Last year I was directing a play with an actor I had never worked with before. Great guy, very talented, doing a terrific job in rehearsal.
Except for one thing. Every time he would “mess up,” he would apologize to his scene partner, to me, to the whole room.
There are a couple of things about this I want to surface. First, he wasn’t messing up. It’s rehearsal–the whole point is to try something, see if it works, learn from it, move on. No need to apologize; the process is for figuring these things out. Everyone in the room is making choices and seeing what happens.
Also, every time he would apologize, it turned the focus of the room to him. I know it’s the last thing he wanted—the apology was meant to serve as a way to lower his own status in the room. But instead it meant everything had to stop while we all said “No, no, don’t worry about it.” He was creating the very thing he was trying to avoid.
Some apologies are very important. We screwed up; we need to own it. Others are a form of social nicety–I’m in front of the marinara sauce you want at the store, I say “oh sorry, excuse me,” and we move on. Others, like these my actor was giving, are unnecessary and actually disruptive. Let’s see if we can reclaim apologies for when we really need them!