Mike Daisey and Playgoer take two pretty much opposing viewpoints on Norbert Leo Butz not being completely off book by the time he took over the Bobby Gould part in Speed-The-Plow. The back story is this (and it comes from this article in the Times). Norbert Leo Butz has been rehearsing Speed for a couple of weeks and is not completely off book. In his first performance, he had a script on stage with him and in subsequent performances has needed multiple prompts to get through the show.
It's really, really tough for an actor to go out on stage like this. You think going out off-book is vulnerable already! But this, especially when your cast mates are long off book, must feel very exposing. But I must say I admire Butz' humility in letting his process show, if you will. (He was off book in Act I, I should note. And by now probably the whole thing.) Yes, sometimes we've seen actors go out like this who just clearly don't know what they're doing. But everyone in the NY theatre knows what a consummate pro Butz is.
Garrett then points to Butz' own description of how he gets off line (it involves audio recordings of the lines on an iPod).
Still on book? Seriously?
Give me a fucking break.
Mr. Butz has a week to prepare before a week of rehearsals, and he is STILL on book for performances? Not just that prompting is present, but being needed repeatedly, and reading from a script? During a Broadway performance?
That is pathetic, unacceptable, and faintly ridiculous.
I will say from my own experience that when I act the bulk of the time spent learning the lines is actually in the rehearsal room. It's the trying things over and over again in lots of different ways that cements the lines in my mind rather than a lot of outside-of-the-room studying (I'd put my personal ration at about 70/30, although everyone is different). As a director, I tend to have the entire script more-or-less memorized (maybe to about 85%) by the time the actors are supposed to be off book. Frequently, by the time we get to tech I know the show to about 98% of its lines. But I also have a somewhat freakish memory.