This season, I have the sweet challenge or playing educated, upper-class English gentlemen in three plays from the first half of the twentieth century (plays by Agatha Christie, George Bernard Shaw, and Noel Coward).
It wouldn't necessarily be wrong to play them all the same. There's a lot of similarities between these characters (a police detective, a British colonel and a medical doctor). But where would the challenge be in playing them all the same, and how boring for me as an actor (not to mention boring for any audience member who might happen to see me in all three plays). The trick is finding what distinguishes these gentlemen from each other and bringing those distinctions to life, without being gimmicky or imposing a physicality or vocalization that reads false.
Just as I was starting to sort this out in my tiny actor's brain, the director for my current role (Sam White) started squeezing me into a box where neither my body nor my voice wanted to go. To say that I was resistant was an understatement. Sam wants what Sam wants, which is his right as a director, but what he wanted wasn't making sense to me and I couldn't figure out how to weave his direction into my performance.
Then finally it hit me. Sam was offering me the key to playing this British colonel in Misalliance very distinctly from the police detective I just played in The Mousetrap. I stopped fighting his direction, and it is starting to feel like I am becoming "someone else" - which is what every actor is required to do.
The show is still a couple of weeks away from opening, and it's up to Sam to decide if I'm satisfying his direction. It will be up to the audience to determine if I meet my goal of becoming someone else - a distinct character, true to the script and appropriately idiosyncratic. And then in a few weeks, I get to start the process all over again when rehearsals for Blithe Spirit start.
It's an actors dream.