Nora Nilsen Healy ’26
No Rehearsal for College Actors
Recently, my friends and I were walking to the bus stop on my college campus, and an idea came to mind.
“Oh my god you guys…,” I started.
“Wait Nora,” my friend interrupted. “Why do you always start your sentences with ‘Oh my god’?”
“I do?” I asked.
“Yeah; you always start sentences by saying ‘oh my god’, and in class, you’ll raise your hand and say, ‘I have a question. It’s like you are planning all of your sentences ahead.”
“Huh,” I replied.
I had never thought of it like that, but it was true, I was. Being in the new college environment has me on edge. I’ve never considered myself a particularly standoffish or shy person, but now I find myself questioning my every move, and everything I say.
To put my mind off the whole college-imposter-syndrome-existential-dread of my first week, I decided to watch a show I had heard of online called The Rehearsal. This show follows Canadian comedian Nathan Felder as he works to create the perfect “rehearsal” for people’s real-life events, where they would practice a big moment over and over again as if it were real, complete with HBO-budget sets and actors. I thought I was going to watch a cringe comedy series, but instead, I found a mirror of myself and my insecurities and felt strangely comforted.
I think back to my first acting assignment. In class, we had to perform two of the four monologues we shared during our audition for the BFA program. When it was my turn, I nailed my first monologue. Feeling a rush of confidence, I decided to take a risk and do my Shakespearean monologue, which I knew I was weaker for me. As I finished, my acting teacher, Le’Asha, gave me a look.
“Ok,” she said, turning to the other actors, “How many people know what’s happening in this scene?”
Not a single person raised their hand.
“Yeah,” she said, with an air of finality. My soul died a little; my first impression was ruined.
When watching The Rehearsal, my mind immediately went to that moment. I would kill to be able to redo that 15-minute window. I even tried to, asking if I could perform another piece I had prepared. (The answer was no.) It felt as though with even just a little hindsight and planning, my monologues could have been so much better.
That is precisely what they do in the show. They find these stressful moments, admitting you lied to a friend, asking your brother for money, raising a child, and simulate them repeatedly. I can’t be the only person who finds this concept incredibly enticing! I know I’m not. The people Felder created rehearsals for were all real people, who really felt like these simulations could help them.
A couple of days after I first started watching, I recommended the show to another actor, a fellow student named Mathew.
“No,” he said shortly.
“Oh, come on, why not,” I asked.
“Because I hate that guy. He, like, makes my skin crawl. He’s just too much.”
Too much. I couldn’t argue with that. Felder’s entire personality is tailor-made to make you deeply uncomfortable, with his monotone voice, ducking head, and failure to make eye contact. This “too much” sentiment seems to spread to the show as well. There are TikTok’s upon TikTok’s that chastise Felder for going too far. Even in the very first episode of the show, the man to whom he was trying to rehearse calls him an “Awful, awful person” for manipulating him (“Orange Juice, No Pulp” 42:21).
I see all of this when I watch the show. However, seeing Felder be and do the absolute worst in order to tackle the insecurity of not being perfect, and then ultimately failing, makes me feel better. In the class that followed my mediocre delivery of a Shakespeare monologue, my teacher expressed how much she loved my contemporary comedy, which I hadn’t even thought about, because I was wrapped up in my perfectionism. Without The Rehearsal, I probably would have blown the compliment off, or continued to hyper-fixate. However, watching the show made me realize that perfection is impossible, and imperfection makes life important.
So now, maybe I will stop trying to prepare everything I say before I speak, or asking for ‘re-dos’ when things don’t go my way. By watching Nathan Felder, I realized that being insecure, and still rolling with it, is okay.
“Orange Juice, No Pulp.” The Rehearsal, created by Nathan Fielder, Season 1, Episode 1, HBO, 2022