Actors have so much to think about during a show: lines, blocking, timing, music, choreography, finding the light, not falling off the edge of the stage, entrances, exits, and so on. And somewhere in the middle of that, they have to do some acting, too.
To keep my nerves in check, and my focus honed, I like to focus on one goal per show. I usually come up with the goal when I arrive at the theatre and base it on what happened the night before. My goals range from mastering single beats, to an overarching understanding of the play.
As a director, you can assign one goal to the entire cast, or give each actor an individual goal. Here are some examples of goals that I’ve used in the past:
- Focus on telling the story as clearly as possible.
- Be word perfect in that monologue I’m struggling with.
- Get the choreography perfect in a single song.
- Don’t lose the sense of play and discovery.
- Try to recreate a discovery made the night before.
- Have a “clean” show.
- Make a connection with the audience.
- Hold a certain beat a moment longer to see what happens.
- Give focus.
- Be selfless.
- Trust the script.
Obviously, you’ve got to think about all the other stuff, but if you accomplish your one goal, then everything else is gravy.