Performing is an extremely strenuous pastime, both physically and emotionally. Acting, singing, dancing, stage combat (often all at the same time!) can take its toll on you. No matter whether you are a professional performer or part of a community theatre production, it’s crucial that all performers take good care of themselves in order to keep themselves in peak condition, so they can continue to be performance ready.
Here are a few tips on staying at your best as you prepare and perform for a show’s season:
Number 1: Get enough rest, especially during tech week and performances.
Performing day after day gets exhausting, especially on double-show days. Be sure to treat your body well and get adequate rest. That may mean going to bed earlier than usual or taking a nap instead of going out for lunch in between shows.
Number 2: Take care of your voice.
Avoid screaming and shrieking (this may not be the best time to go to a One Direction concert or the Superbowl and scream your voice raw), and even clearing your throat, which causes strain.
If your musical director or vocal coach puts you on vocal rest, then you better not be talking!
If you feel yourself starting to get sick, start drinking tons of water to flush out your system, and hot tea with honey will soothe your throat. I’ve also heard slippery elm or oil of oregano works well, but be sure to speak to a doctor before taking any products!
Avoid dairy products (coats your throat), soda (makes you gassy) and even juices (full of sugar, and can stain costumes if you’re drinking in costume). Even throat lozenges like Fisherman’s Friend or Halls aren’t good for you when you’re performing, because they have alcohol in them, which dries up your throat even more.
Number 3: Make smart choices when it comes to your non-theatre life.
The rehearsal period/performance dates may not be the best time to take up BMX, snowboarding or any other extreme sports. Your director will not be happy if you show up to rehearsal with a broken leg!
Also showing up for rehearsal tired, hungover and dehydrated is the best way to ensure you won’t be asked back to perform with a company, community based or professional, so choose wisely the nights you go out with your friends and get your party on.
Number 4: Don’t spread your germs around.
Especially with colder weather upon us and people more likely to get sick. Please don’t share drinks or food with your cast mates; wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer; and for goodness sake, if you’re sick and contagious, call your director and stay home! (That’s for rehearsals only — if you’re sick on a show day, you better get your butt to the theatre unless you’re on your death bed!)
Number 5: Listen to your body.
If you are on the verge of losing your voice, tell your musical director but don’t push your voice. If you need to rest, then rest. Avoid foods that cause you upset stomachs before a performance. Drink lots of water, and then drink some more water. Know the difference between working hard and pushing through when you’re just feeling “meh” and when you truly need to back off.
Number 6: Take care of yourself mentally and physically.
Develop a routine that has you eating well and exercising. A healthy you will allow you to sustain those long tech weeks and daily performances. It’s not about getting fit, it’s about being fit. Incorporating even 20 minutes of yoga, a jog or some bodyweight exercises each morning is proven to make you more alert and ready to tackle the day. Find out what it is that you enjoy and plug it into your daily routine.
Mentally it is also important to disconnect for a few minutes each day and focus on something outside your work. A 10-minute meditation, listening to your favourite podcast, doing a crossword or a walk alone outside in the fresh air out the back of the theatre. In any case, most performers may have a routine that centres them and makes them feel calm, don’t forget to do that when work gets busy. If you don’t have one yet, find a small activity that you enjoy that allows you to take a mental break.
Number 7: Be Prepared.
Don’t create stress for yourself by being late or unprepared. Make sure you arrive to the theatre with plenty of time to put your make up and costume on. Make sure you check your props and items that you need for your performance. Give yourself enough time to allow for a small costume repair, an unexpected director’s note or to adapt your performance to a technical issue.
Don’t assume when you arrive to the theatre everything is going to go to plan.
If you are there early with a good attitude and readiness to adapt, you will be able to cope with the unexpected like a pro.
Do any performers out there have routines or rituals they do during a performance run to stay in peak condition? Please share with us.
Also by Kerry Hishon:
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