Anything can happen on an empty stage. Sometimes, what was rehearsed, isn’t what the audience sees.
“On theater you never know what to expect,” said David Crawford TJC Theater professor.
During plays, actors rehearse day after day and know the lines and timing. The audience sees the scene for the first time, and they don’t know what to watch for. They often don’t see when something goes wrong.
“Number one is, you think you did something awful, but you’ve been rehearsing everything every single night for six weeks. But the audience – it’s the first time they ever seen,” said Crawford.
The audience can only see what actors demonstrate, they don’t notice if something didn’t go as planned if there is no hint from an actor.
“They don’t know what is right or wrong. They have no clue, and if you don’t show anything, if you don’t let them see a sweat, if you don’t do a thing, they don’t know what is right or wrong.”
An actor cannot show when they forget a line or make a mistake in the play.
“It is terrifying internally when you drop a line, but, thankfully, you have other actors who are good to cover,” said Ashley Oxford, TJC student majoring in Theater. “But, you have that moment when everything goes quiet and it’s like, ‘oh my God I messed up, everybody’s gonna’ know I messed up. The director is gonna’ know I messed up. I’m gonna get killed’, but they don’t even notice it.”
TJC has seen its share of unexpected scenes on stage. An actor threw up in the middle of a scene, another forgot the choreography of a sword fight and ended up getting hit by the iron sword. In both situations, the actors improvised, and the audience didn’t notice that it wasn’t planned.
“What happens when something goes wrong is that you panic, up here, in your head. You are just rushed by all the sensations. You are rushed with feelings. You are rushed with the emotion,“ said Crawford. “But what you have to do is think, ‘wow, how do we logically get out of this’, and most of it is just to be in control of it and just not to panic.”
The art of acting relies on improvising in unexpected situations. Actors rehearse and learn everything as planned, but this doesn’t always happen.
“You forget for a second that the audience doesn’t know your lines,” said Jack Taylor, TJC student majoring in Theater.
People make mistakes, even with rehearsal. Actors aren’t immune.
“Do you think it’s possible for human beings to actually go three hours without making any mistakes whatsoever? Things happen, “ said Crawford.