Theatre Information

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

By • Nov 5th, 2008 • Category: An Actor's Advice

Risk and comfort need not be mutually exclusive for the actor. In fact, I maintain that both are crucial to the evolution of one’s craft. That is, when they are applied in the proper fashion.

Without a doubt, an actor should always be comfortable with whatever they are doing by the time they are on stage. A performance is not the place to be experimenting with something outside of one’s comfort zone. However, the larger one’s comfort zone is, the more places one can be comfortable going on stage. The result, a deeper, more developed performer. An important goal for the actor, therefore, should be to expand one’s comfort zone, whenever possible.

How is this done? Among other ways, calculated risk. Put another way, voluntarily stepping outside of one’s comfort zone in other areas of life, when one is not on stage. Pushing the boundaries of what one finds effortless. Opting to engage in things with which one is not naturally at ease.

I of course do not mean anything dangerous. But consider the sort of things you would rather not do, but would find possible to do if you were to put yourself through some nervousness and discomfort.

Make a public comment at your next city council meeting, if you do not like giving speeches. Go sing some karaoke with a few friends one Saturday night if singing makes you squirm. Attend a lecture on a subject about which you know little. Better yet, a subject with which you know you have little agreement.

There are as many ways to do this as there are actors. I myself once spent a few weeks asking sales clerks questions about products I was planning to purchase. I in general hate doing this, as I prefer to do my own research. But I did it so as to expand that comfort zone, and to be willing to help my inner voice turn off sometimes and truly listen to what others suggest. And to trust it when applicable.

All of these things expose the actor to stimuli he is predisposed to avoid. In theatre, timidity can equal the death of a performance. Certainly the death of an audition.

We all have a range, and particular actors will simply never portray certain roles. Yet what I am speaking of has less to do with specific roles than the overall willingness to go beyond that which we are accustomed. By seeking out small risks that push us out of our comfort zone by a few inches here and there off the stage, we become more prepared to accept risk and discomfort when we try out for a role. And when we land it, our comfort zone has expanded to include a whole new set of circumstances.

A performance cannot help but reflect that.

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is a Maryland native and has been acting for nine years, having studied it at Marietta College in Ohio. He has been schooled in Shakespeare, improvisation, public speaking and voice articulation throughout his career. His credits to date include over 30 plays and readings as well as 2 films. You can also read his blogs (for theatre related thoughts) and (for thoughts on personal success from an outcast). Follow him on Twitter @TyUnglebower.

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