How to Prepare for a Scene

Written By Charlene Mayo, Stage Manager, on 2/14/07 for the Lifebook Community How to Prepare for a Scene Putting up scene work in class is both challenging and rewarding on many levels. Doing scene work in class requires you to be much more than just an actor. You must also be a director*, a producer, a writer, a prop master, a wardrobe mistress; a sound engineer… the list goes on and on. In essence, you must wear the hat of every position you would find on any theatrical or film project. That’s a lot of hats! But don’t get discouraged. It’s actually quite fun wearing so many hats. =) *You are a director directing your own acting choices and ideas. Do not direct your scene partners unless you’ve been approved to direct the scene by the teacher or stage manager (if you are advanced). Here are the few steps you must go through to develop a scene for class…now break a leg! Find your character First things first. You need to know who you want to play. If you’ve just joined Lifebook, then you already have your first castings list. These castings are to help you with your career path. You will need to ask yourself, “What character will help me grow as an artist?” This can be a difficult question to answer but remember there is no right or wrong answer. Use whatever works for you and stay on track with your artistic path. Of course not every single character you play has to be the “perfect” character or vehicle. This is a workshop! Have fun! But keep in mind that the best scenes for you are the ones that will help you to attain your ticket in to the big show (real professional acting work that can evolve into an entire career)! Find your script The next thing is to get your hands on the script. Plays or screenplays, they both work. There is a blog listing of several websites on www.lifebookacting.com that offer scripts for free download. Check it out. You can also browse the shelves at Samuel French. If you’re having a hard time tracking down your script and find yourself at wits end, you can always rent the DVD/VHS and ask a friend/classmate to transcribe a scene for you. We recommend that you don’t transcribe scenes yourself because while writing, rewinding, and writing again you are getting the scene burned in your mind…and those actors have already been paid. We want you to bring your skill and art to the stage! Find your scene You’ve got your character and you’ve searched and searched and finally found the script. Whew! Now what? The next step is to find a scene involving your character. So what makes a good scene? Good question. Keep in mind where you’ll be performing – on a stage in class. When choosing your scene, you’ll want to avoid big blockbuster movie moments like exploding bombs, massive large-scale warfare, jumping off cliffs… the kinds of things that require professional stunt people or special effects to pull them off. Scenes from stage plays are a great way to go. Stage plays are written for – drumroll, please – the stage! Perfect for class work. Another thing to consider is scene length…shoot for three to five minutes. Scenes any longer than 5 minutes, with only two main actors, need to be approved by a stage manager. Keeping scenes under 5 minutes allows us to be able to get in as much work as possible and have time for full and concise critiques and other class work such as improvs, monologues, etc. Find your booking Now that you know what scene you’re going to put up in class, it’s time to schedule a time for your amazing performance! Contact the booking officer for your class. It is preferred that all booking be done during class time (see the full booking procedure on Myspace and on the Lifebook website) Remember, once your name is on the scene schedule, or “on the books” as we like to call it, you’re committed. Record that date for your scene in your day planner IN INK. This is your virtual shooting day. So take it seriously. Actors not prepared for their scene work and have not replaced their spot will need to contribute to the Lifebook Scholarship Fund. This should not happen. Bring in the great work! Find your cast Okay, on to the next step – your co-star(s). With whom would you like to work? Take a look at the other characters in your scene and browse your class roster. Who would be a good fit to play these other characters? Sometimes you don’t find anyone in class who fits the character you want to cast in your scene. That’s okay. Choose the best suited from what’s available. The class roster is always changing so work with what you have. Sometimes we discover great moments from actors because they try their hand at a character who is a stretch for them. So don’t be shy. Ask anyone in class to be in your scene. Experience the variety of talent we have available to us! The full Phone List for class is available to you. Find your time Now it’s time to get down to the real work – acting! So how do you go about rehearsing a scene? Many people have many different techniques in their rehearsal process. For example, I’ve seen actors who like to do a table read first. Then there are actors who want to dive right in, get up on their feet and start fully playing the character right from the start. For you, use whatever works. But always remember, you have a responsibility to your scene partner(s). Respect their methods and if there is a difference in approach, find a compromise with which everyone can move forward. How much time should I put into rehearsal before the scene is ready? We have a guideline at LifeBook – three hours of rehearsal for every one minute of scene. Seems like a lot, doesn’t it? When it gets down to it, it’s actually not enough. This is recommended minimum so that you can find all the greatness in the scene and dive into it with both feet. The discovery process is where we grow! The more that you rehearse the more you find in the character and come up with ideas to make the scene better! This is a workshop. Doing the rehearsal will improve your acting so when you go to set you will be prepared and have the ideas and the knowledge at your fingertips! So I’ll just remind you of a few things to consider while developing your scene – wardrobe, props, set dressing, sound. These are just some of the details aside from acting. Think outside the box. Take risks. And always remember to bring your absolute BEST work to class. Be a professional! Leave no stone unturned. Pull out all the stops! Have fun! It is recommended that you do rehearsal reports. We are no longer collecting these but it is good for you to keep record of your rehearsals to know how much time you put into your work. Find your performance We’ve done a lot up to this point and it’s time to reward yourself. It’s time to be a star! On your booking day, show up extra early to class. If possible, find out where your scene is in the line up for the evening. Talk to the stage manager and let him/her know what your set up is like. If it’s a big set up, we’ll need to know. Come to class with great energy and ROCK ’em dead! But wait, when your scene is done, it’s not over yet. Now it’s time for the critique. This is most important. So when your scene is finished, get settled into a chair in front of the class and prepare yourself to listen AND to hear. Your scene is done. Leave it. Get your critique now. Be a sponge. Take it all in. Listen. Hear. Learn. The critiques are now available to be recorded, so if you have a recorder – bring it and give it to a stage manager to hit record when Allen starts speaking so you can put these notes to work! CONGRATULATIONS!!! You’ve done a great job with your scene! Can’t wait to see you on stage and witness the evolution of the artist within YOU! If you have any questions about scene work, feel free to ask the stage managers. Break a leg!

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