At our first rehearsal for "The Mercy Seat," we worked slowly and carefully through the first twenty pages of the script. We started by discussing the script, trying to figure out the "moment before." When it comes to dramatic scripts like this, it's always important for both actors to know what happened before the plan begins. The show opens with my character sitting on the couch in the apartment, and then my lover enters the room. So we spent time talking about what had happened just before, what we had spent the whole day and night before doing, and what happened just before she left the room. Little details like that are hardly ever things that are mentioned onstage, but they help the actors create a more real environment in which they perform.
After that discussion, we went through the text looking for beat changes and moments of importance. By going through it slowly, we could really take the time to pull the lines apart and try to figure out what is going on. A few days ago, I was a little scared that this role might be a little out of my reach. Looking at the moments slowly, it all breaks out and becomes much... simpler, for lack of a better word... and I realize that I can make the choices on a line-by-line basis. So the role as a whole seems much more managable to me now.