Fighting FatigueBy Ty Unglebower • Aug 8th, 2012 • Category: An Actor's Advice
Theatre is hard work. It’s tiring work. Exhausting at times even. That goes for cast, crew, directors. When it matters, theatre requires energy, both on stage and off.
This is not avoidable. If you find yourself in a play and you don’t feel tired at the end of the evening, one of two things is true. Either it is a ridiculous play, or you aren’t doing it well. In either case, we’ll assume it is not the norm to feel no fatigue after an evening at the theatre.
Fatigue may be inevitable, but that doesn’t mean it has to crush you. Though it cannot be eliminated, it can be controlled, and lessened. Made manageable. I have written before about the importance of proper food intake during a show. So in addition to diet here are some other tips to keep fatigue from destroying you.
To begin with, sit down. Sounds simple enough, but in the midst of the nervous energy and moving about that consumes a production, you may forget to do this simple thing. I know because I am guilty of it. I have to be off stage quite a while before I think to do so. Otherwise I am pacing, listening for my cue, checking a prop, reviewing lines. All of which are fine, respectable things to do. Yet if you are off stage for 20 minutes, and have spend most of that time on your feet for one reason or another, obviously you are making yourself more tired than you need to be. Some nerves are bound to make you want to get up and about. Yet do what you can to force yourself to sit and be still if you have an extended break between scenes. It doesn’t feel like much, but each of those five minute sessions of sitting when you can will add up by the end of the play. Trust me.
The next piece of advice is related to my first. When you are not in a scene, and are waiting in the green room or dressing room, try to avoid rowdy fun. I don’t want to discourage you from enjoying time with your cast mates between scenes. But even if you are paying attention to the play and never miss a cue, your green room activities can contribute to weakening your performance if they are draining. Remember to sit. Converse. Hydrate. Perhaps a docile distraction such as cards, or checkers. Anything that can allow you to both remain focused on your duties as an actor, but also allow you some brief recreation without wearing you out. I’ve seen people running around, carrying-on, even throwing a ball back and forth. Again, they didn’t miss their cues, as they were paying close attention to where they were in the play. Yet I can’t help but wonder whether they were spending energy reserves that should have been saved for the stage.
Finally, some kinds of meditation may be of use to you. It doesn’t have to be complicated or profound. It doesn’t have to be religious in nature. But the simple act of centering one’s self, while it can be relaxing can also be refreshing and energizing. It won’t give you a coffee jolt, but it can build you up for your next scene if you have the time to do it. Being centered is less draining than being scattered after all.
You can and will be tired at the end of a play you are in. Sometimes because it went so well, and sometimes because it went so poorly. But in either case if you remember these pieces of advice, you can keep fatigue in its proper place, and have a good show despite the fatigue.
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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.