But what we don’t do is push ourselves to get better at the things we’re already good at. Bryce is really good at playing villains. How can we push him to get better at playing villains? If we start giving each other notes on what we’re good at and challenging each other to get even better, we’ll find out what we’re good at, grow in new ways, and learn new things that everyone can benefit form. Very exciting.
It all reminded me of something I had heard August Wilson say in a master class. Every time he sat down to write a play he set out to write the best play that had ever been written. Otherwise, what was the point? Why bother? I tried to research an actual cited version of that quote and what I found was even better:
For years I sat in that chair and tried to best my predecessors, to write the best play that’s ever been written. That was my goal until I ran across a quote by Frank Lloyd Wright, who said he didn’t want to be the best architect who ever lived. He wanted to be the best architect who was ever going to live. That added fuel to the fire and raised the stakes, so to speak. Now you’re not only doing battle with your predecessors but with your successors as well. It drives you to write above your talent. And I know that’s possible to do because you can write beneath it.
That’s how I want to write. That’s how I want to improvise.
Then we moved on to singing. Typically when we sing songs in rehearsal we do a “Chorus/Verse” song, where one person starts by setting a chorus, we all repeat it, and then we all take turns doing verses. Except we never end up singing songs like that in shows, and really, very songs are like that to begin with.
During the last Shakespeare show, they worked on “Verse/Chorus” songs. The idea was to start with a verse, like most songs do, then the next person sets the chorus (but we do not repeat it together yet). The next person does a verse and then everyone sings the chorus together. Then everyone takes turns singing verses. The result is much more like an actual song, and hopefully more likely to happen I a show (with practice).
We took this a step further though and tried to merge with the exercise the work we had done on acting in other people’s styles. The idea was to mimic the person’s singing style. Not the notes, but the tamber, cadence, vowel structure, etc. This pushed people outside of their normal vocal patterns and pointed out patterns and habits that we people had. All very useful.