The Actor's Perspective: Getting "Off-Book"

Jennifer Kuzmeskas

  • Massachusetts Columnist

Wait, what? Did the director really say I need to be off book for the opening by this rehearsal? Isn’t it kind of early in the rehearsal process for that? There are so many moving parts to this.

How am I going to remember all of this?  

The opening of this show is pretty difficult, but after some work I was pretty sure I had it down. I could sing it at home, in the car, walking into my office, in the shower, I was sure I had this thing down by the time rehearsal came around. Then the Music Director started playing, the song began and it’s like everything I worked on had completely slipped out of my head. 

Fortunately, I was not the only one that felt this way; the group was mixed about half and half.

There are a few people who have done the show before, those that have, knew their parts well and had no issue. Luckily, for the rest of us the Director and Music Director recognized this and allowed for some extra “music time.”  A totally invaluable 3 hours! The Music Director is a music teacher by trade and those skills obviously carry over into her Music Director role.  

I mentioned in a previous post that we are doing what I am calling theatre in the ¾. Blocking has started and this is going to be such an exciting way to perform. Let’s face it, every actor/actress wants their moment in the spotlight. Well, the really cool thing about theatre in the ¾ is there are three center stages. There is room for the entire cast to frame those three sides of the stage and everyone can be seen. For a large cast that is a really cool thing to accomplish. 

While I still consider us to be in the early stages of the rehearsal process, so much is already getting accomplished. The music for the opening has been taught, instructions on the blocking are complete and no books should be required to run this part of the show. Plus a lot of other blocking has been completed and all the songs in the first act have been run at least once.  In fact, though it sounds scary, next week will be our first “put together” of Act I…off book. 

“Off” and “book,” when put together, are two scary words for community theatre performers. It means you can no longer have that security blanket known as a Libretto/Script in your hands while you are rehearsing. All those blocking notes you took, all those lines, lyrics and notes you have been reading over and over again, you need to put them aside and do it all on your own.

If you’ve done your “homework,” it shouldn’t be a problem and for a little comfort, in most theatres, you can still call for a line if you can’t remember it.  

*Note to readers* from here on out, I will end the column by answering the question, “So, how do I think it is going?” So here goes…right now, I think we are doing well. If we, as a cast and production team, can come together to do a full “put together” of Act I off book I think we will be in really good shape. It will show us what we still need to work on, what hasn’t been done and what we are getting better at. It’s hard to believe we are already at the point of being able to put together a full act of a difficult show, but here we are. This gives us plenty of time to tweak and improve before presenting this production to an audience.