Chances are, an actor is not arriving to a rehearsal completely focused and ready for whatever quality run-through they are about to start. Right? Entering a rehearsal space with your mind full of the entire day’s events and jumping straight into a run-through is not allowing yourself to succeed on stage to your fullest potential. And, if there’s one lesson I have taken away from theatre, it is to never give less than you know you are capable of giving. Therefore, know what you need to do to prepare.
Shaking eights can’t be a forgotten step in the process of “pre-show”. It gives you an opportunity to completely let go, while also bringing spirit back into your body. It is also a connecting moment for any group of actors (or any group of people, for that matter), essential to a successful run.
There is a hidden helpfulness behind routines, shaking eights especially. Knowing that you have those 5 minutes before a show cut out in order for you to get yourself into the mind-set in which you need to be, can act like a life raft. You can have the entire world running through your brain, but you have the act of shaking eights to hype yourself up, and then find focus. Knowing and understanding how to focus your energy is ultimately the building blocks for an actor’s preparation, and transferring a day’s worth of energy into productive, working energy will ultimately help an actor during a performance.
Realistically, the performance begins before the lights go up. The process starts when a cast assembles as a whole- one ensemble, one show. Building your stamina comes next, which holds hands with waking up your face and body. Getting your heart racing, and channeling your nerves and transferring that energy to something positive. Finding your pulse and finding your breath happens individually, but immediately after. It is then when you begin to beat as one group, collectively channeling all the energy that was just released through shouting out numbers from 1 through 8. The difference you feel in yourself is palpable.
So, here’s a secret: pre-show is a time for so much more than just pin curling hair and sharing your eyelash curler with seven other people. It is when actors can collectively begin to focus and prepare before you see them walk out onto the stage.
An actor’s body is their instrument, and it is imperative to tune that instrument before using it to give a performance- like any other instrument.