Friday, October 28, 2011
Sunday, October 16, 2011
A few years ago, I was in a production of a musical in Boston. I was in the green room during a moment when I wasn't on stage and the actor next to me said, 'Oh X, (not her real name), must have people in the audience tonight". "How do you know?" I asked. "Oh she always cranks it up when she has friends out front".
I was a bit stunned at that, and it got me thinking about performance. Of course, when we know that family or friends are out front, we all tend to be a bit more excited and want to do our best. But as an actor, or singer or speaker, isn't the proper way to behave giving your best ALWAYS? I think we have all seen actors that react to having someone special in the audience, a bit more fire, passion, a twinkle to the eye. But isn't the real challenge for us to keep that level of performance at each and every show? Of course there will be variation, of course some shows will turn out better than others, but that should be in hindsight, not a decision made before you go on!
Because the truth is that someone is always watching you. Someone always wants you to take them on a journey, to move them, to entertain them. When I teach young actors, I always remind them that they must treat each moment onstage as though someone is watching them, hanging on their every word, rooting for them. And that is good advice for all ages, to treat each show as though someone special is out there watching.
When I was on tour with a show years ago, I had a rough show. I was tired, my timing was off, and i just felt less than 100%. When the show was over and I was leaving, a parent wheeled a child up to me in a wheelchair, a child who obviously had a lot of physical challenges.From his wheelchair, the child told me, "You are my favorite actor". I was floored. I wanted to go back and redo the show, because I felt I had been under par. Yet my work had still touched this child.
I never have forgotten that moment. I often replay it in my mind, to keep me going when I am feeling tired or off in some way. Going into the lights of a stage is a tremendous responsibility, and we don't know how many lives we can touch and change by our work.
So treat each performance as though someone special is watching. Because, someone is.
THE ACTOR'S SENSEI