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Once More Into the Breach

I am up to my neck in revenge tragedy, fully immersed in the schlagobers und blud of Tis Pity She’s a Whore for 7 Towers Theatre Company at the Cathedral of Junk. [Good seats still available!] The show is roughly three metric tons of Pixy Stix worth of fun to do, the wind sprint of playing the Friar and Bergetto in our Act 1 being some of the most fun I’ve been allowed to have on stage. The entrances at a full gallop and the lightning costume and character changes are the sort of challenges you beg for.

I have been performing regularly enough in the last 18 months or so to recognize some things about my needs as a performer and to have begun cobbling together a preshow process for myself. I firmly believe in the repeatability of a performance. The discoveries and moments need to be fresh every night, but an audience buying a ticket on Friday shouldn’t be seeing a radically different production than they get on Saturday night. For me this means getting myself into a similar place for takeoff every night. It’s not just superstition – promise.

1. Context – Place I need to get myself into the space. Remove variables. The more I know about the space the less I have to think about it during the show. The variables change depending on which space I’m in. The Cathedral of Junk is an outdoor venue so it means walking all of my entrances and making sure the pathways they are on haven’t changed, or haven’t become slippery… make sure there are no loose rocks on the SR corner where I do the 3 Stooges clown stop or that that the corner of the up-center platform isn’t any slicker than last night.

“That’s the stage manager’s job”.

The SM has a general safety mandate. The corner of the platform being slicker than last night isn’t necessarily about safety it’s about movement. You are responsible for knowing how the space is playing today just like a golfer is.

2. Context – People

I check in with everyone. Every single person who’s a moving part of the show, cast and crew. Talk with them about their day, about last night’s show, about how they’re feeling. and this sounds a little creepy, but make physical contact. Touch on arm, fist bump, hug, toss ‘em over your shoulders like a sack of potatoes and use them for a physical warm-up… whatever.

If the top of the show is a fixed point, you’re all coming at that point from a slightly different angle every night. Be aware.

3. Context – Self

I am not a fan of group warm-ups but I need something for me in terms of body, voice, and focus/show review. For something as vocal strenuous as Titus I do a full vocal warm-up for resonators, pitch and diction, for something as vocally light as Tis Pity I focus on warming up for diction (I have lousy consonants).

I check in physically. I have feet straight out of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream so I have to be aware if they are hurting at all and if that’s going to alter my movement. If there anything else that’s going o effect blocking? Is my core energy normal? Is it spiking? Am I hydrated enough to get through the first act without dry mouth?

Where’s my focus? Am I mentally in the space? Is the day weighing on me? or something personal? I usually run my monologues to get into the text and let those things go. For Tis Pity I also have the luxury of running the lines of first scene of the show before go just to get the motor idling.

It seem like a lot of fiddly work but all in all it’s about 15 minutes of work that helps triangulate me for the show and lets me worry about acting and not the rest of the mechanics.

How do you prep for a show? What warm-ups do you do? How do you get yourself anchored in the space?

  • Kate Foy

    Sounds about right. Fiddly? Not at all. Indeed as part of the job for the night, warm up before the show is absolutely mandatory. Hope it’s being as joyful an experience for you as reading between your lines suggests.

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