Last night at rehearsal for Richard III, the director finished her agenda and opened up the evening to anyone who wanted to work on something specific. Not one to hold up proceedings, I made a tentative request to work on one of my scenes in the play. Not just any scene, but my longest, potentially most draining scene.
The director, totally willing to run the scene nonetheless pointed out that she had not detected anything wrong with it that required work in the previous times we ran it. I nearly withdrew my request, thinking it might be just in my head that I wasn’t feeling right about the scene, and not wanting to keep people from going home early. After some encouragement from the others involved in the scene, however, we ran the scene once through.
You can find out more details about that over on Always Off Book. The point I am making here is that I felt the need to improve upon a scene, and rework same, when everyone else thought it was going fine. So convincing is the crowd sometimes in life that we sometimes forget that in the end we need to have a certain degree of satisfaction with our own work.
This can be taken to extreme, naturally. Perfectionism makes failures of us all. If I am not careful I could be a perfectionist, but I usually don’t allow that impulse much time in the spotlight. Yet perfection aside I can be quite exacting in my self-standards. I don’t want to make other people suffer because of them, which is why I was reluctant to ask people to stay behind for a few more minutes. Yet in the end I knew that I had to go over it once, without the pressure of the rest of the play, just so I could say to myself I could elevate it to my own standards.
That scene needs work still, in my head. And I will continue to work on it. Yet those few moments during the “free” hour of rehearsal may have done more for the scene than all of the previous “official” rehearsals of same, because it was specifically for me as opposed to the play as a whole. In spite of everyone else thinking that the scene was fine, (though very willing to run it last night), I just had to satisfy that one part of my that wanted to try for a bit more. I can still do so from here on out as we get to that scene each night, but I won’t have that chance to isolate that one scene again before we open.
The moral of this story is that while we must avoid perfectionism, we cannot always avoid that voice in our head that tells us we can do something better, or that it needs a bit more work. I felt a bit of embarrassment asking for the extra time at first, but once it was over, I was happy that I listened to myself when I said, you could use just one extra run-through of this.
If I had not, the show would have gone on in this final week, and I would have been fine to the audience, I imagine. Just as I have been to my fellow actors. Yet I think a part of me would have always wanted that single chance to do it “for me”.
So don’t jail yourself or beat yourself up. But when the chance arises, take that extra moment or two to satisfy yourself. To know that you can give that extra shot, or be just so much better. We’re only human, but in the end we owe it to ourselves first to believe in what we are doing, and how well we are doing it. Even if others don’t notice a problem.