Just like Eddard Stark always said, “Christmas is coming.” And he was not wrong, along with the end of year holidays being a time for family get-togethers, epic dinners, gift-giving and significant merriment it’s also a time of year where making acting your number one priority can be really difficult. By the time auditions start coming through again in January you can be feeling a bit rusty, maybe like me, you’ve stuck on a couple of kilos of big lunches and drank enough top-shelf red wine to sink a small ship. So how do you stay ready to work, while making the most of the holiday season? Here is StageMilk’s handy guide to staying acting fit over the holidays.
Don’t drop your good habits
If you are in a good spot with your work, you are reading a play or two a week, working on some monologues and immersing yourself in some acting texts then the temptation can be to drop all of these habits over the holiday period. I think there would be very few actors I know who would wake up on new years day at six am, do a quick yoga routine before cracking out a voice warm-up and doing some scene analysis. But wouldn’t it be amazing if you could be exactly that kind of actor?
What makes most sense is trying to find a middle ground. Keep your work up but maybe adjust it for the few weeks of the holidays. Read a play for a few minutes before bed. If you can get one voice warm up in in the week before New Years then that is probably okay. The toughest thing is if you stop everything dead in its tracks. I often think of my acting like a car from the 1920’s. When she’s up and running it all purrs along like a well-oiled machine. But if I leave it in the rain and snow for a while, that crank handle gets rusted in and starting it again is an absolute nightmare. If you can keep your acting car idling over the holidays it will fire up a lot stronger in the new year.
Moderation in all things
The Roman comic-dramatist Plautus (c.250–184 bc) famously said, ‘moderation in all things is the best policy.’ And listen, say what you will about Rome, sure they ripped off the Greek Pantheon in its entirety but they sure knew a thing or two about philosophy. And parties. Amazing parties by all accounts. Anyway, moderation in all things really is the best policy over the next few weeks. The silly season is back to back celebrations, there’s Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza, Boxing Day, New Years, Chinese New Years, and the list goes on. Plus those few unfortunate birthdays around this period that get swept up in the madness of this time of year.
By all means, enjoy yourself, spend time with friends and family, go to all the celebrations you feel comfortable doing so. But keep an eye on the bigger picture. You just never know as an actor when you are going to be required to work, so indulge in moderation where you can. Maybe leave that fourth plate of delicious goodies so your food hangover is only moderate instead of death-defying. Pull the pin at one am instead of three. Do what you can, as is appropriate to your circumstances to enjoy the holidays in moderation.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
This runs kind of counter to my previous two points but if you find yourself falling into some big party times and really running amok or just getting a bit slack and not working as hard as you were earlier in the year, try not to beat yourself up. There is always a balance between tough love and self-care that needs to exist in life as a creative. Sure you need to be a self-starter, generating your own content and working on yourself to improve your work.
But also, you gotta live. So many actors get turned away from drama schools because of a lack of life experience. Make sure you are getting that life experience too. Work hard to find that right balance between tough love and self-care and if you are in doubt, err on the side of being kind to yourself at all points. Especially over the holiday period.
The thing you can definitely do over the holidays is read. Read as much as you can. In between get-togethers and parties, on long car rides across the country, in between lunches and dinners or tucked up in bed late at night. Crack out a play or two and keep your mind working on acting while your body is enjoying the holidays. If you become a StageMilk Drama Club member, you get access to over 2,500+ plays in our digital library! Really worth a look if you can swing it.
You can also choose what you watch over this period, and although it is tempting to watch the lamest Christmas movie you possibly can, I’d encourage you to consume as much media with really great performances as possible. There Will Be Blood is not renowned as a great Christmas movie, but potentially you have the opportunity to reframe Christmas films with your friends and family to something far more productive, like classic cinema or the works of Spielberg. Up to you, but wherever possible watch movies and TV with great performances that you can learn from by watching.
Bring in the new year with a new focus
As the New Year comes in it is a great time to take stock of your career, work out where you are going and how you are going to get there. Have you reached out to your agent for a meeting? Are you both on the same page for the next year about the roles you are going for, and what your responsibilities are to each other. If you do not have an agent, what is your plan to get one? We have heaps of information and helpful guides here. Take a moment to create a plan, maybe even a business plan for how the business of you, the actor, is going to be successful and achieve your goals in the year to come.
Get some accountability in ya
Getting up every day and working on your acting is HARD. Especially when you’re not working on set every day, and instead working at bars or cafes, and then also trying to find time to socialise, relax, perhaps go on holidays too. This is one of the reasons we created our online scene club – so that there was a place where actors could come to find some inspiration, some fuel, and most importantly some accountability. Get into the routine of working on your acting – whether that’s the aforementioned reading and watching, putting down self-tapes every month, signing up for classes, or learning new skills and then find a way to stick to that routine. If you’re on the hunt for accountability, you can learn more about the scene club here.
So there you have it a couple of helpful tips and tricks to see you through a fun time of year. It also presents some great opportunities for you to plan ahead for the year to come and to keep your work ticking along as much as you can. Remember to stick to the Romans and maintain the ol’ acting into the new year!