Bold Choices: Make Them Remember You

As actors, I feel like we are constantly being told to make “bold choices.” The phrase has become shorthand for directors, auditors, casting directors, instructors, and even fellow actors. It is generally accepted to be a positive thing, a thing you definitely should do, but how does one harness the power of such a nebulous concept, and use it for the betterment of actor-kind? Let’s take a look.

What Does it Mean?

Unfortunately, “bold choices” is a pretty broad, subjective term. How you know if your choices are bold? What if they are only italicized? Of course I am only one voice in the masses you will encounter throughout your career, but in my experience, directors requesting bold choices are really asking for a culmination of several things:

  • Fearlessness—No one wants to see an actor watching himself, or gauging the reception to his work. They want to see someone unencumbered by insecurity, who is willing commit utterly.  (If “fearlessness” ever feels like a big ask for you, try changing the word to “bravery.” Take the risk despite your anxieties. The results will be the same and eventually the nervous voices in your head will be held at bay by experience).

  • Innovation—Don’t rely on proven tricks. Try something new. If you can do what Will Ferrell does, fantastic. But they’ve seen Will Ferrell. If they want Will Ferrell, they’ll hire him. Find something that is uniquely you. Read the line in the unexpected way. If it doesn’t work, you can always give it your best Ron Burgundy later.

  • Specificity—We’ve talked a lot about what “bold” means, but now it’s time to remember we are being asked to make a “choice.” It’s not enough to be risky, you have to pinpoint the risk you are taking. Whatever choice you make has to be the High Def Technicolor version. Commit to the details.

Why is it Important?

Making bold choices is crucial to the vitality of any production. Not only does it free the actor to find the most compelling and grounded version of her character, it galvanizes other cast members to do the same. It establishes an environment of trust and fosters creativity.  You will be remembered for raising the bar and setting the standards. That is the kind of actor people want to hire again.

While making bold choices will almost always serve you, as with anything, it comes with its do’s and don’ts. Here are some thoughts on when to take the plunge:

Yes Take the Risk!

  • At Auditions—Always. This is not the time to play it safe. Go big or go home.

  • During Your First Rehearsal—Start strong! As any director will tell you, they would rather pull you back than have to drag it out of you.

  • During the Rehearsal Process—Now is the time to try everything out before it gets solidified!

  • When Doing Multiple Takes on Film—Give them a range of choices from which to choose.

  • When Something Feels Stale—Making a fresh choice is a great way to breathe life back into a tired process. Just make sure you check in with your scene partner first.

Proceed With Caution…

  • If it’s Been Choreographed—Be it dance, combat or comedy, if a bit has been physically choreographed in any way, stick to the plan. It is not your place to throw an unexpected monkey wrench in the works.

  • If A Director Has Set Something—If your director has specifically asked you keep a choice a certain way, there is a reason for that. If you feel strongly about wanting to change a choice, open a dialogue, debate and negotiate. But don’t go rogue in the middle of the production.

  • If it Affects Your Scene Partner—Making bold choices on impulse is great, but if there is anything that might throw off your scene partner, such as touching or taking things in a dramatically different direction, it’s polite to check in with them first. It’s always OK to ask if you can try something new, but you want them to be on board.

  • If it Defies the Text—There is a difference between a bold choice and an unjustified one. If you want to do something that directly contradicts the text, apply some judgment. This kind of risk is best done during rehearsal, when everyone is still playing. Again, if it involves anyone else, give them a heads up.

Bold choices are the heart and soul of any creative endeavor. This is how artists inspire one another. It is what allows art to evolve, and what keeps it compelling. Be part of the progress. Allow your risks and your failures to be tools for propulsion. It’s more fun anyway.

 

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Rachel Rachel Frawley is an actor living in Atlanta. She holds a B.F.A. in Theatre from Michigan State University (with cognates in Music and Professional Writing) and is an Apprentice Company graduate from the Atlanta Shakespeare Co. She also works as an education artist for local theatres, which have included the Shakespeare Tavern and Aurora Theatre. For more information, visit her website at www.rachelfrawley.com

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