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As a student, your life is all about preparing and taking tests while you may not be 100% perfect and be able to ace them all, as someone interested in theatre, clearing the auditions of your school theatre performance must have been the ultimate high point of your school life.
But wait, the story doesn’t end there. Auditions were just one part of the story where you were selected out of 100s of other students to perform a role. The real test of your confidence, discipline, and dedication towards theatre will be tested now.
Ask any established theatre artist, Hollywood actor, dancer- the first significant role on school stage is a memory of a lifetime. You have your friends, family, teachers and so many other people expecting you to perform well. This role could very well be a turning point in your career, and it could also mean an end to your theatre dreams. The burden of expectations is tremendous, and so is the pre-performance jitters that strike almost everyone, even the most seasoned theatre artists.
Here is what you could do in the run-up to your performance
Most school theatre productions have a bit of storytelling and dialogues. Unless you have no dialogues, focus on learning your part. Read about the story, develop the characters in your head and work on the details. You can also discuss how you can bring your take to the role with your drama teacher or the director of the play. Work on your pronunciations, especially for something like Shakespeare’s plays.
To stay in character, learn to dress up right. Ask your drama teacher the type of wardrobe will be best. For example, an 18th-century drama would need you to wear a ball gown or a high powdered wig. You can even have certain costume changes during the play. Therefore, you have to practice slipping in and out of costumes a couple of times. The best way to figure this out is by picking out something in your closet that is similar to your ensemble. Wearing a pair of tights with comfortable shoes that can take you through the whole act is efficient. You will not only be comfortable in quick change clothes but still look presentable. Make sure you practice at home before wearing it onstage.
Everyone has one or the other off day every once in a while. Don't dwell on your mistakes. Even if you take a stumble, just let go and keep going. The only thing that matters is how confident you are as an actor and can improvise if the situation calls for it. Coming back strongly from a mistake can make you stand out as nothing will.
While preparing for the role, make sure you practice with other co-actors from the play. Your rapport with each other will shine through on stage. You will also have enough comfort to improvise and help each other if either of you makes a mistake.
While reading lines off a piece of paper in front of your mirror is how you got those lines down forwards and backward, now is the time to do the real deal. Block out your scene on actual stage, so you don't look like a deer in the headlights when you perform. Practicing on the actual stage will help you assess how far your voice is going to be, placements of mikes, lights, etc.
If there are certain parts of play where you are not comfortable, for example, romantic scenes, speak up to the director or your drama teacher now, rather than letting them discover it during rehearsals. Make sure you work out on each scene and if you wish to avoid some things like physical contact, let your director be aware of it so necessary changes could be made to script in time.
You may have seen the play a dozen times and would like to sound exactly like someone you found amazing. But it's not about that person anymore, and copying someone will not help. You have your style, and sticking to it will ensure you can keep it simple and adapt it to suit your limitations and strengths.
Here's a great tip, record your dialogues like you would say it on stage. Look for pronunciation, clarity, speed, pitch, and start doing vocal warm-ups. You can also ask a friend make videos while you rehearse on stage to make sure you are getting it right.
The truth is you were selected over several other hopefuls for a reason. Therefore, the responsibility of proving it right is solely on your shoulders. Even the best-laid plans and all your hard work could get wasted if you aren't ready on the D-day.
Here are some strategies that you can implement a few days before your performance:
If you are used to having energy drinks, coffee, or some other quick-fix energy booster, now is the time to limit the intake, or stop altogether, if possible. Caffeine intake affects your sleep patterns and can cause avoidable stress.
You need to rest well before your final performance. Make sure you are relaxed enough during the run-up for it. Anxiety about the performance will keep you awake. Therefore the key is to stay calm and not tire yourself out.
Picture yourself on-stage having a great time. Mentally rehearse your lines, various acts of the play, your steps, and movements, and picture them going perfectly.
Eat energy-rich foods that are a good source of protein. Include eggs, bananas, spinach and orange juice in your diet. Stay away from alcohol a day before your performance. Ensure you remain hydrated at all times.