I have recently completed my summer semester at my conservatory. Although I learned a great deal in terms of movement, technique, scene study and other topics, one of the biggest things I have learned is that being an actor is exhausting.
Take, for example, my final performance.
There were two parts to it. One was a solo piece. I had used a great amount of energy to get the emotions and message of the character across. I felt pleased with my choices and that they were appropriate for the piece. The piece itself was most likely around two minutes, but I began to feel tired after allowing myself to experience such powerful choices.
The other was a twenty-minute scene between myself and my scene partner. The scene itself was very emotional, and my partner and I needed to be focused to deliver a good performance. I was very fortunate to have an incredible partner, and believe that we helped each other experience raw, powerful moments within the scene.
Those moments took their toll. After our performances, striking, and the ending ceremony, I was exhausted. Sure, those performances were not a full-length play or Broadway show filled with dance numbers. I didn’t have a long day on a film set. But the fatigue was still there.
Accessing that sort of raw emotional power is exhausting. The amount of focus it takes to truthfully respond to what is given is exhausting. You must be committed to your other, you must be committed to the words coming out of your mouth, you must be committed to your given circumstances, your set, your character. You must be vulnerable and allow yourself to access whatever emotion the character wants you to feel and you must experience it fully. If you want power, if you want truth, you must be prepared and must accept the physical tolls that are paid.
It’s no wonder to me, then, why some Broadway actors are choosing not to greet fans at the stage door after the show, Ben Platt being the first to come to mind. If I’m tired after giving a twenty-minute performance, he must be beyond exhausted after playing an emotional character and singing those powerful songs. Multiple times a week. Sometimes, multiple times a day.
It’s no wonder. And I can’t blame them.
People in other professions get tired, too. They get tired and they want to go home and relax with friends or family or maybe even alone. They want to leave their workspace and go home and recharge.
It’s only fair to allow actors to do the same without demanding that they come visit fans when they have no energy to do so. They need time to rest. Emotions are exhausting. Making sure that the actor recovers safely from their performance is also crucial – some actions and emotions that result from those actions can overwhelm the body, and the body doesn’t know the difference between an actor’s behavior as the person versus as the character. Making sure the body recovers and the actor is safe is important.
I can understand being disappointed in not seeing a beloved performer at the stage door, especially after seeing their show and being moved. But actors are people, too. Actors get exhausted, too. And even though the body is an amazing thing, it gets confused and people need to take time to make sure that they are safe rather than suffering.
- It’s important to forgive the actors for not coming to the stage door.
- It’s important to acknowledge they need self-care.
- It’s important to respect their needs.
- Because actors are people. People get exhausted.
- And acting is exhausting.