Theatre Information

Relax, and Keep The Energy Up

By • Nov 17th, 2010 • Category: An Actor's Advice

You may notice that the two most common suggestions given to actors by their director, especially on the final moments before opening curtain is to both relax or have fun, and to keep the energy high.

But how exactly can one be relaxed while maintaining high energy? It sounds like a paradox. Only if define the terms incorrectly.

“Relax” doesn’t mean to beg out and be lazy. You don’t have to be sedate to be relaxed. Sedate is bad backstage and onstage. It means you are off in your own dream land, and ergo are no use to the show. No, relaxed in a theatre sense means to be free of anxiety. A small degree of nerves is almost inevitable, and can be useful, but that is not the same as anxiety. Anxiety springs from a lack of self confidence, and from a fear of being judged harshly for what you are about to do on stage in front of an audience. Obviously you are not going to turn in your best, or even a good performance when you have that thought pattern running in a feedback loop in your mind.

So, relax. Have a belief in what you are doing. Focus those nerves directly into the job you have to do at any given moment, without over thinking everything. Remember to breathe deeply and slowly before you go on. Your mind and emotions are under your control, instead of you being under their control. That is being relaxed.

But being in this state does not prevent you having that proverbial spring in your step as you get ready for the opening curtain. You can still refrain from loafing backstage. Being cheerful takes high energy, and your mind can be relaxed and still project such a high, positive energy.

Self confidence is also a high, positive energy state of being. Knowing that you have rehearsed to the best of your ability, and will now perform to the best of your ability will cause you to exude that confidence to everyone around you. Which raises the energy of the room. And certainly of the scene you are performing. Audiences know when an actor feels at ease with what he is doing on stage, and that too carries a high energy.

As does voice projection, moving with intention, making optimum use of the stage space. And so on. These are the things a director means when they tell you too “keep the energy up.” Even if you are playing someone that is sick in bed, that energy is still a vital part of your performance.

So you see, relaxing and having high energy are not mutually exclusive for the actor. In fact when one is properly implemented, the other tends to follow, creating a far more positive and useful feedback loop than anxiety and laziness produce.

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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.