Prep begins long before you arrive at the theater or on the set.
As an actor, you are blank canvas, painting your character anew each performance. The picture is the same, but you will discover new color combinations with each performance or take. Your prep begins before you leave home. You should be in a calm state. If there is baggage that you drag along with you, it could affect your performance. Reevaluate the cause of disruption. Mind you, everyone has unforeseen obstacles (car trouble, sick pet, etc.) that can arise; but there are also blocks that can be removed. If you are in a troubled relationship that causes you to give less to your art, rethink it. If you are at a day-job that gives you ulcers, start sending out those resumes.
The worst thing for any artist to be surrounded by is a slew of psychic vampires, codependent personalities or miserable bastards. You have chosen a life that is rife with adversity already by pursuing your dream. That adversity can be overcome by your love of the work. (Ah, where have we heard that before?) It still remains, however, and the last thing you need is a monsoon of piss on your parade.
…the last thing you need is a monsoon of piss on your parade.
We can also find ourselves in trying situations at the theater or on the set. Directors, actors, musicians, dancers, choreographers, make-up artists…everyone involved in a creative collaboration is vulnerable to the quirks, moods and foibles of others. Improv artists know this more than anyone. (All it takes is another player to miss something golden, because they are “holding on” to a preconceived line or idea or a denial of a stated verbal reality presented in the sketch, to send static shocks through our brains.)
So, in preparing to prepare yourself for performance, you need to get into a good headspace. Different people have different methods. I’ll share mine for you to consider or use to implement your own:
- WAKE UP POSITIVE. This is often easier said than done. However, like any discipline, the more you practice it, the more second nature it becomes. My alarm goes off at 3:00 a.m. every weekday morning. Not exactly the makings of positivity! But, the first thing I do each morning is get my brain working to come up with a mantra to repeat throughout the day. I then share it on social media. Then I open my radio show with it. This practice not only forces me to focus on something good, but it gets the creative juices flowing.
- MUSIC, SWEET MUSIC. I fill each day with music. As I write this, the sounds of The London Suede engulf the room. Music is powerful medicine. It evokes emotion, captures the imagination and feeds the soul.
- ENTER THE ARENA WITH AN OPEN-HEART & OPEN MIND. Before I head into a rehearsal, performance or radio show, I adopt the mindset that I am going to do the best I can, be thankful to be working with others in an artistic situation, and commit myself to not only making them shine, but learning from the entire process.
- CALM BEFORE THE STORM. I take a period of time before each performance to quiet my mind. With practice, you’ll be able to do this in a room full of people, if necessary. A few minutes of reflection and gratitude goes a long way before “treading the boards.” I always smile to myself and think How cool is this!