#28 Get Rid of Stage Directions

13 April 2021 - 10:52 BY Louw
Get Rid of Stage Directions: Tool To Combat Mechanical Performance Choices


If I read a play or script and I see the stage direction… “He burst into tears, sobbing” I immediately feel intense pressure. 


I use to be so afraid of emotional scenes. What if the tears won’t come? What if I don’t get there on the day? What if my preparation isn’t enough? All these questions and fears run through my head. 


Then I got to a point where I decided to give over, to make an intentional choice NOT to take on that pressure before the moment arrives. I say moment because I realised if I just let myself trust the moment, trust the writer and the story, the moment will present me with the truth I need. But… If I over-intellectualise and stress the whole day until that scene arrives, I will already be emotionally drained. 


I found a tool that practically helped me take off any unnecessary pressure and stress to enjoy the whole day of shooting or play and not focus on that scary scene waiting for me. 


A tool to try:


- Scribble out stage directions: when the writer says the character cries here or laughs here or breaks down there, scribble out those emotional descriptions. 

- No disrespect but freedom: it’s not to disrespect the writer but to find truth in WHY the character gets emotional or hysterical and not WHEN otherwise we will be thinking… “Ok, almost my cue… and cry here!”

- If the scene and story are well written, you will have more than enough to work with. Trust your instincts and preparation at home. Leave that moment to be its own thing and not drain yourself emotionally unless that is part of your character’s WHY, then drain girl, drain!


A good writer’s work will give you more than enough dialogue and actions to understand where the emotional triggers come from. On set there might be very little time for a director to fix something in your performance, so we as actors, have to take the responsibility on ourselves to get to set with our preparation done and choices made and still be free to let our impulses lead the way in the moment. 


Acting is standing up naked and turning around very slowly.

 - Rosalind Russell


How did you find the technique/tool/advice? Did it work for you? What was different this time? Share with the tribe and let’s keep on creating beautiful, honest and memorable performances. Let’s execute our best selves! 

Kind regards 
Edwin van der Walt 

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