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Ask Questions

By • Jun 20th, 2012 • Category: An Actor's Advice

Arguably the most famous question in all of theatre is “To be or not to be.” At least within the realm of questions from a script.

Not all questions an actor may have will be as profound as this one, of course. Nonetheless the actor should have questions. Many questions, at least at the start of a production.

Having questions about one’s role, a scene, and a production as a whole is indicative of several things. It indicates first and foremost that you care about what you are doing. When you are getting nothing out of being in a production, or in the very least or neutral about it, you are not likely to wonder many things. And when an actor ceases to wonder, half of his battle is lost right from the start.

Having lots of questions also reminds the actor that he is dealing with a creative medium. Flexibility and adaptability are crucial components to the success of theatrical endeavors. There are rules, naturally, but we should even have questions about those, if only to better understand why they are rules. (And sometimes in order to break them, but don’t tell anyone I said that to you.)

Finally, having a treasure trunk of question early in the process, when answering them is productive, opens up conversations that otherwise may not have occurred. Conversations that can lead the scene of the whole show in a whole new direction. I recall just a few years ago a simple question I was asking about a specific job I had opened the door to an hour long conversation that inspired the director to change part of her vision of the entire play. I do not take credit for this. I will however take credit for being willing to ask questions.

Not all questions require answers, or even have answers. These can be the best type of questions for an actor to have. A question unanswered, even if kept to oneself, opens the door to unlimited, undefined potential. What a marvelous thing to access while building a character!

Then of course there are question you can ask your cast mates. Or tech crew members. The more you ask, the more you learn; a lesson from your childhood applicable even today.

You can’t control how others feel about your questions. They may not like you asking them. (Though if your director dislikes questions, they are poor at what they do.) However, any director of any value should welcome and encourage the forming and asking of many questions in their actors. (So long as they are asked at the appropriate time of course.) And you should open your mind to as many questions as possible when you join a play. You, as well as the show, will deepen as a result.

What questions do you like to ask when you are in a show?

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