This piece is part of our Performing Arts Guide in the September 2022 print issue of District Fray.
Working with other creatives isn’t always easy. And when it comes to creatives in the theatre world, there can be more hair pulled out than lines memorized. During the years I studied performance, honing my acting skills, I was part of many workshops. Some made me a better performer. Others made me rue the day I ever took the stage. Here are some small tips for running an actor’s workshop that won’t get you fuming.
Group exercises are awesome, but don’t push it
A great way to start off a workshop and engage with your collaborators is to do a group exercise. But the problem with some workshop exercises is that a fun and casual game can be deflated by one person who is too invested in the process to care about the results.
More times than not, I’ve seen acting scenarios go nowhere because someone tries to micromanage. You cannot micromanage improvisation and expect people to loosen up.
Instead of being strict on gameplay or even having a defined game at all, try getting to know your collaborators with some plain old chitchat. Crack a joke. Geek out about a movie you like. Do what you can to develop a flowing dialogue.
Don’t get hung up on arbitrary game rules.
Leave Your Roles at the Door
Workshops are not a rehearsal. They are not preparation for an actual show. They are not a sit-down with your director. And they are definitely not a reason for you to do a character.
Workshops are all about developing your personal approach to one day doing a role. And you are never going to find out what gets you invested in a performance if you can’t step out of character.
Sure, you may have been cast in a great show, and you may have a character that you really like. Maybe you even took to method acting to ensure you kill it onstage.
But no one else really cares. Everyone is just trying to develop some good acting impulses and you’re not making it easy by doing a bad caricature of Julius Caesar.
Check your characters at the door and walk in as yourself. You’ll never be the real Caesar, but with some time invested toward recognizing your own impulses, you can be the best Caesar you’ll ever be.
Yelling “Loosen Up” Doesn’t Help
This is just a good rule for life, but under no circumstance should you police someone’s body language at an acting workshop.
Yes, being relaxed is necessary for proper acting. But instead of bullying someone because they seem stiff and reserved, ask them what’s up.
Regardless of what’s going on, don’t shame them for their rigid nature. Don’t make their process everyone else’s business and definitely don’t grab at their bodies to “help.”
You want your collaborators to be open and relaxed. Give them some space. They’ll come around when they can. You should care more about their mental health than their ability to play “Yes, and…”
Acting is a love that will always play a role in my day-to-day. But like many great things, it can get ruined by inconsiderate gestures. Just remember when you’re in an acting workshop, you’re there because you enjoy what you do.