Author Topic: COMMUNICATION: Ignoring line notes, improvising  (Read 3467 times)

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Dart

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COMMUNICATION: Ignoring line notes, improvising
« on: Apr 08, 2015, 02:42 pm »
Hi all,

I have this one problem actor in my hands. This is my third show working with him, and the whole production team was aware of the various problems he has before hiring him for this latest show. I'm really not sure if the problem is his "style" or a growing memory problem, but what it comes down to is that he never does the same blocking twice (he never seems to know what scene is coming next, and has left actors hanging in previous shows) and he improvises his way through the text. He seems to think he's a better writer than the playwright, so he'll deliver the same lines the same wrong way every single time and ignore my line notes, even when given verbally and even when the director or a fellow actor repeats the note to him. He also mumbles a lot and will keep adding lines ("I'm sorry, forgive me" becomes "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, please forgive me, I won't do it again, I'm sorry").

My questions are:
1) Is there anything I can do to make him, or actors like him, get his lines right? The whole production team knows he isn't getting them, and the director himself has said that he'll be happy if the actor can paraphrase his way through the show. But I don't know what I, as the SM, can do past writing the same notes every day and talking to him about learning the text.
2) How do I defuse some of the tension at work? The rest of the cast and the director are getting incredibly frustrated and rehearsals are getting really heated because he gets furious when a different actor messes up a line, but he won't take accountability for skipping a whole scene or jumping back to the beginning of a scene when it should be ending. The director has sent him home twice to learn his lines, but there's been no improvement. And we're 2 rehearsals away from tech!
3) Of course it won't help in this situation, but has anyone come up with a good way to note added sentences when giving line notes? I've been writing the accurate part and drawing an arrow with "added line" where the rambling begins, but I'm not sure if there's a better way to do this.

PSMKay

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Re: COMMUNICATION: Ignoring line notes, improvising
« Reply #1 on: Apr 08, 2015, 02:58 pm »
Is it possible to invite the playwright to opening?

VSM

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Re: COMMUNICATION: Ignoring line notes, improvising
« Reply #2 on: Apr 08, 2015, 02:59 pm »
You are not alone.
This is happening more and more as we grow older. It will happen to all of us.
Imagine what must be going on inside this actors head and heart and soul. His "acting out" is fear. Fear that he is getting worse, fear that he will never again be able to memorize lines, fear that his career may be over, all kinds of fear; rational and irrational. I type out the notes with what he is saying and what the actual line is. Deliver the notes in hard copy IN PRIVATE. Ask if and how you can help him. Is there an intern or a volunteer who can runs lines with him? Obviously it is too late to recast, so you all must make the best of the situation. Treat him with kindness, no matter how frustrating things get. And remember, in the end, we call it a "PLAY..."
Ordo ab chao

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nick_tochelli

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Re: COMMUNICATION: Ignoring line notes, improvising
« Reply #3 on: Apr 08, 2015, 03:24 pm »
I echo VSM on the kindness. Especially if this was an issue the company knew about before hand. It's really down to them and while it's unfortunate, it's the way is.

I worked in a theater company with a HUGE financial sponsor who would be cast in musicals despite being a horrible singer and dancer. He also couldn't memorize his lines for spit. We all went in knowing this. We all supported him instead of flipping their lid on him (it does help he didn't exactly go bonkers on other actors unlike your actor apparently....). Another actor I worked with couldn't work with rewrites and alterations so the concept of changes during previews was foreign and made working with him very difficult since so many of his lines were cue lines for tech elements. God love this man, he couldn't remember the difference between whirlpools and windmills. 'Tis not often one sees a windmill tattooed on the face of an individual...

The cast should have been made aware of this from the beginning. If they weren't that may be the lesson to take from this for the future. Make sure everyone knows this is the case from the get go. It could lead to some extra good will for the actor having issues, and everyone can prepare from the get go to just go with the ride and try to get back to where they need to go via improvisation.

Maggie K

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Re: COMMUNICATION: Ignoring line notes, improvising
« Reply #4 on: Apr 08, 2015, 04:36 pm »
You can also take your concerns to the director or artistic director.  Although they may have cast this individual knowing that he had some memorization problems, they may not have realized the full extent of the problem.  It may be time to sit down with the director and the actor and have a very blunt discussion to try to find the root of the problem and any possible solutions (in a similar situation, my director and I found out that our problem actor was on medication that affected his memory).

