Take a mini ‘time out’. We know when we are feeling tired or stressed, but the tendency is to push on until it’s too late. Instead, why not take a little time out of each day just to be – to breathe, to look at nature, to take a walk, to take a bath…and preferably, to enjoy some quiet! Even a few minutes of quiet can be very beneficial. And if you feel so inclined, you can add…
Meditation and/or deep breathing…meditation is simply a chance to quiet your busy mind for a few minutes. It does not have to result in any mind blowing revelations but it often can lead to inspired thought (which may come some time after you meditate). Just sit, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. If you catch yourself “thinking” that’s ok, just gently bring your mind back to your breathing. There are many meditation techniques available and even audio tracks that help, but even just being quiet and focussing on breathing can help you to calm down and see things more clearly.
Make a list! Again, it sounds obvious, but many sleepless nights are the result of all those ‘things to do’ that are just dangling around in a chaotic fashion in your mind. By writing things down, you see more clearly what needs to be done and how you can do it. Furthermore, it engages the reticular cortex of your brain and recruits it to help you complete the tasks. To make your list even more effective, start it with the words “I am so happy and grateful that I have easily and quickly completed the following…” ☺
Segment – we work best in 40minute segments and our minds absorb smaller chunks better than huge amounts. So break things up – and give each segment your full attention. Then, if you get tired or bored, take a short break and preferably do some kind of exercise for a few minutes – it releases endorphins and gets the blood pumping to the brain.
Be Grateful! This may sound strange but we get more of what we put our focus on. It’s so easy to beat yourself up, to remember only the things that went wrong, or list all your own inadequacies. But if instead, you can start and end your day by thinking of all the things in your life that you appreciate – friends, family, trees, that one amazing note in your last lesson, music, food…whatever, then this becomes a habit and you will start noticing more and more things to be happy about.
Start with the end in mind! This is an extension of writing things down, but if you really think about it you know you will reach your goal – you will scale those walls – you will get to the end of the year in one piece. So why not start out with that destination in your focus? When obstacles come up, as they do, remember that you will make it – you will! Then re-focus on the end result, and the journey there will become easier, quicker and more fun.
Have fun! YES, enjoy your friends, socialise, go out, but maybe make it the reward for having done some work or practise! But also – have fun with the work! If you are finding your practice or study to be overwhelming, frustrating, or mundane – find a way to make it more fun. Take the pressure off yourself, dance around while learning scores, do hammy acting to remember lines or to revise, work with friends. But find a way to bring all your passion and energy and love to the work you are doing. The hours will fly, the work will be done, and you will feel so much better.
HELP WITH HEALTH
There are some things that may help. We know it can be very hard to eat or sleep properly even though you know good rest and nutrition are so helpful. So, if you are challenged with either, here are some tips:
1. Turn off all electrical gadgets half an hour before sleep and stop working ☺
2. For some people a warm bath helps
3. If you can take milk – warm milk is good. If not, turkey has the same effect!
4. There are audios available that put your brain into delta, the cycle of sleep.
5. Spirulina – in powder or tablets is a great nutritional boost
6. You can buy Ki or Astra Forte – immune building supplements
7. Take vitamin c – the powder that comes with hesperidin is good but can only be used for a limited time ☺
8. Remember to get some fresh air
9. Try to keep your sleep pattern regular, and if you are setting an alarm, it’s easier to wake up at 6 hour, 7.5
hour, or 9 hour intervals…(etc.) because of the sleep cycles.
10. Do your best to avoid too much talk about people being sick and focus on encouraging calm, healthy
thoughts in you and everyone around you, then you help others as well as yourself ☺
FINALLY - know that you DESERVE SUCCESS! You deserve to find your unique path to contribution, creative expression and happiness. It’s why you are here. Be your own best friend and cherish yourself and your gifts. The world needs you and the beauty, talent, energy and love you have to offer.
Kate & Philip
You KNOW it’s important, but today, you just want to veg out on the sofa and watch re-runs of…whatever!
So what do you do? Do you push yourself on regardless, or surrender to fatigue and put everything off until tomorrow?
