I’m sorry that my blog has been uneventful for the last week.
Here’s why: I’ve been in a play!
I have been obsessed with acting since I was 6 or 7 years old and was part of a local theatre group/ company for over 10 years as a child and teen and then went onto train at The University of Wales, Newport which was connected to the long standing Newport Film school. All this has now merged and moved to Cardiff as The University of South Wales but that is a sad tale for another day.
Since I graduated in 2014 I have been picking up bits of acting work, extra work and work connected with theatre but I have also been involved a lot in a local Bristol amateur company.
The latest play was last week and it was all about the Mitford girls. A very interesting collection of women who came to fame in the 30’s and 40’s, two fascists (one married Oswald Mosley, one allegedly had an affair with Hitler), one communists (who I got to play, Jessica, she was an amazing woman who moved to America and fought for the civil rights movement and wrote a best seller called ‘The American Way of Death), one novelist, another who became the Duchess of Devonshire and a farmer. Truly fascinating how they all grew up together and yet became such individuals. I highly suggest you investigate these ladies further, for better and for worse.
As the run came to a stop on Friday I thought maybe I might share with you some of my little Actor routine. How I get a handle on play week (or however long the run may be).
Firstly, I always try to clear my schedule as best as I can. I inevitably wait to help pay the bills. Most actors have to find flexible work and hospitality is generally the best as you can switch shifts with friends etc. So, for the period of the play I try to keep to short shifts or none at all. This then means I have enough time to myself prior to the start of the evening’s performance.
I love to arrive at the theatre nice and early. I had some amazing lecturers at university and one of them, who was a seasoned professional before teaching us, often told us he’d arrive at the location much earlier in the day. He’d use this time to sit in the space and collect himself ready for the performance. Since knowing this, I have always tried to arrive at least two hours before I am actually needed for make up and costume. I have to admit I don’t do much other than look over the script, have a hot drink and maybe get ready early. However, it really does settle my nerves.
A pet hate of mine is rehearsing lines with fellow actors just before curtain or backstage. This really unsettles me and often, if you get it correct when practising, I find it goes haywire in front of the audience. My advice is always stay calm, clear your mind and you will deliver your lines well for the audience. If you are practising it creates a feeling of uncertainty and you may end up going on stage in a flurry of nerves and that leads to mistakes.
In the dressing room I like to make sure my area is always the same. I really like being organised so I always make sure to put my hairgrips back in their little pot and to make sure my costume is always hung up ready for next time as soon as possible. This is obviously if I have a change and if not I just hang it all up at the end of the night. I always make sure to have wipes and a good hairbrush too so I can take all my makeup off and hair down. I was always taught to never leave a dressing room with any hint of your character. The audience have been absorbed in the world of your play whilst watching it and to see a spec of your character in reality will only burst the play’s bubble! It may take that little extra time when you are exhausted but it’s worth it.
Sleep and eating right are key. It’s so easy to get lost in hanging out in the bar for hours after the play and then eating what you can grab as the nights continue. Sleep is key for processing information you have collected during the day – which will help keep it clear for your lines etc. Food is key to keeping your stamina high and energy also. If you feel sluggish and tired, so will your character!
Other than this really I just try to keep myself calm, I try to use the week to catch up with friends and family in the daytime and running chores and errands. The week just gone I had to work and had unexpected plans so I didn’t give myself the down time I needed in the day and I am feeling it now! However, I still made sure I had the time at the theatre to relax and still use my normal routine of eating well, sleeping right and not practising my lines backstage! I think the theatre can be quite a superstitious world (I remember as a child having to leave the rehearsal room in my local theatre and complete a special routine for saying ‘The Scottish Play’s’ true name). So creating your own pre-play habits can become ritual. I think all actor’s probably have them and the above are mine. I hope they’re interesting and/or helpful. Do you have any quirky pre-performance rituals of your own?