I’m currently assisting a director on a new play. Tonight I was asked to take line notes for the actors during the show’s last preview before tomorrow’s opening. This new play is written for college students and the playwright has taken extreme care in writing dialogue that rings undeniably true to 20 something’s voices on college campuses everywhere. Every stutter, every repetition, every “like,” every ellipses, every “um,” every “but,” has been chosen with precision and meaning. Tonight I spent hours after the run handwriting every added “like,” every added “um,” and every bonus cuss word that an actor decided was useful to them in that moment. If someone received 50 line notes for a Shakespearean play, the director and the cast would be fraught with anxiety and disappointment. So why, in a contemporary play, where the language is just as important, is it okay to decorate the dialogue as you see fit? Attend to the meaning, team. Attend to the pristine structure someone has spent hours upon hours constructing for you.
Learn your lines, actors. The playwright is smarter than you are.