We’re often told that one of the most important things we have to do is to get out of our own head, or to let go, or forget it all. While each of those three things means something slightly different, that’s a story for another article. But today we’re just focusing on one: I want to give you a few tips on how to get out of your head as an actor. But before we do that, what does it mean to get out of our head?
What Does That Really Mean?
As an actor myself, particularly when I was younger, I was quite often told that I was stuck in my head, or that I overthought too much. But worst of all, that I was my own worst enemy. Many of us have heard all this before. The curtain rises, the lights in the house go low, your spot comes up, and you’re too worried about how the performance will go to really find a sense of freedom and play. That’s what it means to be stuck in your head as an actor. Simply, that you can’t stop thinking about the wrong things. So, how do we stop ourselves from thinking too much? Well here are a few tips and tools that you can implement before, during and after a performance that will help you stay present, and find that flow.
#1 Be Prepared
Now I know this is pretty basic, but the more prepared you are the better you’ll be able to just let go and let your instincts fly. If you’ve done all the right home work, learnt your lines back to front, rehearsed effectively, and you’ve put yourself in the right state to perform, you’ll be more relaxed knowing that you’ve done everything you can do. This will help to ease the anxiety from running rampant, telling you you’re not ready.
#2 Foster Relationships
You’re only going to be as comfortable on stage or in front of the camera as you feel with those people around you. Now we’re not always going to be working with nicest or most professional of people, but when it comes to that, you’ll know you’ve done everything you can to create a warm, professional and creative environment, and the people around you aren’t doing their part to create that, that’s okay, that’s not on you. When you feel you’ve done everything you can to create a safe, professional, fun, kind and creative environment, you’ll be more at ease with those around you who hopefully follow suit, or you’ll at least know that you held that standard.
A big part of why we can get stuck in our own head is a lack of focus. Before the show, or while you’re waiting to go on set, meditating for focus can help to bring you back to yourself and to alleviate the flurry of thoughts in your head, your mind, and your brain. So take five, maybe ten minutes just to meditate. Bring yourself back to reality and you’ll be razor sharp when the camera rolls, or the curtain rises.
#4 Get Moving
Sometimes right before we’re about to perform we can feel an overwhelming amount of energy that can’t be contained, and this can cause us to get a little overstimulated and think every thought we’ll ever need, all in five minutes. We can feel like we’re outside of our own bodies. So use it! Jump around, run around the building or the field, have a dance party, do some yoga. Whatever it is, get the blood moving to, and connect back to your body, to get out of your head.
#5 Stay Present with Your Scene Partner
Last but certainly not least is to stay present with your partner or partners. What’s that I hear you say? Jake I’m on stage all alone doing a monologue! Well to that I say this. Who are you speaking to in a monologue huh? That’s right, the audience! Put your attention on them. If you’re not trying to affect, and to listen to whoever is sharing this space with you, you’ll end up focusing on yourself, which as we’ve established, is a no-no. So bring it home, pay attention, and try to focus on your partner.
Bonus Tip – A Bit of Thinking Is a Good Thing
So while we want to be as present to the piece that we’re delivering, and living in our on stage world, we also have to remember that we have to think a little bit. If you completely believed, well and truly, that you were the character you were portraying, your colleagues 1. Won’t be inviting you to the pub, and 2. Will get a bit concerned about you. So remember; yes, we always should strive to inhabit our character and our imaginary world. But at the same time we need to know where the apron is so we don’t fall into the audience.
Now everyone will find their own balance between their head and their body, but it’s up to you to figure out what will render you the best performance. If, like me, you sometimes stay a little long in thinking-town, use these tips on your next project, or find your own ways, and you’ll be surprised just how easy it can be!