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The Nervous Habit of Acting

BY: Lila Leor | Category: Others | Submitted: 2010-05-12 09:50:29
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Article Summary: "Assignment for English class reflecting on an Othello performance..."

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"It's your turn!" Katherine yelled at me.
"No! I just finished the line, now it's you!" I replied.
"Ugh. This isn't right Sophia!! I'm worried! We have to get this right!" She said back to me.

We were both performing in The Wizard of Oz for our elementary school drama club. Neither of us was completely memorized, and we were both beginning to feel the pressure of the play coming up the next day. We shared the same nervousness about what was to come, the dress rehearsal in a half an hour, and that we were still holding our script s, squinting at the lines. We didn't want the director to see! This mutual feeling was part of a long friendship between the two of us and the emotional memory that fueled our Othello Scene, Act 4, scene 3.

Two close friends or women in a tense situation was exactly the plan for our Othello performance. Pan to the stage. Two girls are talking. One is nervous her husband will walk into the room at any moment. He, Othello, would be very upset to see his wife with her dear friend, Emilia, when he specifically asked her to be dismissed. Emilia on the other hand, sensing danger near, wants to stay by her good friend's side. There is a parallel of two close friends as well as a communal, on edge behavior between them in each of these stories.

This conversational tone we use in nervous situations everyday was to be turned into the same tone we used for out act but with Shakespeare's language instead of modern American English. We wanted there to be two friends seen on stage, two good friends who are comfortable with one another and who can bond and talk with deep thoughts. We also wanted to display that nervous, on edge feeling the characters shared.

What was displayed before the audience was just that. Through gestures, tones, and the body language between Emilia and Desdemona that we delivered, the audience received a true friendship. It was real, like the nervous moments before a big play or the tension when you realize you're not prepared. The class was given a well thought out scene with lots of time and energy that was put into it.

Like the dress rehearsal before The Wizard of Oz, we had probably wished we were a little more prepared. For Othello, there may have been some things that we could have done different as well. One thing I would say could have changed was that the hairbrush was not used to put more variety into the scene. The two characters talk between themselves a lot with long lines and for our interpretation; we wanted to keep the audience interested in what was going on. Emilia combing through Desdemona's hair would have illustrated her thinking process through variety of rhythm, hesitation, pace, etc. Another thing that could have differed would be more actions taking place while the two listened to one another. Sometimes characters sit or stand too much and this doesn't show enough about how they feel about what is going on. For instance, Desdemona at the end of the scene during Emilia's long monologue could be doing a physical activity that illustrates her state of mind like rearranging her perfumes and knickknacks or making her bed some more. These could have added the feel of being in a real person's bedroom during a real moment.

With nervousness comes real feelings, and I believe that being able to capture that nervousness we once felt and use it on stage for Othello helped us a lot. Even though there were minor changes that could have been made, I think our performance stood out.

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