Stop Working So Hard! (No really, stop.)

A number of years ago I was rehearsing a monologue with one of my favorite actors.

I gave him some direction to deliver the monologue a little more conversational and a little less presentational. “Just talk. Less like you are delivering a speech, and more like you’re just hanging out with some friends. Keep it natural.”

And that’s when it happened.

I was a young director (I guess I still am). And regardless of how clear my direction was, what he said next changed my whole outlook on direction and line delivery.

“With all due respect, if I don’t care about what I’m saying, if I’m too casual, then how is what I’m saying important? Why should I expect my audience to care to listen?”

I had to rethink every bit of direction I had ever given and every bit of direction I had planned to give.

His way was better.

A parallel came about as I began applying this to my directing and my own acting and performance.

Of course, when we are talking to a group of people, we need to care about what we are saying and how we are saying it. It needs to matter to us and we must have an appropriate amount of passion to sell the idea.

But, what I discovered is that if I am having a difficult time finding the words, if I can’t be articulate and clear…

…then, probably, I have not yet bought in to what what I am trying to say.

And if I haven’t bought in, how could I possibly ask my audience to buy in?

Some of you may be thinking, “How sad for Rob. I can sell anything. I don’t need to believe something in order to be able to justify it. That’s just sales. And sales is just show business!”

Well, sure. I felt that way too. I knew I could justify anything. My actions. My words. My thoughts. Just give me enough time, and I’ll be happy to justify any and all of that for you.

Justification wasn’t the problem.

It was how hard I had to work at those justifications that raised the red flags.

The longer it takes, the harder I have to work, the more I have to search for just the right words, the more I know something is wrong. And now the question rises, why?

Is it unclear to me?

Do I really agree with what I am trying to say?

Am I crossing a moral line by getting this thought out?

These questions clarify if I should pause,

or if I should stop and start over,

or maybe, possibly, just stop.

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