In theatre, sometimes we talk about “the moment before.” We’re referring to what happened to a character right before they entered the scene we’re watching. There are clues in the script that tell us what state of mind they’re in, how they’re feeling, who they just saw, etc.
This is important because the character didn’t just start to exist the second they walked onstage; they have a back story and relationships and feelings and thoughts. Young actors often forget this, and they need a nudge to remind them what the circumstances are for the character.
The funny thing about this is that as people, just living our lives, we do this All. The. Time. We’re constantly bringing the last thing we did into the next thing. Traffic is bad on the way to work, so we bust into the first meeting of the day out of sorts. We answer the phone while still talking to the person in our office, “—so yeah, I’ll come in there when I’m finished here—hello?” Sometimes we schedule the last thing over the next thing; I have been on a dozen conference calls during which someone working from home is answering the door to let painters/pest control/carpet cleaners inside.
This is human nature. We’re affected by our experiences, and we bring them with us. There is a case to be made, though, for making a fresh start. What if we take three seconds to re-center, get grounded, and find a fresh intention before we do the next thing? As always, asking “what is this for? how do I want to make the people I’m with feel?” can help us focus and see what’s next with fresh eyes.