Wednesday, July 30, 2008

more from William Ball


We've said it before - but it's so important it bears repeating - a question from an actor is not a question. A question from an actor is an innocent bid to draw the director's attention to something unresolved. When the actor asks a question, a wise director doesn't answer the question. The answer to the question is not in the director, the answer to the question is in the actor. Answer the question by asking another question. Allow the actor to resolve the difficulty. He already has the best answer in mind before he asks the question. Here is an example:

ACTOR: Shall I wear this hat?
DIRECTOR: What would be best?
ACTOR: Well, it's too small. It gets in the way. I don't know where to put it, and if I do put it down, I have no way of getting it off the stage when I leave.
DIRECTOR: Let's leave the hat out.

Another example:

ACTOR: How should I do it, on the right or the left?
DIRECTOR: Which way is best?
ACTOR: If I do it on the right, I can arrive on time. If I do it on the left, I'll be late.
DIRECTOR: Well, then do it on the right.

The answer to the question is in the question. The actor's answer will be organic, and by using his solution, the director will avoid imposing anything. Another example:

ACTOR: Are we going to skip this scene today?
DIRECTOR: Is there something about that scene that we should give our attention to?
ACTOR: Well, I did alot of work on that scene last night and I have some new ideas I'd like to show you.
DIRECTOR: In that case, let's be sure to work that scene in.

The question "Are we going to skip this scene?" may be answered "Yes, it's not scheduled!" or "Yes, we're moving on to the last act." But, "Are we going to skip this scene?" is an invitation to draw attention to something. The director does not know what it is; he has to find out. A question from the actor is merely an invitation. The actor is drawing attention to something unresolved.