There are several things that can alter and destroy your performance either on stage or in front of a camera; however, the most destructive of these is being tense. A tense actor is unable to fully release himself to the character, to fully absorb the scene and all its elegant details as well as preventing him from crossing the line of reality into the world of his character. There is nothing more distracting as an audience member than watching a tense actor perform, and nothing more detrimental to an audition than being tense.
Although eliminating tension can be a very individualized process, there are several relaxation techniques that I utilize an actor, and have worked wonders for not only myself, but for all those whom I teach.
This may sound a little strange, but before any audition or performance, I always find a quiet nook wherever I am and plug-in my iPod. Instead of listening to classical music (as some actors do) or jamming out to my favorite motivational song, I listen to soundscapes. Soundscapes are recordings of nature, such as forest creatures, thunderstorms, a babbling brook or waves lapping against the shore. I have found that these calming sounds significantly lower my anxiety and tension, and allow me to recognize that while what I’m doing may be nerve-wracking, there is a beautiful world around me, and not matter how good or bad I do, the waves will continue to move, the thunderstorms will continue to roll on and forest creatures will continue to do their daily habits. This thought grounds me, and allows me to appreciate every sensation I’m feeling and releasing.
Being self-conscious about your performance skills can lead to an incredibly altered delivery of lines. I have seen it firsthand – in rehearsals an actor gives an awe-inspiring performance, but while on stage or in front of the camera his insecurity overwhelmed him and this caused his performance to be off and not nearly as powerful.
While nerves can overtake you in a moment, I have personally found one of the best ways to prevent this from hurting your performance is to repeat positive affirmation messages, which result in self-assurance. While waiting for your scene to begin, or before stepping into an audition room, repeat phrases such as, “You are a wonderful performer. You will not become overwhelmed. You are strong, talented and ready to overcome this situation.”
Full-body relaxation techniques have dramatically improved my performances throughout the years, and like most acting techniques, it can take some time before you master this relaxation technique. Take some time to deeply breathe and center yourself. Focus on relaxing every muscle and portion of your body starting at your neck and working your way down. Spend a lot of time relaxing your shoulders or any other area where you keep your tension. By engaging in full-body relaxation you release tension that is kept within your muscles and you free yourself to become your character.