Congratulations! You’ve survived the first few chaotic weeks of your show. Small issues with timing, costume changes, setting props and traffic patterns have been worked out. It feels good! It also feels…..like a monotonous routine. This is the point at which a show is in danger of falling flat and losing spontaneity, if actors don’t proactively take steps to keep their performances fresh. Here are a few strategies to keep your edge:
Go back to the text. Don’t let your familiarity with your speaking and singing parts get in the way of the reason why you’re saying them. Go back to the message your character is trying to get across. Nothing is ever casual in musical theatre, and the playwright is highlighting this part for a reason. What do you want? How are you going to get it? Focus on that desire.
Gamification: gamification is a buzz word in educational settings, with research suggesting that people learn more effectively when they can set challenges and try to "win." Set challenges for yourself onstage: See how many new things you can notice about your scene partners while onstage (but don’t get so lost into it that you lose concentration from the scene). See if you can find unusual things about the set that you’ve never noticed before. If you are a “background” or ensemble character in the scene, see if you can find a new way to interact with your environment every night and challenge yourself to never do it the same way twice. For example, I played a scene in which I was silently having an argument with my boyfriend, while main characters were singing. I tried to come up with a different topic to argue about with him every night.
Use meditation to lose yourself into the moment. Once you can say your lines in your sleep, you don’t have to spend much brain power remembering them. Your brain can wander a bit, thinking about what you’ll eat for dinner later or when you’ll do that pile of laundry. This is dangerous territory because the audience can see and feel that you are not connected to the piece. Using the meditation techniques described in our eBook, Mediation for Musical Theatre Performers, learn how to “cancel” your thoughts and stay in a zen-like focus.
Don’t go lax on warming up. Maybe you arrived a bit late, or maybe you’re a little tired tonight…..but you still need to warm up your body before the show, from head to toe, plus warm up your voice and speaking mechanisms (tongue, teeth, etc). Check out our musical theatre warmup guide for a great full-body routine.
Don’t go lax on setting up the moment-before. When you’ve walked into a scene a hundred times, it’s easy to think, “I’ve got this.” Yes, you’ve got this. But you still need to get your head in the zone of why you are entering the scene at that specific time. Again, nothing is ever casual in musical theatre, and the playwright chose to have your character enter with a purpose. Are you going on to declare your love for someone? To start an argument? To quit your job? To reflect on your past? Just before you walk on stage, close your eyes and reconnect with why you’re entering and what you’re about to do. Visualize your moment-before.
See your scene partners as characters, not as cast-mates. This is a toughie. As you have now spent many weeks or months rehearsing and performing with your cast, you have gotten to know them on a very personal level. The more you know about a person’s real life, the harder it can be to see them as a character. When you’re onstage, don’t allow your mind to wander into what your scene partner is doing tonight after the show or who they just broke up with, instead remember that for the moment, this is a completely different person, they are a character from a show.
Want more acting tips for musical theatre? Check out our acting tips blog section, or pick up a copy of our eBook, Sensational Scenes and Songs, chalk full of exercises to help you create your character and prepare for performances.
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