Pre-performance Anxiety, Independent Study

Pre-performance Anxiety, Independent Study Once again, hello and thank you to all creative advice-seekers. This week's column offers one suggestion for handling pre-show anxiety, advice on how to study while not in class, and advice building your vocal auditioning repertoire. I invite actors of all ages to continue write me with any problems encountered at auditions, in class, or anything you feel could be standing between you and your talent. Make sure to check the previous columns to see if your question, or one like it, has been answered already!

Once again, hello and thank you to all creative advice-seekers. This week's column offers one suggestion for handling pre-show anxiety, advice on how to study while not in class, and advice building your vocal auditioning repertoire. I invite actors of all ages to continue write me with any problems encountered at auditions, in class, or anything you feel could be standing between you and your talent. Make sure to check the previous columns to see if your question, or one like it, has been answered already!

Question
Dear Blair:
I'm the head of the drama department at a high school. Our show, Twelfth Night, goes up in one week, and the class presenting the play isn't yet confident of their skills. They're almost there, I think they'll do great, but a lot of them are very nervous. What would you do before the show to settle them and build their confidence?
Ed

Dear Ed,
As a cast member, I have always experienced a lot of support when the director has led guided, meditation-like focusing exercises with the entire cast before shows, to get everyone in tune with themselves and with each other.

An example of this would be to have everyone sit in a chair, feet on the floor, and take some deep breaths. Then have them envision themselves, walking through the world of the play, completely at ease . . .completely knowing and feeling the world of the character. The language naturally rolls of their tongue, and every word is inspired with the life and intent of their characters.

Then, when the play is over, there is plenty of applause for each character, each part, no matter how big or small, in appreciation for how much each gave themselves to their roles. I find this to be a very powerful exercise. When people see themselves acting with ease first in their mind, it makes it easier for them to create onstage.

Hope your production goes well, Ed.

Question
Dear Blair,
Your advice is always so helpful, but now I need help!:) I recently took a musical theatre workshop with Shari Anderson, so I learned a lot about voice and resumes, but not acting. I have no experience in acting, but at a recent audition, I did better than I thought I would. Anyway, I'm taking my first acting class next year (Junior year in high school), I really can't take more than 2 acting classes in my HS years because my schedule won't allow it. I want to take acting lessons in the summer, but I live in a small city, so finding a GOOD acting class is VERY hard. What should I do? And how can I improve while I wait until the summer or next year? Thanks for all of your wonderful advice!
Nora

Dear Nora,
Thanks for your sweet question.

It's almost impossible to learn to act on your own, because you can't see yourself. You need an outside eye to guide you and help you.

Here's what I suggest for you in the meantime:

1) Keep your eye out for and go to auditions. Even if your schedule would not allow you to be in the play, audition anyway. It's great experience.

2) Read. Read plays. It's great to have a good knowledge of playwrights and characters. Start with the classics and then move towards more contemporary playwrights.

3) Read about acting from great actors and teachers such as Sanford Meisner's "On Acting"; Uta Hagen's "Respect for Acting", Michael Checkov's "Technique of Acting" and Stanislavsky's "An Actor Prepares." If not available in your local bookstore, these can be ordered from the Drama Book Shop in NYC (212) 944-0595.

4) Develop a critical eye. What actors move you? Why? Who do you want to be like as an actress? What actors bore you? Why? When you go to a movie or a show, begin to watch the performances with the awareness that they can teach you something.

This should keep you plenty busy until summer!

Good luck Nora.

Question
Dear Blair,
I am auditioning to get into a musical theatre program at a certain school. The audition requires that I sing two contrasting songs and perform a monologue. My question refers to the choice of songs. My voice teacher suggests that I sing something that "Maria" sings in West Side Story because I can sing high, and those songs would really show off my range. However, I've read that it is not a good audition choice to sing from really well known musicals. Unfortunately, my voice teacher isn't familiar with any obscure musicals, and a lot of the material out there is written for mezzo-sopranos. Do you have any suggestions?
Thanks a lot.
Cindy

Hey, Cindy.
Thanks for asking me. There are so many songs out there, but, as you point out, not too many contemporary soprano roles.

If you feel strongly about singing less well known songs, because you think it will help you stand out more, I think it's really important to research material on your own, so you find your connection to it. I will say that the part of Christine in the lesser-known Maury Yeston version of Phantom is a soprano role with some beautiful songs. You may want to look into more contemporary voice teachers who can help you build your repertoire in this direction.

If you feel a connection to and feel comfortable singing the music from West Side Story, then I say go for it. People try to make up all these rules in show biz, but I don't think they always apply.

Good luck, Cindy!

I'd love to hear what you picked and how it went.