It's World Theatre Day! Being involved in musical theatre my entire life has taught me so many lessons - like being open to new things...and going to pee at intermission! There have been costume malfunctions, line flubs, and may choreography mishaps - but I've learned from it all! Here are twelve things I've learned from the theatre!
1. Try everything with an open mind
Even if you think something is too silly for you, or it's out of your comfort zone, go into it knowing that you're going to come out of it more experienced and ready to take on the next thing that is uncomfortable.
2. Humans are complex beings
Whether it's a character you're analyzing, or it's someone in your life who you just can't crack the code on, realize that every human has more experiences and layers that meet the eye. Keep digging and figuring out that person. Especially if you're playing a character for a long period of time - you're going to keep learning about them as you play them - and that's what so cool about theatre.
3. Do everything with intention
Even if it's a small, trivial task like turning on the TV, or going for your routine walk around the block - there's always a reason for everything we do. Recognizing this motivation will help you portray a character or a scene in a believable and purposeful way.
4. A good attitude is more important than training
If you are the most novice person in a room, understand that in a short time, you could be the most successful person in the room. If you go into every scenario with a good attitude; you're easy to work with; you're professional and you work hard, you can progress just as quickly as someone with the most prestigious degree.
5. You are never done learning
The most senior people can learn from newbies because they give us fresh eyes. Every experience has the opportunity to become new, and seen from a fresh perspective. That's one of the incredible things about the arts - they are expansive. The parameters you set for your art form can be erased if you operate with the mindset that you will never know everything! There is always room to grow, no matter how long you've been in the game.
6. Every role (on stage and off) is crucial
From a young age, I was taught that we should respect every person involved in a production, and to try to learn a bit about what their job is. Whether it's a lighting technician, or a scenic painter, or the lead of the show - we all have a crucial role to play. If there is a tiny leak in a giant ship, it can lead to the whole thing sinking. If the person responsible for Mary Poppins' fly cables gets distracted for a second, they could take out the whole balcony with her umbrella!
7. Preparation and spontaneity need each other
It's important to know your lines and blocking, or be educated on the product you sell, but you always need to be prepared for the unexpected (especially in live theatre!) If something does go wrong, or someone decides to do a bit of improv, being prepared will help anchor the scene or situation, so you can focus on the one unexpected element. It can keep things fresh and exciting for you and the audience.
8. Ripped pants mean you're doing it right!
Simply - commit to every action, piece of blocking, and choreography. Costumes can be repaired, but a lackadaisical performance does nothing for the audience.
9. You only look silly if you're half-assing it
When there is a task or action that you feel intimidated by, or believe is beneath you, choosing to phone it in will only draw negative attention. If you commit and truly give it your all, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel, people will respect you for trying.
10. Look out for your colleagues
If something is going wrong, try to see it before it happens. The goal is to make everyone look good! We should prioritize our decisions based on the whole picture: First we worry about the show as a whole, then we concern ourselves with our cast and crew mates, and last we make decisions that benefit our personal performance. We all sink or swim together.
11. Pee during intermission!
How many times have I been about to make an entrance for a scene, and thought - I wish I had peed before now! Or those times I've been in an audience and couldn't fully enjoy the show because my bladder was full. Intermission is for the toilet - point blank!
12. Be in the moment!
On stage and in life, it's so easy to get distracted by what just happened, or what is about to happen. And then there's our own inner saboteur - that voice that cause us to be self-conscious and not fully be present. Being in the moment allows us to be privy to what's going on around us and to stay on our cues. In all areas of life, being present helps us to appreciate every experience as much as possible!