A Theory Behind "Shaking Eights"

Jordana Kulak

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.

Five Life Skills You Take Away From Theatre

Jordana Kulak

Last summer, my 6-year-old theatre student told me, “my mom signed me up for theatre camp because I’m dramatic.” Aw, so cute right? I don’t doubt that theatre camp let her embrace her inner drama queen. But what I’m sure of is that she walked away from camp with important life skills that she gained with an early immersion in theatre; skills that essentially everyone involved in theatre will gain.

Problem Solving: 

Part of succeeding in theatre is knowing how to “make it work.” I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been told that phrase when in the theatre. You as an actor can’t just sit passively until any mistake made clears up on it’s own (it won’t) or depend on someone to fix it for you. It is the responsibility of you and your scene partner to figure out how to cover. You figure out how to push yourself to a 9 when you’re at a 5. You learn how to boost your own energy for the sake of the show. Problem solving becomes second nature and as an actor, you develop an innate instinct to figure out your problem, quickly develop an idea, and do it. 

Collaboration, working as an ensemble:

“You’re not the lead, you’re a part of the cast.” 
Learning how to collaborate with others is a quintessential skill for anyone to have regardless where life takes you. There will always be a moment where you are required to combine your skills and knowledge with others to create or produce something cohesive. Once you become a part of an ensemble, you gain that skill and never forget it. There is no actor who will doubt a feeling of family that each cast provides, but being a part of a cast also allows for your growth as an individual in addition to teaching the skill of giving a little and taking a little, and knowing how to work with the members of your ensemble.

Dedication: 

Dedication and passion walk hand in hand. A kid in theatre spends months of their life dedicated to one script, one character, and one cast. So much work is put into acting and theatre in general, and so much of that work develops from a budding passion that ultimately leads to a strong dedication to not only a show, but to the craft as a whole. It is that dedication that ultimately bleeds into every task encountered down the line.

Patience and being okay with failure: 

Perfection doesn’t come with one rehearsal or one run-through. And in most cases, “perfect” might not ever be reached. But, that is the beauty of theatre. You are encouraged to take risks, find new moments and learn something new through the exploration of yourself. Unlike painting or dancing where there is a way to do someone completely correct, theatre is an art where you can read the same line six different ways that all work and are all correct. There is room from growth and success in everything, but it is not immediate. 

Understanding people:

Understanding people is part of an actor’s job. This skill is largely developed through the necessary character exploration done by every actor. Part of knowing how to truthfully play a character is taking that first step in trying to figure out your character. Like a chain reaction, the more you understand the person you are portraying, the more authentic your performance will be. An actor works to understand how people think, and how they behave. 

Acting is not just playing make-believe. It is about being truthful; discovering yourself, and ultimately preparing yourself for any situation that you may face in your future. A 6-year old signing up for theatre camp won’t just get to be in play. They will win the advancement of a particulate skill set only gained on the stage