Actually, there may be times when the latter idea is really the best course of action! If you’re really so exhausted that you can’t move, it could even be detrimental to your voice and body to push yourself to work…
How do you know?
Years ago, when I was a student, I invented a cool little rule that worked for me. I called it the ‘five minute rule’.
The deal is, whatever it is you ought to do but don’t feel like - JUST DO IT! GO FOR IT WITH ABSOLUTE, UNWAVERING COMMITMENT - for FIVE MINUTES!
If, after five minutes, you STILL are too exhausted, then give yourself FULL PERMISSION to take a break until you feel better.
You know the feeling…you should study/practise/prepare/get organised (you get the idea), but you honestly just can’t be bothered!
All day, every day, you have people at you, wanting their pound of flesh! You have to go to work, you have to study, you have to practise!
However, it’s very, very likely, that the five minutes of full exertion you apply will actually energise you so much that you entirely forget about the couch, bed, or the tv! An hour or so later, you’ll realise that you completed the task at hand, and you’re feeling much better!
Give it a try!
It always worked for me.
I personally never felt the need to give up and rest once I got going, and I have found that my students say the same is true for them, but do remember, after your five minutes, you have PERMISSION to call it a day, as long as you have given those five minutes your all!
Let me know how you go!
4. INTELLIGENT GAP MANAGEMENT - I have used this trick my whole life, and it wasn’t until quite recently that I learned it had a fancy title! When you’re walking around with something you’re learning going round in your head, you may find you get to a point you don’t remember. If this happens, NEVER stop and go back. If you do that, your mind thinks you’ve reached the END and you’ll find it hard to go past that point. INSTEAD, just say to yourself, “What IS that line?” and continue with whatever you CAN remember…even ‘la, la, la’, until the next line comes. Then your mind will fill the gap in FOR you, and in a little while, you’ll remember what it was. This works with EVERYTHING, songs, text, choreography…and guys, it works REALLY well in exams! I remembered “Vizagapatam” (a place in India) at the very last second in an O’ level geography exam using this very technique! And I didn’t even know it WAS a technique! Cool!
5. MOST IMPORTANTLY - relax! Always tell yourself things like, “learning is easy for me”, “I’m a quick learner: I learn by osmosis,” instead of allowing yourself to panic. Take it in small chunks, and make it as varied and interesting as you can.
When we worked on the SS Canberra and the Orianna, we had an average of 12 shows to learn in 3 weeks! It was a lot of work but we all did it. On our second cruise, I had a 2 year old son to care for, and I didn’t want to miss any more time with him than necessary. So I made the DECISION that I would learn EVERYTHING during rehearsals, with no studying when my son was awake. I learned every line and every song AND had time for my little boy!
So EXPECT to get things memorised quickly and easily. Try these ideas, they will help. And all the best!
Kate Lawson Gould
Has learning lines ever stopped you from auditioning? give these tips a try!
Elephants never forget?
Some people find memorising easy, for others, it’s a nightmare.
Whichever category you fall into, here are some tips that will REALLY help. 1. Get away from the script/text/music as soon as possible.
The quicker you are able to put the text down, the quicker your sub-conscious mind can take over and help you learn, even when you’re asleep.
(That’s how you wake up at 3 am with some song lyric going round in your head.)
2. Create a movie in your mind. In other words, ‘see’ the piece you’re learning in terms of a mini movie, a series of images that tell the story in general terms. In this way, you are not only clear that you really do understand the piece, but you are actually working WITH your mind, since we learn more in pictures than in words and sentences.
3. Get as close to PERFORMANCE level with the piece as soon as you can. The more you internalise a song/ speech or dance, get it into your CELLS, work it into not only your mind, but your voice, your muscles and your emotions, the more deeply and securely you have it.
Remember too, that ‘memorising’ is a left-brained activity, but ‘performing’ and living is a right-brained thing primarily. To be fully secure in memorising, you need to reach the stage where the left-brain and right-brain are working TOGETHER. If you wait until ‘performance’ to really inhabit the piece, you could well find that your left brain is too suddenly eclipsed by the creative aspect of the right brain, and you blank. So do this EARLIER rather than later.
