Not pet peeves, but things I don’t care for as a performer/director

At the risk of sounding like an existentialist hipster, I think I’ve gotten past having pet peeves. The things I found annoying now fall into two buckets:

1) It’s annoying but not a big deal at all, so no big deal.
2) It’s stupid and I need to do something about it now.

Nonetheless, here are five big things I don’t care for, as a performer, peer, director, teacher, whatever. To be fair, a lot of other respected performers and directors don’t care for these either, and will probably give you a harder time about it than I will. But as Will Hines said about his pet peeves, these are personal things for me and by no means a comprehensive list of absolute behaviors.

– People who show up late to class, rehearsal or practice.
– People who don’t take rehearsal/practice seriously.
– People who aren’t good yet don’t push themselves at all in class.
– People who ask too many questions instead of just doing it and seeing what happens.
– The phrase “break legs”.

Caveats

– “Break a leg” is similarly silly but okay. “Break Legs” is not only superstitiously dumb but it’s lazy. You’re saying “I don’t have time or energy to wish each of you individually well”. Fuck off and get out of our dressing room, then.

Seriously though, I prefer “Have fun!” because if this isn’t fun then why the fuck are we doing it? Then again, I also don’t freak out when people say “Good luck” or “Macbeth” because I’m not superstitious.

– In fact: People get hurt more during productions of Macbeth because there are more fighting and death scenes in that play than any other Shakespearean play, not because of some mythical curse that activates when you say the play’s name. More fight scenes and usage of knives? More risks of injury.

– Asking questions isn’t bad in general. If you don’t understand an exercise and need clarification, yes, ask.

– It’s when you’re wasting valuable class/rehearsal time asking five detailed, honestly unnecessary follow up or discussion questions that you’re missing the point of doing the exercise. Learning, especially in performance art, is about doing instead of being told how to do it. If you’re knee deep in an exercise, aren’t embarrassing yourself, and you’re not comfortably sure about things, that probably means you’re experiencing something new. Keep doing it and your questions usually get answered.

– I don’t have a problem sharing class, workshop or whatever space with people who aren’t especially skilled or charismatic. I was a beginner once, and we all were. We all have potential, and I’ve seen some dreadfully dull and lifeless beginners become great performers with practice.

– BUT. If you’re just walking on stage and being your usual self, and not challenging yourself to play outside of your comfort zone for even a minute, you’re wasting your time, your scene partner’s time, your instructor/coach’s time and the time of everyone watching. Don’t let Malcolm Gladwell fool you: Growth is not going to just magically happen if you just go through the motions of doing it. It takes deliberate practice playing at levels greater or otherwise different than you currently are. Our comfort zones feel good and pushing out of them feels scary, sometimes shitty. But you’re not going to change unless you push through them.

– It’s one thing if you’re shoveling food in your mouth at the start of rehearsal because you had no time before getting here and it’s the only thing keeping you from hangrily killing us all. It’s also one thing for us to have a spontaneously funny moment during class or rehearsal. This isn’t to say ‘no fun ever’ or ‘do not deviate’. This is to say that when you walk in, you’re treating the work we’re gonna do and our time here like it matters. Nothing sinks morale quite like the clear vibe that people aren’t really into what we’re doing.

– Obviously, being late now and again should not be a big deal. Having an arrangement to come in late should be fine as long as there’s an agreement and it doesn’t interfere with the work. But doing it all the time is not only disrespectful, it undermines the work of the director and people who did show up on time. It also delves into ‘I do not take this seriously’ territory.

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