One of the most frequent complaints about the study of acting, across all schools and all approaches, concerns the issue of scene partners. Fill in the following sentences:
“My damned scene partner just _________________!”
There is an infinity of options to fill in that blank, right? Right. So having heard just about all I would ever not want to hear concerning scene partners, I thought I might offer some ideas on what I would love to hear about in a scene partner:
The Professional Scene Partner….
- Has decisively agreed to participate in the scene. Don’t do scenes without a sense of passion or real interest. Doesn’t mean you have to like your partner – that’s a bonus. Much of your career may be spent working with people you may not like personally. What it does mean is you have a sense of purpose about the scene and ability to work together toward the common goal of killing the sucker.
Is not late. Period.
- Is not high. Or drunk. Period.
- Does not cancel because of apocryphal “last minute auditions.” Real auditions – well, okay, but the proportion of real last-minute auditions to the number of fabricated “last-minute auditions” is a very small number. Get honest. The use of white lies to evade confronting that you don’t have your shit together is a corrupting, soul-sucking, esteem-lowering habit.
- Has his or her lines down cold ASAP.
- Has read the entire script and/or seen the entire film ASAP.
- Endeavors to read other scripts by the same author. No one would realistically expect knowledge of every other script by the author, every time out. But if you read this and think, “You know, I’ve never read other scripts by the author as part of my specific work on a scene,” you should make more effort to do so.
- Does not use rehearsal to make romantic advances. Make romantic advances after the scene has been performed.
- Does not “improvise” violence or sexuality in the scene without agreement up front.
- Allows multiple points of view and willingly investigates them. If there is a disagreement about any aspect of the scene, a very effective solution goes like this: today let’s do it with your ideas, tomorrow let’s do it with mine.
- Does not string a partner along for weeks before pulling out of the scene. If you’re going to cancel, then cancel fast and let that person move on with their life.
- Does not direct the other person, nor allows himself/herself to be directed. Except by willing cooperation.
- Does not come into rehearsal with a bad attitude relating to events of his or her personal or professional life. Leave your crap outside.
- Does not “wonder why this scene was assigned.” If you don’t know – ask the teacher, not your scene partner.
- Has showered recently.
- In summation, the professional scene partner shows up on time, alert, energetic, with a good cooperative attitude, knows the lines, knows the script, knows the author, doesn’t flake, doesn’t cancel, doesn’t make passes, has heard of the term “breath mint,” and works with the same professionalism and passion they would (presumably) bring to a big money job.