EP #3: 8 Things to Do to Prepare for Theatre Re-Openings

This week we’ll talk about how to prepare for the big day when theatres open again. There’s a lot to do to get ready, and we really need to shine for the audience when they come back, if we want to keep them.

You’re listening to acting for community theatre, a little show with big ideas, stories, acting tips, and a lot of heart for community theatre artists. I’m Barbra French.

People who love community theatre are eager to get back on or behind the stage, but most of us are unable to get together with the friends and theatre families that we adore right now. So what do we do while we wait? We get ready. We use the time that we have to hone our skills, learn all that we can learn and become the best that we can possibly be so that when those rehearsal hall doors fly open, we are firing on all cylinders. I’ll be providing loads of tips and techniques for both actors and directors over the coming weeks that will help you reach your next level. And today we’ll look at an overview of my top eight basics on how to prepare for actors. Number one, work on your body. Now this isn’t about losing weight or bench pressing a hundred pounds. This is about learning about your body specifically and how to give it the best chance for success as an actor.

You can start by asking yourself a few simple questions. For example, when I’m nervous, where do I hold my tension? Do my shoulders go up to my ears? Do my knees lock? Is my jaw tight? Whatever you discover about where you’re holding your tension, those are the places to focus on relaxing. So here’s the tip. First, find a relaxed and comfortably straight position to stand. Now you’re going to inhale and as you do, you’re going to imagine breathing into those areas of tension. Once you’ve breathed into them, you can then hold your breath for a few seconds and feel the tension. Let go and melt. It’s good to visualize this in some way as well. And then when you exhale, imagine the tension draining away from those spots with your breath. You can even see it leave with your breath as a reddish fog or whatever you like.

Practice this often. You can also find some exercises to loosen the jaw, relax the knees, or simply remind yourself to drop your shoulders throughout the day. Just keep practicing to relax those areas and get grounded. Many people when they’re speaking in front of others will take their nervous energy and turn it into motion. They’ll shuffle and pace and fidget. All of these things scream nervous person to the audience, so while you’re at home and not in front of a crowd, practice planting your feet on the and speaking from that place without shuffling around. One of the best ways to begin this process is to find what is called the neutral position and practice. Practice. Practice that this will allow you to not only be grounded, but also to be open and available and free to move at any time you decide because acting is very physical and the more you work with your body, the better your acting will be.

Number two, work on your breath. Breathe. Breathe deeply. Inhale through the nose, filling your lungs up from the bottom and then exhale through the mouth, completely emptying all the air. If you can repeat this simple exercise often throughout the day or as part of a more organized vocal warm-up. Here’s a couple of tips. Stand in front of a mirror and watch yourself breathe normally. Do you see your shoulders rise and fall? If so, you’re probably breathing mostly up in your chest where there’s less real estate. You should learn all about diaphragmatic breathing. Number three, work on your voice. There are three key elements to a good stage voice. They are breath articulation and understanding what you want the other person to hear and why. In other words, playing action. If you want to get your voice to the back row and be clearly understood, you need to work on all of these, but for now, breath and articulation could be your main focus.

Breathing from your diaphragm will give you the power and support that your voice needs to project and practicing. Articulation will give you clarity. Number four, find a good physical and vocal warm-up routine. A 10 minute warm-up every day, even when you’re not performing will really help you tune your body and your voice. Make sure you find one that is safe and effective. You don’t want to damage your voice or your body, especially if you’re older and you can hurt yourself if you don’t know what you’re doing. Number five, work on your brain. Read, think and read some more normally. I would say that all theatre artists should read and see as many plays as they possibly can today. Reading we’ll have to do for now and it’s a great option. Replays from various playwrights in all genres. Read online reviews and critiques. Think about the themes and the messages in the place.

Maybe even read a book on playwriting so that you get a sense of how plays are made and why playwrights. Choose this word over that word. Number six, do an acting self evaluation. This is essential. What do you, your strengths and weaknesses are as an actor or a director? Actors. Are you willing to take risks in rehearsals? Are you often unsure how to deliver a line? Do you know how to play an objective? Are you confident on stage directors? How well do you break down your scripts before rehearsing? Do you have trouble getting actors to do what you want them to do? Are your audiences politely clapping at the end knowing who you are as an artist can help you decide what you need to work on? Number seven, work on listening. Here’s a simple exercise to do with friends or family. Other people will probably think you’re nuts to help practice listening.

When someone says something to you, change the pronoun so that it makes sense and then repeat what they say before you respond. For example, person a says, did you do the dishes? Person B says, did I do the dishes? Person a, yeah. Did you do the dishes? Person B, yeah. Did I do the dishes, et cetera. How long that goes on is up to you. It will drive your friends and family crazy unless they get to play too. Thanks Mr Meisner. Number eight, take a class. If some of the things I’ve mentioned are unfamiliar or you don’t know how to go about learning or practicing them, you need to take a class. If you aren’t clear on how to work with some of the terms that I’ve mentioned here and in other episodes like action tactics, objectives, subtext, neutral position, or you just want a great warm-up routine, you should take a class as these are the fundamentals of acting and one of the best things directors can do by the way, is take an acting class. Okay, those are my top eight. We’ll dive down a little deeper in the weeks to come, or you can take an online class with me, which I’m currently developing for even more details, tips and techniques. Drop me an email and I’ll let you know when the course is ready and please do like, subscribe and share this podcast because the more we can get this information out, the higher we can raise the bar on all community theatre together. Until next week.

Hi Barbra French. Thanks for listening.

Are your audiences polely calapapting at the…polely calapapting?


EP #12: 12 Tips for Learning Your Lines

EP #12: 12 Tips for Learning Your Lines

Actors of all ages struggle with learning their lines. It’s just part of the job that we have to get through until things start to gel. But there are ways of making it easier and more effective. The trick is to find out which ways you learn best, and then use a combination of those.

EP #11: Move It or Lose It

EP #11: Move It or Lose It

Moving around the stage is more than just what we think of as ‘blocking’, and today, I’m going to talk about some of the things that actors should and shouldn’t do when when it comes to movement and stage business.

EP #10 The Problem with Innovation

EP #10 The Problem with Innovation

I love creativity and out of the box thinking, especially when it comes to art. But when I look at all the technological innovation happening with theatrical performance today, I have to ask: is it really theatre?