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Helping the Actors With Lines

Holding Book, Part 4

One of the best services you can provide to an actor is to note when they are having a problem with a line. This could include consistently dropping a line, switching lines, or otherwise messing up the words and confusing themselves or their fellow actors. This process begins once the actors are off book.

  • Use a pencil to underline or otherwise mark an area where the actor has made a mistake. Make additional notes so that you're clear about what was or wasn't done.
  • There's usually no need to say anything the first time it happens unless the actor or director asks. If the actor doesn't make the same mistake for a rehearsal or two, erase the mark.
  • If the actor makes the same mistake again during the next rehearsal, mark the page with a sticky note and let the actor know at the end of rehearsal. (Discuss how this will be done with the director prior to the actors being out of book.) When the actor then corrects the mistake at the following rehearsal, simply erase the mark. It can always go back later.
  • One thing to watch in particular is the accuracy of cue lines-those lines immediately preceding another actor's. These need to be as accurate and consistent as possible to ensure that the other actors know what line is next and if it's their turn to speak.
  • Be prepared for a little grief-this particular bookholding duty does not make you a popular person! Nobody likes having their mistakes pointed out to them, even when they know it will help them improve. Be tactful when giving notes. Remember, it's easy for you, you're reading the script!
  • You will probably find that in spite of the grumbling, most actors appreciate knowing what lines were problematic during rehearsal. Most of them know their problem areas and like knowing exactly what they are doing wrong. Actors especially like to find out that the only reason they messed up was because someone made a mistake before they did!
  • On the other hand, you are there to help, not to be abused. If an actor is taking your notes in a less-than-graceful manner, talk to the director.
  • Many actors paraphrase to some extent. Discuss this with the director beforehand to find out how they feel about this and if he/she wants this brought to the attention of the actors.

Next: Next: More Ways to Help Out
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