Tears On CueBy Ty Unglebower • Mar 7th, 2012 • Category: An Actor's Advice
You may not be able to produce tears on cue for a stage production, and you shouldn’t worry too much about this. It isn’t indicative of the strength of your performance or of your range as an actor. Unlike staging a punch or giving a kiss, actual tears are a physiological response that some can replicate and some cannot, regardless of how into the scene they are.
Truth be told, some people don’t produce many tears when they are actually upset. So it isn’t surprising that they wouldn’t have an easy time of it while on stage, either. But no matter.
There are a few tricks of course, to produce them, if you must. Drops in the eyes right before one enters works well, though if the tears are to come in the middle of a scene, that becomes rather tricky, and ill-advised. Somewhat easier before one enters as well as during a scene is to refrain from blinking for long enough that the eyes naturally water a bit. Depending on the blocking, of course this also may be problematic. Unblinking eyes can be quite unsettling to an audience member.
I wouldn’t recommend sticking one’s self surreptitiously with a pin or any other such methods with a high possibility of pain. It could work quite often, but you’re an actor, not a martyr. Plus the pain has to be braced for, and that can cause tension where relaxation is required. It could also distract one from the scene. (Not to mention creep out your scene partners. I know I’d be creeped out if I knew someone else in the scene with me were doing or about to do this just to manufacture tears.)
The key is to remember that tears are in fact merely one part of weeping. In fact, they are probably the smallest part of weeping. Consider the last time you cried, and all sorts of forces and feelings will come to mind. The lump in your throat, the constricting of your abdomen. The grimacing of your facial muscles that is almost involuntary. If you’re like many people you start to cover your mouth, or hide your whole face once it begins. Your nose might run. If you invoke all of these actions (and others, think of some more!), you will present an accurate portrayal of weeping to an audience. Especially if all of the above are expertly motivated by your in-depth, well researched understanding of the character you are playing, and the circumstances in which they find themselves.
Concentrate on invoking the image of someone moved to weeping while on stage, instead of invoking active ducts. If you do that, your audience will still be moved by your character’s plight. And there will be no reason to shed tears over a lack of tears.
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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.