Friday, July 27, 2007

Applause and the Blahs

How do you get motivated to do a performance on a day you wish not to be there? Happened to me on Wednesday. At 8:00 sharp the curtain rose for COLE, I looked at the audience, 600 pairs of eyes stared back at me, and I just could not find the motivation I needed to give them an uplifting performance. I was tired. I had low energy. My voice was being a pest and would not warm up. Not to mention the pesky distracting blister on my heel. So I switched to autopilot and after curtain call I felt I gave a robotic performance. Mid-weekday performance tend to be a little low energy anyway, and there are tricks for getting prepared and getting through an unmotivated performance.

Was I so robotic that the audience did not enjoy? Not at all. I sang well, but realized my vocal limitations and know I can do better. I felt like lying down & taking a nap, but I danced my little dances with the obligatory wide smile.

So how does one pull off a professional performance when none of the right elements are in one’s favor? Here are some tricks from the Evil Baritone bag:

1. Drink water.
Constantly! Water is life. You must stay hydrated. Start drinking water at least 2-3 hours before the performance. Water is great for keeping the vocal folds from becoming inflamed and irritated.

And the subtext of this statement is:
a.) Avoid alcohol & caffeine. These dehydrate the body, working against your optimal performance mode. I failed to do both before the performance. I didn’t drink enough water & consumed coffee, soda and partook of the free beer provided at the summer company picnic. My performance suffered.
Oh, and since you drank so much water, make sure there is a toilet close offstage – or just pick a pack of Depend underwear and simply get onstage and “just go”.

2. Stretch
A few minutes of quiet meditation and stretching the poor, tired achy muscles will help prepare the body for it’s journey the next few hours. Of course this does nothing to help the aging and creaky joints of a weary thirty-something. I can usually be heard in the back of the stage bending my body and complaining that “I’m too old for this shit…”

3. Be prepared
That means know your stuff! Inside & out! Your songs, arias, dialogue, character, whatever, need to be ingrained and rehearsed so that they flow freely from your mouth. Being completely able to immerse yourself into a natural performance is better than the stress of thinking, “oh, shit, what’s the next word/phrase/dance step?” When switching to autopilot this is essential.

4. Focus
Number 3 above is no good without focus. Sometimes in situations when you are unmotivated on stage you need to focus even MORE! Focus on your next entrance. Focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Focus on keeping distractions at bay! Sometimes, as I did for a moment last night, I see an audience member wearing odd apparel such as a scarf, earmuffs and goggles. Distracting? You bet! But realize quickly that if you don’t drop it right away you are likely to make an embarassing slip in the lyrics to “Let’s Misbehave.”

5. Smile!
Look at my face….I’m dancing! That’s a non-dancer’s mantra. I’m not a trained dancer. Never had a tap/jazz/ballet class in my life. But I move well and I have rhythm. But to keep an audience from realizing my lack of grace and an occasional moved caused by two left feet, a toothy smile is the best thing to let them know I’m having a great time, even if I’m unmotivated. If you’re having fun, the audience has fun. If you’re not having fun, let your professionalism take over and smile anyway.

6. The show MUST go on!
Your fellow cast, tech crew, directors, designers, not to mention a paying audience all are depending on you to do your part. It’s a tremendous responsibility. Don’t blow it! Or you may end up never working for that company, or in that town, again. How’s THAT for motivation?

Ok, be my guest to leave your tips & tricks for getting through an unmotivated performance. I’m too unmotivated to leave you with anything witty so I’m gonna have a beer & pass out on the recliner.

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