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Stepping into a last-minute role

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I recently produced and acted in the British farce See How They Run at Greenbelt Arts Center. Why would I choose to produce and act, you ask? My acting happened by chance, not choice. Ten days before opening night, my director informed me that one of the actors had failed to memorize his lines, and I had to step into the role of Sergeant Towers.

I was faced with the prodigious task of memorizing nearly 50 lines in ten days. How did I do it?

1.) I stayed calm. I didn't panic. I realized if I couldn't stay composed and do what needed to be done, the show would be a disaster; I dug in and got to work.

2.) I began reciting the lines and running the blocking immediately! I had no time for scene study or analysis. I had to get as close to performance mode as closely and as quickly as possible.

3.) I studied as hard as I could, as much as I could. That meant, little or no TV, Internet or newspapers. I had a singular focus, that in the end paid off handsomely! We got a sterling review!

So if you ever find yourself having to take on a last-minute role, remember to stay calm, recite lines and run blocking immediately and study as hard and as much as you can--and get sound sleep too, it helps with consolidation of memories!

Remember to do something for your career every day and break a leg!


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