Sunday, June 14, 2009

Time to Step Up

There was an actor I once knew. Well, he was more of a kid since he was still in high school, but he went to one of those magnet schools for being artsy. He was a performer in this musical that my college theater was doing. For this same show I was a performer as well as, for all intents and purposes, director’s assistant and creative influence.

This role allowed me to see a few things from afar that other performers would have probably missed. One thing I got to see is how much of a lazy, unenthused shit, this kid looked like while practicing. He was physically and expressively flat with no real drive. Magically, or through drugs or through the act of actually caring, when the show finally started and it was time to perform, the kid was on. Every picture, every video shot and every moment you looked at him he was where he needed to be and he resonated through the house. If nothing else (and for the weeks of practice that I painfully watched him, it did feel like nothing else) this kid knew how to step up his performance when it mattered.

This is an art which is hard to teach. Partially because it’s hard to describe, partially because it takes such a contrast of abilities and areas in the mind/body that it is hard to pull together. I’m not talking about the art of being lazy in practice, which this kid and probably most people could do very well. I’m talking about the art of stepping up when the lights go on.

If you’re wondering how to step up, don’t worry, I often wonder the same thing myself. For the most part, I’ve found that I get into the moment a lot easier when I’m at ease. It’s when everything is light and I feel like I’m playing that I perform best. What puts me in this mood for performance day would probably go against what is suggested for group performers. My preferred preparation before the show is to keep everything as minimal as possible.

To be minimal I enjoy arriving late (minimal time at the place), being as anti dressed (minimal clothing) as possible until shortly before the beginning of the performance and having very few people around me (minimal external noise). I feel that I am usually quite good at engulfing myself into imaginary land or whatever you want to call the pretending that is needed when improvising. However, the issues that I come across for performances are various burdens that make me uneasy and less in tune with my creative side.

I don’t prefer arriving late because I enjoy being late. I prefer it because that means there’s less time I have to spend in the area before I perform. The longer I am in the performance space without performing, the more bored I get. Some people try to use warm ups to help them. For myself, if I am doing more than a couple warm ups it becomes excessive and also takes me out of my focus. Plus, there tends to be a lot of external noise (most things needed for setting up the show gets noisy) going on around the warm ups that also distracts me.

Oddly enough wearing my performance clothing for too long also takes me out of my focus. Since the clothes I wear at a show are different than my “street clothes” I naturally feel there is something I should be doing while wearing them…either clubbing or performing (which is kind of the same thing). The longer I’m in my “doing something” clothes while not doing anything the more likely I am to nod off to introvertedness. Also, because I am trying to gain or maintain focus for a show hearing a lot of voices before a performance tends to muddle my brain and creates the opposite affect.

I try to stay minimal for shows because it helps me be mentally and physically limber for my performance. Some people prefer the opposite. For these people the more warming up they do, the more energized and focused they become (at least I assume, I don’t really know since I’m not these people). I am not suggesting that you should do either of these things (extra warm ups or minimal everything). What I am suggesting is paying attention to what works for you and what makes you feel better. Then if you come up with any good suggestions, please comment below and hopefully we can help each other.

Till next time, stay sexy Rochester.

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