10 Things To Do Before Your Performance
I remember vividly the night I was performing in a high-school one-act. I was having the time of my life gabbing and laughing backstage before the play started, not really concerned about the role I'd soon be portraying. The curtain opened, I strutted onto the stage, and in front of several hundred people, promptly forgot my line. I learned an important lesson that night: Prepare thyself before thy stage entrance.
Here are 10 things I’ve discovered to help me prepare to do the best job I can onstage:
Prayer really helps us focus on why we’re doing what we’re doing. While we’re calling on (sometimes pleading with) God to remove our nervousness and help us remember lines and blocking directions, we’re also asking him to help us remember the ministry we’re doing and inviting him to be free to work through us to help our audience listen. Usually I get the cast and crew together beforehand and have a group prayer, then I continue to converse with God right up until I take my first steps onto the stage.
2. Vocal warm-ups.
Singers don’t have a monopoly on warming up the diaphragm (the muscle above your stomach that helps you breathe and project properly). Actors use it, too. We also use our tongues, mouths, throats and lips (big surprise there). They all need to be warmed up. (See page 4 for vocal warm-ups.)
3. Physical warm-ups.
Just as we get our voices in shape, we need to warm up our bodies. I like to do simple stretches, such as reaching up to the ceiling then dropping my hands down to the floor. Stretch just enough so you can feel it; don’t stretch to the point of pain. Another good warm-up that gets your adrenaline flowing is to jog in place. But don’t do it to the point of needing a shower (your co-stars will thank you). You just want to limber up the body.
4. Check your props.
I’ve been in sketches in which an important prop I was supposed to use wasn’t where it was supposed to be. Talk about being awkward. If the props are set on stage (or off) before you perform, check them (before the audience arrives) to make sure they’re set properly. If you carry a prop with you, make sure you have it well in advance. There’s nothing scarier than getting ready to go on and realizing you have no idea where your stuff is.
5. Check your costume.
I did a show once with a guy who performed half the scene with his zipper unzipped — obviously unzipped; the tail of his white shirt was hanging out and people were snickering. Enough said.
6. Make sure your microphone Is on.
If you’re fortunate enough to have body microphones, have someone double check that your mike is on before you go onstage. Otherwise, you'll need to really project; hopefully, you did your vocal warm-ups!
Take several moments to really focus on your breathing. This will help you remain calm and think clearly. Breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth. Inhale on an increasing number and exhale on that same number. For instance: 1-2-in, 1-2-out; 1-2-3-in, 1-2-3-out. Take this up to 10 — unless you feel as though you’re going to pass out. Don’t go that far; you’ll miss your entrance.
8. Run lines.
Get another person or the cast together to speed through the lines. A speed-through is reciting the lines as quickly as possible without any pauses or emotions. This is a great way to make you focus on the task at hand.
9. Think about your character.
Put yourself in that character’s proverbial shoes. What does she want? How will she get it? What is his relationship with the other characters?
10. Have fun!
God’s given you a great, creative gift! He enjoys watching you use it — especially when you’re using it for him. He wants you to enjoy using it, too.