By Christian Leadley
Imagine if you will, that you’re beginning a new project. The specifics of it aren’t important at the moment, all you need to imagine is that this project is something you are dying to sink your teeth into; Nobody else is doing anything else like it, you’ve never had this opportunity before, it’s your dream role—whatever the case may be. The point is, you’re STOKED. You come in for the first day of rehearsal, meet all your cast mates, and find out they’re just as excited as you are. Great!
But as the days wear on, novelty wears off, and mental and physical fatigue begin to set in, you begin to doubt the reasons why you ever started this project in the first place. You mind begins to wander to other things you’ve been worrying about: What am i doing here? What’s this choreography? Why isn’t the director just telling me what to do? Why is that guy staring at me all the time? What are my friends going to say when they come see this? I wonder if Chipotle will still be open when rehearsal is over?….You don’t push yourself to the same levels as you did when you first started and you find yourself wavering in and out of the moment. You want to do your best work, but the reality is you’re feeling under-enthused and uninspired. Try as you might, you’ve hit a wall.
Having been involved in a project myself recently, I can empathize. But after the performances were over and I looked back at the experience to see what i could learn from it, I realized that there were certain specific things that had made it what I would consider a success when it could have just as easily fallen apart, given all of the factors working against it.
Like an athlete that prepares days, weeks, or months in advance for an event by training their body in a specific way, eating specific foods, and mentally steeling themselves for the competition, so also must an artist prepare their instruments. Nothing allows mental alertness to waiver faster than wondering, “why didn’t i know about this?”. If you have the time to prepare your body, do so. Eat right, train and exercise frequently: Opportunities come unexpectedly and at a moment’s notice. The body you wish you had, used to have, or could have with a few weeks of hard work will not serve you in the moment.
Equally important is mental preparation. Do your research and know what you’re getting yourself into. Know the material you were provided with ahead of time as best you can. Go above and beyond and do research on the history of the show, the history of the company, or even information on your soon-to-be collaborators. Foreknowledge is a steady foundation for confidence, and you’d be surprised what you can dig up on the internet and social media.
When I came into rehearsal for my aforementioned project, it was immediately evident who had prepared and who hadn’t. Some people just shined brighter and had an ease about them that some other cast members seem to lack. Obviously there is an awkward phase where everyone will still be getting a feel for the newness of the experience, but you can do your best to minimize that or even eliminate it with thorough preparation. Homework isn't just for school anymore!