Yesterday i was working with the teen improv class. One of our best students, asked me, what do you do to relax onstage. He's been nervous during the teen improv performances recently, and he hasn't been able to settle into the scene. you can see the doubt in his eyes onstage. "This isn't going well!" "What do i say to make this scene better?" "I'm failing!"
As a coach it's always hard watching a student crash onstage. you want to help, but theres nothing you can do from the audience.
"So," he asked, "how do i calm down onstage?" He looked at me like i had all the answers. Here's what happened in my brain:
1st second: Give him the advice, "it gets better," "try and forget about the audience," "you can't fail"
2nd second: That's not actionable advice! That's bumper sticker mumbo jumbo. It's a nice idea, 'we can't fail,' but it's not always the most helpful and implementable.
3rd second: Be honest with him
4th second: Even though the solution sounds silly?
6th second: I agree!
7th second: Who are you?
8th second: Your unconscious
9th second: Get out of here! I was talking with myself
10th second: Fine. I'll leave. (but i won't really leave. I'll just hide in the shadows)
11th second: I heard you.
12th second: Damn!
So, I opened up, and shared. I just smile. When i am onstage, no matter if it's Rocklin, Sacramento or San Francisco, when I'm onstage, I always look at my scene partner and smile. That's how i check in with my scene partner before the lights go up and we're live. That's it. It helps me relax, and check in, and remind my partner that no matter where we are, no matter who is in the audience, we're here for each other. If we help each other, the show will succeed.
And, you know what? I had a terrible show Saturday night. I didn't play well, and that really depressed me. I thought back on the show, the scene starts, the characters, heightening, everything. The one consistent? I can' remember checking in with my scene partner in the dark. We just launched into the scene, before we connected. Improv is all about connection. Eyes, Smiles. Words. We gotta connect. I didn't, and i have a strong suspicion that's one of the reasons i didn't do well.
Science! Psychological tricks! When you smile, or act happy, your brain starts to feel happy. A little fake it till you make it never hurt anyone. It only helps before a show.
Essentially, a smile says, 'we can't fail,' and it's something we can do every time before the curtains goes up.
If you have a hard time smiling, here's some self-help. Maybe you don't know what a smile feels like. Well, i'm here to help! I'm going to show you a picture you can't help but smile at. When you see it, pay attention to how your face feels...that's a smile! Use them often!
Did it work? did you smile? Do you know now what it feels like to smile?
No?! My god. this is serious. We'll have to try something even more smile inducing. I didn't want it to come to this, but, i have no choice. desperate time call for desperate measures: