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Before The Lights Come Up

There was a time in my life as an actor, when I would put off the hardest thing about a role.  Perhaps it would be a difficult emotional moment, or a new dialect, or any number of things that would make me uncomfortable.  I would hope that through the process of rehearsal, these moments would take care of themselves.  Of course, they seldom did, and come opening night I would dread those moments.

I got involved in a 24 hour theatre project when I was living in Los Angeles and it changed my perspective on tackling a role.  Here there was no time to prepare.  Too many lines?  Too bad, you’ve only got 12 hours.  You’ve never done a Spanish accent before?  Sorry, you go up in 6 hours.  Having a hard time crying for this scene?  Better figure it out because you are going on next.

There is a moment just before you enter the stage where you are absolutely terrified.  This could very well not work.  But you push yourself over that threshold, somehow it does work, and you leave the stage feeling like you can do anything for the next month.  From that moment forward I haven’t looked back on my old way of thinking.  I now find the most difficult part of a role and I tackle it first.

I’ve been producing Combat Theatre for almost 20 years now, Combat Boot Camp for 12, and I’ve seen so many other actors, both professional and student, face that same fear and challenge over and over again.  And I’ve seen the way they feel after they triumph, and how it changes them.  I can’t think of a better or more entertaining acting exercise.

James Fletcher