Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Ritual of Ritual

Many stage actors, on all levels, have specific rituals that they must go through in order to perform properly. Sometimes these are performed every night before a show. Others have rituals designed only for opening night. In. either case, you can never be certain what you might see an actor doing before curtain.

I do not mean thing such as running lines, warming up the voice, checking props, or prayers/meditation. While there may be a ritualistic nature to each of these activities, the reason for participation in such practices has a very obvious benefit to a performer. The rituals I speak of involve activities which, when observed from an objective standpoint, shouldn’t have any technical bearing on a performance, but have personal power for those who do them. (For example, walking around the building three times before entering, on a show night.)

I myself have several semi-rituals myself. I say “semi” because, although I can relate to the need for ritualized activity before a show, I do try not to let most aspects of my own routine become crystallized. In other words, I do not want to allow my performance to be negatively affected, should I be unable to perform all aspects of my ritual before a show begins.

Herein lies the potential danger or rituals. When taken in proper perspective, they can help an actor feel better, gain confidence, and get in the proverbial zone. The problem lies when they take on am almost magical quality to the actor. The potential for becoming dependent on the specific incantation, gait, song, or flavor of chewing gum is high. Unless you have more control over your environment than most people, there is no telling what could happen that would prevent you from taking part in such rituals any given evening. Panic then sets in, and your performance suffers.

However, if you find you simply must perform your rituals, my strong advise is to arrive at the theatre earlier than anyone else. I despise it when actors show up after call anyway, but it would be especially advisable to arrive ahead of time if there are things you feel you must do, that border on the superstitious, in order to perform. That way, with all the extra time, if something happens which prevents you from doing what you need to do, there is time to correct. Not to mention the fact that you lesson the likelihood of disturbing fellow actors once they arrive, with your rituals, if they are overt. (And I have seem some overt ones, believe me.)

The moral of the story is, try not to get attached to rituals, and you will not perpetuate the myth that all actors all superstitious neurotics who need their dressing rooms to be a certain color and temperature in order to go on that night.

And me? What are my semi-rituals? I cannot tell you…what if they would stop working after I mentioned them??? Perish the thought.

1 comment:

Susan Abraham said...

Like a famous good luck charm?
Enjoyed this read very much, Ty.