Got Bone? (Break a Leg!)

3 Minute Read

Aquinas argues deliberate will. Descartes thinks and, therefore, is. Celine belts My Heart Will Go On. But sometimes, the body just does stuff.

©2023 chillybears

While closing a key recruitment yesterday, the fellow I hoped to hire surprised me with an insightful question.

“So, if things are going as great as you say, and the majority of my experience is in turnarounds, why choose me?”

His question reminded me of learning the hard way the reason they call actors “actors.” No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, the action never ends.

There came a point during rehearsals for my first high school play that the show’s director felt compelled to pull a couple of us aside for what I have come to think of as The Bootstrap Speech. It begins with Marlon Brando and Karl Malden duking it out backstage in a Broadway show called A Streetcar Named Desire.

“Did you ever wonder why Brando’s nose is so crooked? He’s a year into his Tony-winning run–our little show will close in a whopping two weeks–and the energy starts to flag. But it’s not like they can change the script; they need something else to liven things up. So, the director rounds up some old gloves and tells his two leading men to find someplace to knock each other about between scenes.”

Here’s Brando ten years later in The New Yorker Magazine:

“We, some of the guys backstage and me—we used to go down to the boiler room in the theatre and horse around, mix it up. One night, I was mixing it up with this guy and—crack!”

My counterpart, who has me by thirty pounds is all in for boxing. I spend the remaining rehearsals hiding from him. Later that year I am cast in an educational film being made by a local university. For my first scene, I stand astride my ten-speed bike–a low-budget affair I brought the prop in from home–chatting up my character’s girlfriend when another kid rounds a blind corner and knocks me to the sidewalk. Male pride and all compel my character to pick a fight with this guy in front of the girl.

“Hey, what’s the big idea?”

But after the tenth underpowered take, the director needs more “nasty” from me.

“This kid knocks you down in front of your girl and that’s the best you’ve got? Don’t rollover on me, Scott. Show me how you feel!”

But I don’t know how to show him. I’ve never been in a movie and the kid who ran me down just shot a real motion picture last week with Gene Hackman. The thirteen-year-old playing my girlfriend is the future Marie Osmond. I’m just a guy with a homemade bike.

“Let’s try something else,” he offers. “Get off your bike and run down to the end of the sidewalk as fast as you can. Then run back. Trust me. It’ll change everything.”

“Wouldn’t it be faster to ride?”


So I run. And I run. And I run. After three roundtrips and as many takes, I am not only nasty I am ready for boxing gloves.

“Race you!” I verbally pummel Gene Hackman’s sidekick.

“And Cut!” (At last.)

Sometimes, all acting takes is good old-fashioned action.

How do you get pumped between shows?

This post is from a LinkedIn Newsletter called Human Changing. You can access the entire series here.

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