Behind the Scenes: Preparation is Everything

A dream, dropped into the middle of a normal night, distinct enough to interrupt my thoughts, odd enough to wake me up, interesting enough to make me lie there in the middle of the night thinking, “That needs to be a blog post.”  

So here it is…

I became aware of being somewhere I didn’t recognize, surrounded by people I didn’t know, with a responsibility in my lap I neither wanted nor remembered consenting to.  

 I was, for reasons that may never be revealed, in an all-female production of Hamlet.  I was cast as Polonius.  And it was two hours before our opening performance.  Odd enough, yes.  But far worse:  I didn’t know my lines.  In this dream I had never attended a single rehearsal.  I hadn’t read Hamlet for more than 27 years (true fact).  This is NOT something you can bluff your way through, Hamlet.  Not even as a side character.  My dream self didn’t even own a copy of the play, and despite searching, couldn’t find one anywhere.  This is some of the meatiest, most challenging writing and acting in the English language.  And I was going to blow it on an epic scale.  Unprepared, uninstructed, and people waiting to see my performance.  I was no less that a colossal disappointment; I had let down my cast-mates and disappointed my director. 

Someone else would have to take my role and people would never see my unique interpretation of Polonius.  In an all-female production of Hamlet.  Honestly, I don’t know how many people in the real world would be disappointed to miss this opportunity, by any stretch of the imagination, but as I lay awake in my dark bedroom, heart pounding, my dream resonated in many ways. 

You see, I can’t stand the idea of being unprepared.  For anything.  Ever.  This is a central characteristic of my nature.  Hard wired into me.  From birth.  If anything, I over-prepare.  

 So being caught on my back foot in this dream situation was way beyond uncomfortable, all the way past disconcerting, disorienting.  I’ve learned to roll with unfamiliar places and new people, even new roles, but the piece of this where I don’t do my part threw me for a loop.  It stuck with me as I went back to sleep, and as I woke up knowing I needed to dig into this wacky night-time drama in my brain.  

As I pondered over coffee, a few things fell into sharper focus for me.  Walking out my faith, parallels to my dream emerge.  Bear with me, maybe there are some nuggets for you in the midst of all my crazy. Here are the lessons I’ve extracted:  

·         Being prepared isn’t just a broad concept, it’s a way of life.  As a Jesus-girl on a journey, I may not be Polonius, but I have my role to fill and I need to be ready to do it.

·         I need to know the play.  I need to dig into the Word every day, understanding not only my role, but what the Bible says about it, how I need to walk out my faith.

·         I need to know my lines. Not just mirroring what I read in the Word, but speaking life into the people around me.  Seeking the Director’s guidance when I need to have a challenging conversation, or when I need to reach out and bless my cast-mates.

·         I need to listen to the  Director.  I have to make sure I’m sitting with the Lord consistently to hear His direction, His next step, what I need to change and how He can help me improve in my performance of my role. 

·         I need to show up to rehearsal.  I need to be an active part of my spiritual family, which takes many forms: my church home, my online community, my small groups, my mentees. 

·         I need to support and be supported by my fellow cast-mates, reminding them of what the director wants, what their lines are, and having them remind me. 

·         I need to do the behind the scenes work (that is absolutely not glamorous) in order to be ready for my moment onstage.  I need to make sure I have my copy of the script close at hand for me to read, to study, to understand not only my lines but the way they fit with the rest of the characters and the overall plot and theme.  

·         I need to understand my role and my character, to do that I need to not only read the script and the stage directions, but also need to consult the Director, getting his vision of not only the play’s interpretation, but my character’s contribution, the timing of the action, the pace of the scenes, and where I need to walk, stand, sit, pause, or rush offstage. 

My role in God’s play is of eternal importance, much more so than any production of Hamlet (I played Ophelia once in a college production), and the lines are far more important to get right.  I don’t have to be perfect, but I do need to listen to the correction and direction of the Director.  His instructions will keep me in sync with the tone and feel of the play. Imagine how weird it would be if Polonius busted in during Hamlet’s To Be or Not To Be speech with a jaunty show tune. 

 I need the Director to keep me in my role and the rest of the cast fill their roles.  Trust the casting, people.  My role won’t look like yours, yours won’t look like mine.  We bring different skills to the table, but the play isn’t complete and doesn’t work without all the roles filled with the right actors.  the whole production suffers without the right cast.  

If I don’t show up, prepared by my knowledge of my lines from the script, prepared by the instruction and correction of my Director, ready to support and learn from the rest of the cast, then the world misses out on my unique piece and the whole production suffers.  Not because I’m awesome, but because the Director has set it up to be that way. 

I want to be prepared, ready for the moment I walk onstage.  I want my Director to be proud, I want my fellow actors to feel supported, and I want the audience to receive what they need from me and my small part of the drama.  All that preparation needs to take place beforehand, some of it so very solitary, reading memorizing, running lines, digging into deeper subtext.  some one-on-one with the Director, listening, asking questions, course correcting as needed, fixing what’s wrong with what I’m doing, sometimes taking this in a direction I would never expect my role would take me.  

I want to do this, to prepare, to listen, to support, not to disappoint.  I must make it a priority, scheduling this preparation into my time and my life, even before I know what the specific role will look like.  I have the script.  I know the director.  I will excitedly wait to meet my castmates. 


Kathleen Tysinger
I’m a Christian girl on the journey through an adventure-filled life, a blogger, writer, speaker, and mom to two college students. I am blessed to be married to my high school sweetheart and we make our home near Sacramento, California. While I spent years as an English teacher and in the business world, I was given the gift of a “different-paced” life through the onset of a chronic illness in 2015, and my adventure continues…

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