It couldn't have happened at a worse time
Everything was on track, going well. The performance was in three days, but even with several revisions, we had learned the script, and with each run, we were feeling the characters and the drama of the piece more and more. We knew it was going to be a fantastic concert! The pianists were superb, and the text I had written was the perfect dramatic compliment to the wonderful music of Franz Liszt.
Philip was to play the complex, brilliant, conflicted Franz Liszt, and I was one of the women who greatly influenced his life, Countess Maria D’Agoult. We were excited! For the past few years, I had written dramatic narratives for Philip to go with these piano concerts during the "Music In the Round Festival", but for the first time ever, I was to be performing as well. I had a bit of a head cold, but nothing that could get in the way.
We decided to pre-record one of the sections – two letters written between our protagonists whilst Liszt was away on tour. As I listened to the recording I’d done, however, I was very dissatisfied with the tone of my voice.
“You can hear the cold! There’s no ring! It sounds horrible” I complained.
We did another take and fixed it up, but somehow – even though I should know better, I had allowed self-judgment in, and it had left me feeling insecure. As soon as I recognised this, I thought, “Well, you just have to be better on the day.”
The next day, I woke up with a REALLY BAD cold – and now, it had hit my throat.
“That’s ok.” I told myself, “Just be careful when you’re teaching. Make the students do the work and you’ll have your voice back in no time.”
I was wrong! By the end of the day, I was husky, and the next morning, with one day to go – I had virtually NO voice at all. I cancelled all but the essential lessons, and got Philip in to teach, with me just playing the piano. I rested my voice as much as possible – and I did EVERYTHING right.
All the while though, there was this horrible fear that I wouldn’t be able to perform, and since there were only two actors involved, to lose me would be disastrous! I REALLY dug in and did my best to kick these negative thoughts out of my head.
“I WILL be alright! My voice is strong and clear and healthy and I CAN perform.” Was the mantra, but still fear had a grip.
I woke the next day – performance day – and went to shower. I was WORSE! NOTHING came out when I first tried to speak. I couldn’t even hum. I started to wonder who I could ask to read in the part for me, but there was really nobody I could call on at this late stage.
Then the thought came.
“I have to just USE my voice as if there is nothing wrong.”
So the whole morning, I just spoke normally. I didn’t whisper (the worst thing you can do, by the way), I didn’t push but I did use my voice with good support. Gradually, it started to come, and although it certainly wasn’t my voice, I felt I could do the performance.
Now I know this isn’t ideal. I always tell my students to ‘SHUT UP’ unless you absolutely HAVE to sing/act/speak. But I HAD TO.
They did give us both mic’s – which we wouldn’t normally need, and off we went.
This is when every ounce of technique comes in. Now, usually, there is one part of your voice that will work – lower, higher…but on this occasion, it was all blocked, so I used every ounce of support in my body I had. I was working REALLY hard. I enunciated every word, every consonant, even more than usual, and mentally projected to every corner of the room. But mostly – I threw myself completely into the role. I committed myself entirely to the portrayal of the character –
Use the techniques you were taught
despite my vocal shortcomings Just because I didn’t have much voice, didn’t mean I had to short change my performance. I didn’t feel an ounce of nervousness at all, I was so totally focussed on BEING my character.
True – it wasn’t the performance I wanted to give, but I know it was honest and genuine and the very best I could offer under the circumstances (after all I had started the day with NO voice). And I have received compliments since about how every word, and all the dramatic content came across despite my handicap.
The ironic thing is, as I listened to the pre-recorded section, I couldn’t understand why I had been so critical of myself! It sounded fine!
Performance demands ENORMOUS amounts of energy, commitment and discipline; Philip and I know that from experience. But the MOST IMPORTANT discipline is to learn to control your mind. It is essential to remain focussed on the job in hand, and to kick out any niggling fear or self-judgment that would pull you down. Negative thinking and stress suppresses your immune system and leaves you vulnerable to sickness or injury. But a clear, joyful focus is energising and empowering.
Remember – you do this because you LOVE it! No matter what the pressures are, no matter the demands on you, whether you are preparing for an audition, exam or performance, ultimately, you are living your PASSION! Never forget it!