Because this weekly column is called "Takes and Double Takes," I thought it would be helpful to first define those terms. Here is how I think about and teach "takes and double takes” and the “in and out breath" — what I mean by these terms, and how the actor uses them.
First, a "take," as I define it, is when an actor turns his eyes to "take in" an object or scene somewhere in his line of sight. When he takes in the object or scene, he must appear to "discover" that object or scene as if for the first time (every time in rehearsal or performance), even though he will have rehearsed that take, that discovery, many times. Typically, the take or discovery is accompanied by an in breath. In breath signifies expectation, while out breath signifies resolution, relaxation, or comfort.
If an actor looks in a certain direction and sees something of interest, she discovers it, takes it in. Usually, for me, that "taking in" is brief. The actor does really look and see, but does not dwell on what she sees. She moves on in pursuit of her goal, her objective in the scene, where she is going, what she was going after. But if what she saw for that brief moment was of particular interest, then she has a second look at it. That second look is what I call a double take.
(If you all have a totally different definition of double take, then I would love to hear it. Send it on to me, thanks.)
The first take can be short or of longer duration. Likewise, the delay between the take and the double take (the second look) can be very short, as when the character "takes in an attacking dog off to his right." His second look right, his "double take," would be very fast indeed.
But the double take can be, in some situations, delayed a substantial amount of time. For example, when the character/actor does a take and sees an old tramp in a fond embrace with an elephant, with the elephant's trunk ever so gently kissing the old man's cheek. There might be a bit of time for the character to stop and process this before taking a second look to verify what she has seen. Or when the character does a take on something that she really should not have seen, but can't help sneaking a second peek.
In conclusion, the first take or look, so to speak, can be short or longer; usually it is short. The second take, the double take, can come very suddenly or can take a very long time. When it is delayed for a long time, we call that delay a "wait for it." I will write more about the "wait for it" in a week or two.
Break A Leg,*
Uncle Stevie Stearns
… and remember to "take in" the world around you, it’s worth a "double take!"
*I will discuss theatres terms like “Break A Leg” and “Green Room” in the future