Traditionally, table reads are notoriously dull affairs in which the director, writers, actors, and producers, along with various crew members, hear the script aloud for the first time. It can be a stressful moment—up to this point, the show has just been words on a page, and it can be nerve-wracking when it suddenly begins to take on three-dimensional life. Typically, actors react in one of two fashions: They either mumble their lines into their laps, or, worse, "perform" them with a gusto that I always find embarrassing. For years I had been a mumbler (most young actors are), until somewhere along the line I realized that I was going to be judged by everyone anyway, so I might as well speak like a normal human and be heard by the 20 or so assembled in the chairs lining the walls around us.Or what a bad day is like for a professional actor:
And then there is the one day in 10 when nothing feels right. It's all a struggle, I have no rhythm, I strain to remember lines I know, and everything seems to be working against me. My body mic keeps cutting out, and the sound man has to keep shoving his clammy hand up my shirt to adjust the wire. I'm too pale under the lights, so the makeup lady must relentlessly bounce a puff at my nose, and the wardrobe man keeps plucking invisible lint off my shoulders ("It's very dusty in here"). It is on days like this that I tell myself it's high time I did something else for a living.