Had a first table read of the play I’m in the other night. Everybody was very nice. Not a psycho in the bunch. No one vying for all the attention or anything. It’s a theater company, so they have a lot of repeats, so the nuts probably don’t get asked back.
I kinda hate the first table read. Because even though I shouldn’t, I feel like I am meeting the other actors for the first time and they have never seen my work and they are judging how good an actor I am and there is not much I can do because I am still finding my way and I know I shouldn’t feel this way.
Anyway, the director has the aura of a former whiz kid or something. I know he got all A’s and probably skipped a grade and raised his hand a lot. And he was friends with all his teachers. And was in every club. You know BRIGHT. Talks fast. Thinks fast. That’s good. Smart is good.
So before we start he says, “I know everyone says don’t try to do anything on the first read, just read. But I don’t want that. Try to do something.” OH NO. So we all become laugh whores during the read and push for the laughs.
When we finish the play, he says he has a problem with two scenes. “I noticed people were yawning while you read those last two scenes.” He is talking about tightening up the writing of the scenes, but I know the actors who read the scenes can’t hear him now because the words “ YAWNING WHILE YOU READ, YAWNING WHILE YOU READ, YAWNING WHILE YOU READ, YAWNING WHILE YOU READ are now reverberating in their minds and they can’t hear anything else. Hence the uncomfortable phony panic smiles on their faces and the glazed expressions in their eyes. And their attempts to nod at the appropriate times to show they can actually hear him and know what he is talking about.
Eh, uh, I don’t think he should have mentioned the yawning thing. Actors are so hard on themselves and sensitive you gotta be careful what you say to us.
Directors need organization, talent, intelligence and sensitivity. I once worked with a film director who seemed to specialize in saying inappropriate things to actors. I was doing a scene in a kitchen where my character was desperate. We did a few takes and it went fine. Then the director said, “Just for the hell of it, take it really far. Go all out.” So we did the take and I was shaking and crying. When we finished the DP looked impressed and turned to the director and said, “What do you think? Should we print that one?” And the director turned to him and said, “No, no, that was way too over the top, no!” “Ah, HELLO I AM THREE FEET AWAY FROM YOU. I CAN HEAR YOU! I’M IN THE ROOM!” I thought. Thanks. Nice. I asked one of the crew about it. “How can he say this stuff? Does he think I’m an idiot?” “No,” they said, “he talks like that to all the actors.” Luckily for us, he ended up a film editor. In a dark studio. Where he doesn’t have to talk to anybody. Good thing.