While going into tech or being in tech may seem like the worse time to replace an actor, it isn't impossible.  And if the actor cannot be relied on for cues to other actors or for technical elements despite any and all assistance, then it may come to that.
I like the ephemeral thing about theatre, every performance is like a ghost - it's there and then it's gone. -Maggie Smith

Mac Calder

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Re: COMMUNICATION: Ignoring line notes, improvising
« Reply #5 on: Apr 09, 2015, 08:07 pm »
My advice - catch up with him over coffee - not instant from the rehearsal room kitchen, but in a neutral location like a cafe or something. As he has been in a number of shows before and has had some rather big issues, I am assuming he has deteriorated over time? An actor who leaves his cast hanging and is difficult to work with on his first show out the gate generally does not get re-cast. Perhaps a friendly face and a kind ear would help calm him some (degenerative memory issues are often compounded by the stress and frustration that the issue is causing them - they get panicked and up tight, causing them to get flustered and forget and the cycle continues), it may also give you some insight into how to manage him and hopefully come up with some strategies he can use to aid his memory.

To a certain extent this is not your problem - it affects you significantly obviously, but at the end of the day this is a directorial issue at this point in time - obviously as you move into tech and then show this becomes your problem more and more.

All you can do is be supportive and offer assistance whilst trying to keep the rehearsal room from boiling over at the moment. I would also be ensuring that as you tech no cues are based verbally on his lines and just keep a cool head, no matter how much it stresses you out.

Dart

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Re: COMMUNICATION: Ignoring line notes, improvising
« Reply #6 on: Apr 13, 2015, 11:49 am »
Well, the good news is that tech this weekend was the nicest tech I've ever worked! Everyone walked out of both days really chipper, and we even got two full runs and a photo call in. Efficiency! I'm not as worried about his lines because though he did get really lost several times, the rest of the cast were able to carry the scenes through. Hopefully that will improve.

My immediate concern after the weekend is that he still doesn't remember the scenes he begins. He's in bed on stage for most of the show, and there are a couple of scenes when he has to sneak out of bed and offstage to make an entrance elsewhere, and another couple of scenes that be begins by getting up from the bed and crossing further onstage. I have an ASM but, she can't talk to him through the set or make any sort of physical or visual contact without being seen by the audience. We have light and sound cues with his scenes, but that's not helping either. Can anyone think of a way to give him slightly complex cues (go offstage and change, party scene, yelling scene...) in a setup like this? I'm giving serious thought to writing the scene breakdown on the bed post or somewhere else on the set, but am open to suggestions. =(

PSMAK

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Re: COMMUNICATION: Ignoring line notes, improvising
« Reply #7 on: Apr 13, 2015, 05:13 pm »
Is it possible to attach some kind of cheat sheet under the covers? You could do it on material that is near the same color as the bed linen so it stands out a bit. Provided that you have the authority to sew it on. Then you can write with a marker that is visible for him but not technically visible for the audience.

loebtmc

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Re: COMMUNICATION: Ignoring line notes, improvising
« Reply #8 on: Apr 13, 2015, 06:01 pm »
I was gonna say - great way to discover all kinds of clever and creative ways to hide script pages, speeches and directional instructions. Under the covers, in a book on the bed table, under and over and inside all kinds of props and costumes.

SamanthaR

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Re: COMMUNICATION: Ignoring line notes, improvising
« Reply #9 on: Apr 13, 2015, 07:22 pm »
Would just a gentle reminder of a flashlight from off stage strike enough of a "ah I have to do something new" in him. 
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Dart

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Re: COMMUNICATION: Ignoring line notes, improvising
« Reply #10 on: Apr 14, 2015, 12:17 am »
Would just a gentle reminder of a flashlight from off stage strike enough of a "ah I have to do something new" in him.

Oh, that's a really good idea! I need to look at it when I'm back tomorrow, but there may be somewhere (maybe the upstage side of masking) my ASM can hit with a light that he can see but the audience can't. I'll report back!

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