I remember the first time I heard an actor yell that out. It was back when I was about 16 or 17 years old. I was involved in a local community theatre company. My roles varied, but were usually on the technical end of things. Assistant Stage Manager, Stage Manager, Assistant Director, and one even Director. I think I acted in one play and it wasn’t terribly good. I’ve acted other places, but nothing for a very long time.
At any rate, back to the story at hand. In front of the stage, sitting at the same level as the audience was a bench, facing the stage, with such as high back that the audience couldn’t see who was sitting on it. This was the prompter. They sat there for the entire run of the play, script in hand, ready to prompt any actor who forgot their lines. Ideally of course they were never needed, but on occasion, such as the night in question, it was good to have the safety net of the prompter.
Usually when an actor needed the services of the prompter, they tried to whisper or simply look, usually with a look of fear, at the prompter, to get fed their next line. On this night however, the actor, for some reason, decided to yell his request. It was startling and a bit embarrassing, but he got his line, and on the production went.
As unusual as the manner of the request was, the need to make the request was not. It was expected. Whether it’s poor preparation, nerves, illness, problems at home, or whatever, once in a while, actors will forget their lines. Worse, sometimes they skip or rearrange lines, which then forces their fellow actors to try and adjust in a way that is neither obvious or harmful to the story.
Actors generally work in an ensemble, a group. They all know their parts and know that each part much be performed if the whole is to function properly. Prima Donna’s aside, most actors I know, at least understand this concept, especially at the community theatre level.
Are there times that you need to yell “Line!”? Times when you need to rely on your team (co-workers, friends, etc). Line is a desperate call for help from an actor. Without their lines, the show limps along. Are we afraid to yell Line! When we have difficulty in our lives? Do we go looking for the prompters in our lives? Do we know who to do to for help? When it comes to real life, we don’t always know what’s going to happen when the page on the script turns, so we need to be more resilient and responsive than an actor does, but we also shouldn’t be afraid to yell Line, when we need to.
Whisper it, yell it, write an email or whatever you have to do, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is real life, there’s no script, so don’t try and go through it alone.