Emotions on Demand

I had a student share that she was feeling stale after doing several takes in a row at home and she wondered what to do about that and how to stay fresh.  Watch the clip from class below and then circle back to this top section to get into “the how.”  ↓ ↓ ↓

The main idea is that as actors we need to learn how to be able to do take after take without getting stale.  The take after take itself isn’t the problem.  Does that make sense?   

You can practice in a good class how to rediscover the scene each time.

Here’s some key questions to ask to stay fresh when rehearsing

  • Are you truly being active and doing something to the other person in the scene?  When you are warmed up and play a juicy action (that’s right for the scene)  like “I smack them,” it will get you in your body, focused on deeply listening to see how that action landed.  Ultimately it should get you out of your head and into the “right now.”  (not stale!)
  • Are you deeply connected to a big want in the scene?  Does it ignite you?  And for comedy, are you going for the laugh or going for the want?
  • If you had a rehearsal or take that felt good, did you then try to recreate or regurgitate that thing you did, or did you allow yourself to let go and rediscover the moment to moment?
  • Are you in your head and judging or watching yourself?  Try a few mantras before you roll like “It’s okay to let go,” “I do my work, I do not prove my worth,” “I will allow myself to be seen,” “I’m going to let the camera take the ideas from me.”  See if that helps.


Sarah: My husband Matt and I have been watching Friends from the beginning (it’s such a great lesson in comedy). And I listened to this interview with David Schwimmer about going to Northwestern and getting theatre training and, you know, he has very specific training, and he was talking about how he has to have the technique to be able to do something again and again and again and again and again–but how he’ll experiment with something being new every time, even though he knows he can repeat it. What if I fell this way, and did some physical comedy in this way?

So I think you have, you know, there’s gonna be stuff that works, especially thinking specifically about comedy, which this scene is not, there’s stuff that you will rehearse in there because you’ve found that that’s what works, on the timing, on the thing. But there’s always a letting go that happens so that if you have an impulse, you’re available to it. That slowing down enough to not have like, I’ve gotta do this plan, I’m gonna hit it every time, you know.

It’s why people talk about working with great actors making them better, because they give them so much to work off of, but if you’re not an actor who can work off of someone, it won’t matter who you’re in the scene with. Great actors will give you something fresh every time. Even if it’s the same choice, it’ll be the same choice, discovered new.

Right, that’s why actions are so great, because just because you decided in a moment it really works to release him, if you release him for real every time, it’s never gonna be the same. It’s fresh every night. How do you do eight shows a week on Broadway? There’s things that are gonna be the same, but new. They’re not regurgitated, but discovered. You can discover the same choice every night. But you’re still available and listening in case you get a curveball.