Here are some little things that I’ve learned over the years which I’ve found key to making the most out of each and every performance night:
1. Your role is as big as you make it
That sounds like something your mum would say to you when you get cast as part of the ensemble. ‘No matter what role you get, you’ll always be a star.’ I think I shuddered a bit when I was writing that. Yet, here I am attempting the convey the same message. Well, not exactly. Beyond the pair of rose-coloured glasses that are your mum’s futile pep-talks, the ensemble is never as distinguishable as the lead protagonist. It’s a clear and obvious fact. However, your character’s lack of significance in the play’s plot does not discount its significance it can have on your performance experience.
With every single role that you will ever get, there will be something to mess up, something to be amazing at and therefore something to learn. You may be in the background but you are still on stage. You are still experiencing the same thing the actor with the 10-year-long monologue is. You can feel the vibrant energy that comes from a hall full of people as you perform, except you don’t have the crippling nervousness that comes with knowing all eyes are on you. You have the valuable privilege of experimenting with your acting, learning from watching others act and building your stage confidence for future performances.
The saying ‘There are no small parts, only small actors’ is completely false. As much as he is a genius, I’m sorry to say that Stanislavski was lying through his teeth. There are always going to be small parts, but it is up to you to decide what you can gain from them.
Choice number one: Take the golden opportunity to improve yourself and your chances of gaining the part you want in the future.
Choice number two: Mope around in self-pity wishing you got to be Sandy in Grease and thinking ‘I’m so much better than that role’. Trust me, I’ve done both and choosing the former has led me to give some of my favourite performances to this day. Take the opportunity. Become better.
2. The importance of respect (hint: it’s extremely important)
Respect your director. They work constantly to make each show the best it can be. Listen and have trust in their opinion and feedback.
Respect that production takes hours of dedication. Come to rehearsals on time and with good work ethic. Making sure your experience is enjoyable and fun is important, but creating a quality performance is essential as well. With a perfect balance, these two often can work hand in hand so try not to tip the scale too far onto either side.
When a person jumbles up their lines during a scene that feels like forever, try exchanging your eye rolls for a smile. Building a good relationship with your cast creates an atmosphere that is unlike anything else when you perform together.
We all get tired. We all are guilty of showing up as a shadow of a zombie at rehearsals after a 4 hour night’s sleep and a full day at school. However, as best as you can try to put your all into every single rehearsal. Not only does it create a motivating energy for those around you, but with preparedness comes confidence on the performance night. Rehearsals are important; don’t take them for granted.
3. The Two Ls
Lyrics and lines. Learn them. Not the day before the performance. Weeks before.
Make them your lock screen, your alarm or whatever else it takes. Just learn them.
4. Be an observer, not a stalker
This is kind of a bonus but personally, I find rehearsing, researching and developing characters almost as fun as the performance itself. The preparedness gives me slight reassurance and reduces the overwhelming cloud of anxiety that hovers over me right before I go on stage.
Firstly, attempt to understand me when I say that it is helpful for acting to watch people (it’s only creepy if you make it that way!). If you have a character double, take care in watching them perform in rehearsal as they most likely will have additions in physicality or character traits that you can take inspiration from and use to better your own performance.
Secondly, do your research! There will almost always be resources online for the play you are performing from. Watch other people’s rendition of the character and if there is a skill or aspect the other actor does well then adapt it for yourself! I completely understand the hesitancy that comes with seeking help and adapting ideas from others. Our egos are fueled by the thought that our creativity is purely a product of our own intelligence and ability. However, at the end of the day you are attempting to embody the same character; feel free to include your own personal flair to your performance but absolutely do not be afraid to take inspiration from others solely for the sake of originality.
5. Smile and move on
If you only take one thing from this entire article, let it be this: everybody makes mistakes. I cannot begin to name how many times I’ve messed up a line and scrunched my face as I cringed on stage, thinking I had hit the epitome of failure. Let’s just say the number is more than I can count with both hands.
It takes practice but being conscious of your reaction to messing up is key. If you’re lucky you could do the completely wrong dance move and nobody will notice, or at the very least they just won’t care. On the other hand, if you panic and begin to draw attention to the mistake you completely erase that chance and risk sabotaging the rest of the song. Of course, you should always strive to provide the best performance that you can but perfection is fleeting. When it comes down to it, once you’re in the moment and you mess up there’s nothing left to do but damage control. So ignore it, stay in the moment and move on.
And that’s about it!
Good luck and be the happiest little performer you can be :)
You only have the opportunity to perform in a Tenby production TWICE in the entire semester. Make the most of it.