Theatre Lessons

One of the things that I love about live theatre is that you never know what could happen. Every performance is different. As hard as you try to be consistent, things happen. Your health changes, your mood changes, your memory fails you, a prop isn’t in the right place, or the audience does something that throws you off. As hard as we try to do it “right” every time, we are human.

In the little bit of film work I have done (very little I will admit) it was interesting to have take after take until it was just right. Or until the director has enough choices to go back to the studio and decide which take looks the way they want it to look. Whichever take is the one chosen will be the exact same every time it is seen, nothing changes.

In acting classes I have been taught and now teach my students to do the best they can that day. Yes, we are supposed to try to leave what is happening in the real world and our real lives outside of the theatre and become immersed in the world of the play we are performing, but again, we are human. Today our best might not be the same as our best yesterday. And who knows what tomorrow might bring!

Focusing in on what is going on while you perform is a life lesson for us all. Living in the moment, feeling the emotions of the current situation, not projecting what else is going on in our lives onto other people and doing the best we can at that moment are all great qualities to work toward in theatre and in life.

I tell my students when we begin a production to never touch anything that isn’t yours (often we are sharing theatre space with another group and their props and costumes must be left alone.) I tell them the story of when I needed a piece of trash as a prop and most nights when I went to get it I had to fish it out of the trash can because some well meaning person had thrown the “trash” away. So I tell them over and over- if it’s not yours just don’t touch it. For some reason, it is one of the hardest things to get across to them. Everyone wants to mess with things that aren’t theirs!

The second thing I tell them is to be respectful of each other. We are all learning and experimenting. We are all a little insecure (or a lot insecure) and we need support and encouragement. No laughing at each other as we try new voices, new movement, new characters. Being supportive, attentive and reassuring as we work together is one of the things I love most about theatre.

I always tell them to do their best, for that day. Some days their best might not be as good as other days, but if it is truly the best they can do that day in that situation, then that is all anyone can ask of them.

As a perfectionist, it has always been hard for me to be any kind of artist. My singing isn’t perfect, my acting isn’t perfect, my painting isn’t perfect, my decorating isn’t perfect. I strive to make it the best that I can at that time, but it always bothers me that I don’t feel it was perfect and that every single person who sees it might not love it. Learning to try for the best I can do that day instead of perfection has helped me.

If we could learn not touch things that don’t belong to us, live in the moment, act respectfully towards every person we encounter, and we each did the very best we could with where we are today, I think the theatre would be a better place. And so would the world.

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Marietta is a graduate of the University of Montevallo with a BFA in musical theater. She has been performing for over 50 years on the stage and continues to perform, direct and teach. Marietta is married to Tim, has a son named Jon, and a cat named Penny.