Actor’s Toolbox: Think About When the Cat Died!

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At the last rehearsal Harper Lee (who plays teenage Tallulah) was trying to summon up enough sadness to be tearful. It just wasn’t happening until her younger sister, Halle (who plays Tory), shouted out, “Think about when the cat died.” All actors need a really sad moment in their actor’s toolbox to be able to call up difficult emotions and Halle nailed that for her sister. Those of us in the audience cracked up.

Assistant Director Cecile Davis talked to the actors about the need for pauses in acting. She said it was sometimes hard not to step in to “help” a fellow actor if you thought they had forgotten their line, so actors were instructed to call “line” if they forgot what they were supposed to say. As writers we imagine those pauses, but we are not the actors or directors, so only occasionally do we offer a suggestion. The character needs to feel where the pauses should be.

At this rehearsal we were back on the main stage and did a complete run through of the first act. There were a couple of actors missing and others had to stand in for them, but it gave a pretty good idea of the running time (about 47 minutes which is right about what we’d hoped for). There are still some blocking issues when we have everybody on stage.

When the run through was completed, Tim gave “notes” to the actors. Then he turned to Laura and me and said, “Ladies, we need a better transition between Scenes 4 and 5. He was right. What we had written was too abrupt, so today we wrote a small bridge scene which gave us the opportunity to show the emotional change happening to Will (Casey Rauch). We’ll get to see it at Sunday’s rehearsal. Our being at rehearsals and seeing the progress makes us better able to fix this sort of problem. In the long run, the play will be better for the fixes and the actor’s toolboxes re-opened.

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