Get CenteredBy Ty Unglebower • Apr 6th, 2011 • Category: An Actor's Advice
It takes all kinds in the theatre. People with different tastes, acting styles, superstitions, attitudes. There are not many universals, though there are a few.
Obviously promptness, ability to memorize lines, to take direction and work hard in pursuit of the truth of a play are all universal requirements for a stage actor. Yet there are some unrecognized things that are universal from which many actors may feel they are exempt, but actually are not. One such example is time alone to get centered.
I am always one of the earliest people to arrive for either a rehearsal or a performance. Especially a performance. I like to get to the dressing room, or the green room, or whatever space I can find and just be alone with my thoughts. This is not unusual. Go to any theatre and you will find many actors finding any space they can for some solitude before show time.
Yet not everyone does so. There are certain types that spend the time before the opening of the show talking, having a meal they missed earlier in the day, joking around with cast mates. They have done their external jobs, such as checking props and getting dressed, so their responsibilities to the show have been fulfilled. Yet they have remained in one constant motion from the time they arrive until the time they make their first entrance. They have not done their internal work. And it is this internal work that I feel all actors need, no matter how much they may feel otherwise.
I have often said that there are a million ways to get the job done in the theatre. And I do not advocate every single person stop and meditate in the dressing room before curtain, if meditation is not a part of their normal routine. I am not about to dictate the how of getting centered. I am merely advocating its necessity.
Every actor, no matter how experienced, no matter their personality, needs to take at least a few minutes to be alone. To collect their thoughts, and prepare for the task ahead. And most importantly, to allow the “otherness” of non-theatre thoughts and troubles to drift further away from their consciousness so they can be all about the show for the next few hours.
This isn’t mysticism or religion. It is common sense for the psyche. We all benefit from removing our mental distractions, and with rare exception we need at least a few minutes alone to do this.
If you live close enough to the venue, you could do this at home before you leave, I suppose, though there is something to be said for getting centered within the venue itself. Yet all that truly matters is remembering to take the time and the space for this all important, but often overlooked act of preparation. It’s not a high or low energy thing, or an introvert vs. extrovert thing. It’s an optimum state of mind thing, and your best performances will require your best state of mind.
So take time for yourself before show time.
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Ty Unglebower is a Maryland native and has been acting for nine years, having studied it at Marietta College in Ohio. He has been schooled in Shakespeare, improvisation, public speaking and voice articulation throughout his career. His credits to date include over 30 plays and readings as well as 2 films. You can also read his blogs offbook.blogspot.com (for theatre related thoughts) and tooxyz.blogspot.com (for thoughts on personal success from an outcast). Follow him on Twitter @TyUnglebower.