyed the long weekend. For myself, Thursday was the occasion for my second annual FaceTime Pandemic Thanksgiving, which was surprisingly festive given the circumstances. Friday was primarily spent running various errands. I spent the remainder of the holiday weekend pacing around my apartment, muttering to myself.
Don’t worry, I haven’t had a complete mental breakdown yet. I do, however, have a gig – I’m filming a little something tomorrow. It’s a one-day shoot, nothing too elaborate, nothing paying a great deal. (Though amazingly, there is pay. Nature is healing.) It’s a small part, with only a little bit of dialogue. I can recite the lines, in total, in approximately a minute.
But, those lines need to be memorized.
It’s one of the basic aspects of the job, an aspect so commonplace that actors are usually annoyed when asked how it’s done. A few lines to memorize is easy, hardly worth mentioning. Except, of course, for the fact that most of us haven’t had to memorize anything for close to two years now. In part, this is because the work simply hasn’t been there while everything’s been shut down. But more to the point, with the advent of zoom theater and a variety of home-taping options, we’ve all gotten used to having a script to read from at all times.
Think about it: for the past year and a half, those of us doing virtual theater have not only had access to our scripts during performance with just a few keystrokes, but have had those scripts available without it interfering with the performance itself. With the appropriate settings on your screen display, the script will be at eye level to your laptop camera, so you can appear to interact with your scene partner directly even as you’re reading. I’d say it’s like having cue cards or a teleprompter in your home, except it’s not – it’s significantly better.
It’s amazing what you can get used to.
And, since it’s not an option on a film set, I’ve been pacing my apartment, going over my minute or so of overall dialogue, reciting it again and again, over-articulating it and speaking it in funny voices and doing all the things that used to be second nature. And which, thanks doe a year and a half of disuse and technological crutches, are second nature no longer.
Or at least, they’re not second nature at the moment. Once I’m back in practice, I assume the process of memorizing dialogue will resume its prior ease and familiarity. I just hope I don’t have to wait another eighteen months, and dodge however many more waves of virus, to find out.