I’ve just been cast in a play.
The thoughts reverberating through my are head are the usual ones: you’re not good enough, they made a mistake, you can’t act!
It’s been a few years since I’ve been in a play. In that time I’ve worked mainly in front of the camera, and though that has it’s own challenges, a play, especially a large role in a play, is terrifying.
Can I still act? Will my voice be strong enough? Will I be able to learn all those lines? But more than anything “am I theatre fit?”
By theatre fit, I mean mean physically, mentally and vocally fit enough to perform night after night. This is crucial if you want to perform at your best, so how to do you get theatre ready?
Your voice loses strength, articulation and flexibility without constant and consistent work.
If you’re not warming up often, or working in theatre spaces, your voice gets used to day to day communication and stops functioning at the high level the theatre demands.
So vocal warm ups are back on the schedule. I’ll be doing something everyday to help get my articulation, resonance and breath support back into gear. In my experience the consistency of vocal work trumps occasional intensive sessions. By that I mean sticking to a practice of 5-10 minutes a day rather than an occasional one hour voice session.
Voice is also physiological. Make sure you’re working through any issues related to your voice. You need to back yourself and commit to your intentions both in life and on stage. Otherwise vocal issues such as line droop (not getting to the end of the line) and being off voice (not speaking on resonance) can become a problem.
When you’re not working on your movement you get stale, and your personal habits become highlighted when performing again. I’ll be getting back into my physical work: yoga, Feldenkrais, and stretching.
All this is to make sure I’m feeling confident and comfortable in my body. I don’t want my character to be limited to my own idiosyncrasies. Coming back to a more centred and neutral body is the best place to start when developing a character.
Working on your movement also gives you energy, and energy is the backbone of theatre. You need to feel energised and inspired during rehearsals. It takes a surprising amount of energy working on scenes again and again. Most theatre productions have a physical element as well, that might involve a fight scene or some sort of dance sequence. For that reason you want to be confident in your body.
Acting is hard work. Long rehearsals, being on your feet for hours. But more than that it takes a lot of concentration and that requires energy.
I’ll be getting my physical fitness back up to make sure I can give myself fully to the project.
Find what works for you. It might be running, swimming or going to to the gym. Doing something you love will inspire you to do it more often. A great physical practice, in conjunction with a good diet, will really help you stay energised throughout rehearsals and performance.
Creating characters is the workshop of the imagination. It requires bold choices, reflection and creativity.
I’ll be reading more, watching more and trying to stay inspired. It’s great to read other plays by the same playwright. If they write short stories, poetry or novels check them out as well. Understanding how the writer tells stories helps you tell the story of the play better.
If you’re doing a play in a particular period, engulf yourself in the world – watching movies and reading about the era.
Working on your imagination is vital to creating a rich character and telling a great story.
Theatre is hard work. Talent alone won’t endure through a theatre season. It takes resilience, handwork and fitness. Getting into good habits before rehearsals start is the best way to make sure you’re giving your all. The audience deserves to see a great show every night, so don’t let them down by not being theatre fit.