My abiding memory of drama school was the plea from our esteemed head of department to ‘never take out insurance’.
A neat way of stopping us from apologising before, during or after a scene rehearsal.
This principle has stuck with me and, though I don’t always remember to practice it myself, I make a point of underpinning my students studies with it.
The instinct to excuse ourselves or apologise for our lack of ability is a strong one in actors of all experience.
Remarkably, many actors will apologise before they have even done anything?!
What does that say.
Well, it says that we don’t trust ourselves or our work. It says that we are expecting to be pitch perfect first time or it isn’t worth bothering.
But, is there any medium in which an artist is expected to be pitch perfect during practice or rehearsal? Can we imagine pristine workshops where the potter tends his wheel without mess or waste? does the musician neglect practicing his scales lest one of them is off key? No!
Class and rehearsals are full of cringing artists, pulling faces and self flagellating every time a line is dropped or they play inaccurately. Precious minutes are wasted daily as actors ask for a massage from exhausted directors over every little hiccup instead of just getting on with it.
Don’t get me wrong, I know from my own experience that it is not meant selfishly, but, sadly, this is how it looks.
ACTOR: ‘I’m so sorry, I CAN be really good. Honestly, I will warm up soon and everything I do will please you. Please dont fire me’.
DIRECTOR: ‘Get on with it you irritating brat. I invited you here/hired you because this is your job. Stop apologising, get playful and discover some things. Stay in it!!!!’
Again, my brilliant head of acting at drama school, Dave Bond used to tell us as we got on our feet, not to “take out insurance!”.
What he was trying to tackle was the inevitable grovel to the audience as actors grimaced and contorted their way into the playing space. It was a welcome rarity when someone stepped up with confidence and purpose. With that approach alone, the auditioner is forced to take you seriously.
I have learned from bitter and embarrassing experience that there is a great dignity in offering what you have got and leaving an audition without apologising for your lack of ability/skill/preparation/height, whatever.
Who you are is enough, what you bring is enough. Commit to your choices, listen to your scene partner and smile because you have fulfilled your duty. No more, no less.
To you, the artist.