We're all tired of performing with freedom and ease right? Here are some ways you can interfere with yourself to make sure you never reach your full potential onstage.
1. Take Deep Breaths.
We all know how important breathing is not only to your voice onstage but also for physical relaxation and emotional access right? So you want to make sure to sabotage that for sure. The best way to do that is to try and take deep breaths. Wait, huh? Isn't that supposed to help you relax? Not so much. When we try to breath deeply by focusing on the inhale we employ the accessory muscles of the ribs, abdomen and back to pull air into the chest instead of allowing the diaphragm to engage to make space for air deep in the body and back. This means we often get much less air than if we focus on not holding our breath and allowing a gentle exhale, triggering the reflexes that engage the diaphragm and giving a deep, full unforced breath. Plus, whenever you inhale, your heartbeat increases, so by inhaling a lot any stage fright you have is bound to increase and you will probably hyperventilate. FUN!!!
2. Stand Up Straight So You Look Really Confident!
Nobody likes a vulnerable actor right? So push that chest out, pull those shoulders back, and make your spine as straight as a Kansas highway. If you follow these instructions, you will come off as super defensive and forced! It's like you have literally put a barrier between you and your audience/scene partners and as you will have frozen the movement of your breath mechanism (see above), you will probably have to push through your performance without feeling a thing all while looking strained and stiff. WHEW GOOD JOB.
3. Just Relax As Much As Possible. It's REALLY IMPORTANT. But Be Cool About it.
Never in the history of relaxing has telling yourself to relax has it ever helped anyone to relax. So you should probably tell yourself it a lot in a really judge-y tone! Better yet, just slump. It is the best way to be relaxed. If your neck starts hurting or you notice yourself being short of breath and heavy feeling don't worry--that's what relaxation is supposed to feel like. You should hang out onstage like a boneless cat from a Far Side cartoon--its called being expressive. WHATEVER YOU DO, don't try to find a healthy alternative between slumping and pushing into your body. It can only lead to horrible, horrible success.
4. Get Grounded.
Grab the ground with your feet. GRAB IT!!! And better yet, push down through your body like you are trying to break through to the center of the earth. If your knees lock, so much the better--you might even feel like it would be impossible to move if you wanted to! Like these other strategies, you will know if it is working if gets harder to breath. Definitely don't release your knees and ankles, slightly widen your stance, and feel a balance between weight on your heels and toes--it can only end in a supported, free body.
5. Whatever You Are Interacting With Onstage, Stare At It Like Your Eyes Are Lasers and You Want To Melt It Into Oblivion.
Really, this is how you know you are acting with intensity--when your eyes are so hard and scrunched up you could bounce a quarter off of them. People do this in real life and sometimes they don't even get arrested! Remember, life is a staring contest and you WANNA WIN. The eyes are the window to the soul--brick those bad boys up. You might notice your neck tightening up and your breathing stop--high five. If you release your eyes and keep them soft but not too soft (which will lead to number 3), you will be in this terrible place where you can be responsive to your scene partners and vulnerable to the circumstances of the play. HORRORS.
6. Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Body
You think too much. The best way to get around that is to unthinkingly move your body and see what shows up. Use your instincts and habits--it will probably get a little repetitive and tense, with boatloads of inarticulate effort. Good. Check to make sure your feet are shuffling aimlessly back and forth across the stage while your other hand makes the same gesture over and over again, and add some forced yelling into the mix. That's what it is like to act instinctually. If you let the circumstances of the play, your imagination, and the interaction with your scene partners and audience permeate your mind and trust your body to respond in unity with it, HOW WILL ANYONE KNOW YOU ARE ACTING????!!!!!!!*****
*****if you would like to learn how to do the opposite of all of the advice in this blog, consider checking out 'Effortless Performance--An 8 Week Introduction to the Alexander Technique' at Green Shirt Studio. It's actually pretty fun, and not nearly this salty.
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Thoughts on what is going on in the work and the world right now. Many posts to come.