I’ve been doing a lot of work with students this spring/summer, which is amazing and enjoyable. However, many of them feel that preparation for rehearsal, show, auditions, etc., needs to be heavily involved, which often leads actors to completely neglect the proper warm-up. In preparations for my grad school auditions, my coach taught me that sometimes, less is more. I have put together a quick guide to warming up with the clock is ticking.
Let’s say you have been called into an audition at the last minute or you are attending a mass auditions with little time/space to zone or you are running late with costume/make-up and its only a couple minutes to places but you haven’t done any personal warm up – what can you do? This happens to us all. Naturally, we’d all love to arrive at the theatre/audition early or have the time/space for a nice, luxurious warm-up, but sometimes, this just isn’t possible. There are a few things you can do to get your mind, body and spirit to where it needs to be for any performance.
1. Check in. Be present with YOU. How am I feeling? Are you feeling rush? Worried? Acknowledge how you feel and allow yourself to dismiss all feelings which are distracting you from the task at hand. This is something you can do in the car, on the way to an audition, walking down the hall – just simply check in with your present self and leave anything unnecessary behind. Turn your mind off (monkey chatter is what one professor once called it), be present with you (and your character). This also pertains to a distracting atmosphere. A noisy, anxious or crowded audition space can completely throw us. Push all that aside and just be with yourself, because in this moment, nothing else matters but you.
2. Connect with the breath. Notice your natural breath. If you are a little anxious allow your breath to settle and drop in. Allow your breath to completely fill your diaphragm and expand your lungs. Do not help the breath at this point, just let is occur naturally, without tension. Breath is energy, breath is life – connect with this vital force, it is an actor’s best friend.
3. Connect with the body. Scan you body for any tension. Stand up straight, feet below the hips, soft knees, drop your pelvis, drop the jaw, elongate the spine, let the head float towards the ceiling and just scan your body from top to body for any tension. Find the tension, inhale and release the tension on the exhale. As you exhale slowly role down, head first, into a forward fold. Allow the arms to drape down to the floor and the head/neck hang freely. Gently nod “yes” and “no” with the head. Roll up, vertebrae by vertebrae, the head should be the last thing to come up. Do this a couple times and then at the end, shake out the hands/feet a bit. We tend to carry a lot of energy, tension in the hands and feet. Be grounded and free.
4. If I can’t do a vocal warm up, I just like to do a little connected humming – allowing the sound to be relaxed and rooted in my core. Don’t try to “make” a sound, just let the natural sound come out. Whatever you are currently feeling, will be reflected in the voice, so be honest and grounded with vocal execution, this will guard from creating more tension/stress. Often times I will also run through consonant and vowel sounds quickly, just to remind my articulators what they need to be doing. You can do facial/tongue stretches but be sure to always release consciously after stretching. Stretch, then release.
There you have it. A few tips to warm-up in a hurry. It’s really about being aware and present with your voice, body, mind and emotions. If you are able to be present, be released and be relaxed, you can accomplish so much more and really open the actor self up to experience the task at hand, take on the character whom awaits.