Riding the Ox Home 15

“Act without doing: work without effort.” Tao Te Ching

 The best acting has always been effortless.  I’m sure you have had the experience, when on stage, of everything going perfectly well.  You were hardly aware of being on stage until the final curtain came down.  Everything happened exactly according to plan.  The problem is that this happens so infrequently.

Lack of concentration is the only reason for this that I can think of.  We get distracted or we are thinking about something else.  It is a habit we create for ourselves as a safety net.  I know this because whenever something bad happens due to lack of concentration, that person always has some excuse.  “Someone made a noise backstage.”  “A light blew out.”  “Someone sneezed in the audience.”  If we have an excuse, it doesn’t seem like it was our fault.  But it is our fault.

How not to mess up takes some practice.  Study those times when you were in the groove.  See what you did right.  And I mean everything from diet and exercise to social interactions before the performance.  See if you can duplicate those same pre-performance conditions for the same results.  If you are successful, then do those same things again.

If you are confused about where to start, let me give you some points to consider:

Exercise – Keep yourself in good physical condition.  There is nothing so distracting during a performance than some minor ache and pain.

Diet – Don’t overload your system with heavy or greasy foods before a performance.  It is difficult to concentrate on Hamlet’s situation with that bloated, gaseous feeling.

Social Interactions – Tell everyone to get lost.  It is very important, before going on stage, to limit your social interaction.  Except of course, if everyone has decided to behave in character from the moment they enter the theatre.  That usually doesn’t happen.    There is very little good that can come from the nervous chit-chat that occurs in the wings or dressing rooms.  If you let yourself become distracted, your performance will suffer.

Get rid of all distractions and your work will become clear, effortless.


About oxrider

Mr. Winter has written novels, books of poetry and short stories, and books on acting. He has written over three dozen plays, winning the S.C. Playwright’s Festival. His inventive theatrical work has been seen in the US and Europe. A.F. Winter has been acting, teaching, and directing, for over 30 years. He created a theatre which worked with at-risk youth giving them positive alternatives in their lives. Please visit his website at AFWinter.com. View all posts by oxrider

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