I mentioned last week that on Friday the 18th I was going to present a one-time workshop for theatre students in a program owned by a friend of mine. I am going to talk a bit about it now.
The topic I chose to address was mistakes made on stage, and how to correct them smoothly. I decided that that was one thing that just about every actor, especially green horns, wonders and worries about.
The topic and the workshop were a great success, I must say, as the students opted to have me tell more stories than I planned of previous mistakes I had been a part (victim) of over the years. I guess everyone enjoys knowing others mess up from time to time.
I broke things down into the types of mistakes, and for each offered some techniques I had used, or seen used to correct same. I also mentioned things would should always do, and never do, in the event a mistake is made. I won't rehash everything I said now, but the most important points I made were ones I have made here on the blog many times:
-Stay in character.
These three things alone are not the only things that must be done, but if anyone were to come out of my workshop remembering and applying only three things, those would be the three. And if I had to pick just one of the Big Three, I'd probably go with "Don't panic."
Staying calm, and especially remembering to breath normally, (it's harder than you think once you are up on stage in the midst of a problem) are crucial to keeping nerves at bay, and keeping the adrenaline levels down to manageable levels. When we panic, our animal brains believe we are under an actual attack. That our very survival is at stake. Needless to say this can cause our body and minds to go into a mode that is in many ways quite harmful to performing well and fixing errors. In short, we must suppress this reaction.
If we fail to do that, our mind races, we forget things, we have a desire to flee, and mistakes multiply. When we breath, take stock of the situation, and remind our reptilian brain that we are not actually in any danger, we can asses our situation, and put what knowledge we have of the play, the scene, and the character together to extricate ourselves out of most problems on stage.
If you go back over this blog, you will find examples of mistakes that have been made, both by myself and others. And in most cases you will also find that a solution presented itself in short order. Not always, of course, and that is when the real nightmare begins. But at least looking back years later I can laugh at such moments.
But at least I did my best not to panic. As should you in similar situations.