When you enter a rehearsal space as an actor the first thing you’ll do after the ‘getting to know you’ chat is a warm-up.
The point of the warm-up is not just to get you physically warm, but its aim is to release the tension you’ve bought into the room from the outside world. You get to move, shake and make some noise.
For the actor, the aim of the warm-up is to free themself from the stress and habits that make them, THEM, so that they can take on a different persona, i.e., a character.
The benefit to you in the real world is similar. You get to energise yourself physically, but also shake off any negativity, stress, or tension that’s restricting your flow. You become flexible and open to taking on challenges, like facing an audience.
The warm-up is not just for the body but for the face and voice too. Both rely on muscles that like all other muscles need regular workouts. These exercises are crucial for an actor obviously but also crucial for you.
There are 42 individual muscles in your face. Giving them a workout means you’ll be more expressive. You will look silly doing them, admittedly, but these exercises will bring your face alive.
Your voice, like your face, is unique and an amazing tool produced and supported by yet more muscles. One of the most important is the diaphragm. When you breathe in this dome-shaped muscle attached to the bottom of your rib cage works together with your abdominals and the intercostal muscles (situated between your ribs) to move your rib cage up and out allowing as much air into your lungs as possible. When you breathe out the air from your lungs passes over the vocal cords (again, muscles) and they vibrate creating sound. Then your tongue, teeth and lips are all then engaged to make words.
Your voice is your greatest tool. Once you learn how to use it effectively you can use it to engage, inspire, motivate, and soothe. Nurture it like an athlete would their body and you will be rewarded with a voice that has confidence, clarity, and authority.
Now the physical stuff is out of the way, you get to play. Yes, play. I know, we are adults, we don’t do that. But why not? It’s the best way to relieve stress, and build connection and it sparks creativity.
Dr Stuart Brown has researched the subject and found that ‘Play invites creativity and collaboration and can inspire you to think out of the box!’ He concludes that ‘Play is essential to develop social and adult problem-solving skills.’ It physically fires up the brain. (Watch his Ted Talk)
Playing ‘drama’ games in the rehearsal room is a group activity encouraging collaboration and building trust; essential when you are on stage in front of a live audience. But also, essential in every area of life. They help build relationships and connection. Plus, they demonstrate the joy and benefit of working with others.
Another stalwart of the rehearsal room is Improvisation. ‘Argh’, I hear you cry, ‘please don’t make me do that?’ I don’t know how!’
But you do. You improvise every day. In every interaction you have in your life (unless you have a script!) you are improvising. Talking to the cashier – improvising, convincing your child that carrots really aren’t the devil’s food – improvising, asking someone politely to not park in front of your drive – improvising. See?
Improvisation should always be positive and supportive. Think yes and… rather than no but…
Yes and… is a well-worn improv game. Try it.
Imagine you are in a work situation, a brainstorming session or at home negotiating with the kids, see what happens to the atmosphere and outcome of that meeting if you start every sentence with no but… Negative and nowhere. Now try the same scenario and start your sentences with yes and… Completely different, right?
No, but … will dig you deeper into a hole of negativity and leave you stuck.
Yes, and… will open your world to new possibilities and better connections.
After mucking about and making it up as you go along you get to the meat of the rehearsal room. The content.
Usually a script, but invariably no matter what the format, a story that needs to be told. Here you look at the character’s motivation, desire, and reason for existing.
As an actor, part of the process of building a character involves looking at the subtext, to find what motivates them to do what they do.
Their back story is where you fill in the gaps. You read between the writer’s lines for clues to the character’s past life. Where they were born, and educated, family relationships, and what experiences they had. Anything and everything that they went through brought them to this point in their life.
Why is this important? Because it informs all their interactions within the story and with the other characters. It can explain their behaviour and of course the motivation for their actions. This story is what makes the character three-dimensional, relatable, and authentic, i.e., believable.
Finding our own backstory is important. It is what motivates your behaviours, your relationships at home and at work as well as how you cope with situations and challenges. Often looking back at the events that have shaped us, enables us to empathise with others and understand why they behave the way they do.
Perhaps, your back story could motivate, validate and inspire those around you at work or in your social circle and in the process build trust, and rapport and most importantly help you to show up authentically, raise your self-esteem and build your confidence.
And then we get to perform.
The performance, i.e., your talk, your job, your life, is the culmination of all these processes – warm-up, exercise, play, and character. When utilised properly they build confidence, resilience, empathy, and focus. They develop listening and storytelling skills, self-expression, and creativity. They make you more responsive, self-aware, engaging, relatable and inspiring. All attributes essential to being a great actor, speaker, teacher, finance director, software engineer, business coach, CEO, CMO, COO, nurse, manager, entrepreneur, PA, VA… You get it!
It is my mission to share this training with everyone I work with. It has benefitted me personally and professionally and I know it will benefit you too.
If you’d like to find out more about an actor’s training or how I use it in my coaching contact me.