It’s exciting to develop new work. This is a great way for actors to practice their craft and keep their skills sharp. You’ll have the opportunity to create new material in a completely safe and non-judgmental environment. People will also be interested in your opinions about the show. Before you become power-mad about it, there are many subtleties you need to consider when working with something. This article will help you identify the best and worst practices you can bring into a development. It will also help you be a productive member of the team.
What is a “Development”?
Fair question. Fair question. The ‘development’ can occur before staging a play or presenting a stripped-down version to potential investors. It is important to remember that participation in one does NOT guarantee you will be cast in its final production.
What is expected of me will change depending on what’s happening. You may participate in the creation of a devised show. You will usually read a script several times before giving feedback. You might feel like you are part of smaller production, such as a musical produced by an established production house.
Talk to the Creatives
Due to the many goals set for a particular development, it is worth speaking to them and asking what your role will be. This will give you an idea of the type of space you will be entering and allow you to perform your best work. You want to find creative people who care about you and your ideas, not just the project. They should also be open to your opinions. Are they professionals? Are they able to show you a schedule showing how your time is best used? Writers and directors often treat actors in development like guinea pigs in an experiment. Undefined goals and plans are useful indicators for determining which creatives will treat you like a Sim in the pool.
A conversation where you establish goals for your participation is another important conversation. This is a great way to help new writers or directors create plans that reflect their inexperience. Ask them straight away: “What are your goals/explores?” If they seem unsure, it is a good time to suggest ways you could help.
Your skills as an actor should be presented to them. Reassure them that you are there for the job.
Get down to work
The fun part is next: working together on the project. Although each development is unique, the content will be tailored to its intended outcome. As we’ve already mentioned, there are some basic activities that you will encounter.
A development will usually begin with a table reading of the script in its current format and end with another reading to contextualize any new material/findings. The session’s departure point will be reading new material if a writer brings new material to a multi-day session.
Actors may be invited to provide feedback on the writing, characters, plot, or themes by the writer/director. This feedback should be organized so that the discussion focuses on the most important aspects. Talking with creatives about their goals can help you establish productive and respectful boundaries.
You may want to start elementary staging if you want to create a better script or help a development explore possible production options. It would be best to prepare for this rehearsal as you would for any other rehearsal. Be ready to adapt to the demands of a choreographer or director.
Actors may be asked to assist in writing a timeline for events within a less developed script. This is a great way to examine plot and character arcs. It also helps you determine which moments are most memorable or not.
Work-shopping New Scenes:
Based on your findings, you may be asked to work on scenes that the writer introduces into the development area. These may not always make it into the final script, but they can be great tools for character analysis and plotting.
Like the new scenes, directors and writers may ask you to improvise on characters or plot points that they want to flesh out or establish as backstory. Improvisation can be a powerful tool actor have to bring to a scene.
Character work is a very popular activity in development. To give the writer a feel for their physicality, you might be asked to write down details about yourself, participate in a hot seat exercise, or walk around their space.
World-building is similar to character work. It will help you gain a better understanding of the play’s world. This can lead to some dramaturgical elements. You will take notes about the story’s setting, create descriptions of your character’s place of business or home, and even map the play’s world on the floor with craft materials.
These activities will help you develop your acting skills and knowledge of the theatre craft. Be sure to learn from your peers when developing a show. A veteran actor with decades of experience in developing work in a collaborative setting will often be able to teach you more than the creative leaders ‘in charge’.
Keep a list of everything. Keep a record of all your thoughts, questions, and discoveries. You can read them back before each session to help you understand the day’s goals. You may be provided with a notepad for some developments. Although this may be a great idea and thoughtful gesture, it is possible to keep some things private: your harsh opinions or other information that you disagree with. It would be best to discuss with your creative team the expectations and the possibility of being asked to return the pen and paper at the end.