The cast of final term drama students are reciting in unison. At least that is the idea. The sound is flat and ragged. Stressed or disengaged expressions are plain to see on the performers faces. Strain and slump in the postures. Tomorrow is an important evening for everyone’s future. An audience of theatrical agents. Careers could be made… or fizzle out before they start. You can almost see the thought bubbles – “Why do final rehearsals so often end up like this?”
What is happening here? Anxiety? Yes, in varying degrees from person to person. Tiredness and a feeling of not being quite equal to the task? The final term has been a long haul. Conflict of priorities? Time devoted to the ensemble piece is time subtracted from the all important solo slot. Despite the fact that the ensemble pieces are like the rich dark velvet that shows off the individual pieces of jewellery to best effect.
What to do? A good old fashioned motivational speech and then push on? It can work wonders… but not today, not now. The director decides – now is the time for pausing. For regrouping and redirecting the considerable individual and collective resources of the cast.
“Alright everyone! Take five!” A collective sigh of relief. Pursuit of other, small but important, goals ensues. A visit to the ladies or gents. A quick call on the mobile. Smokers huddle at the main entrance. Catch up on some gossip. Some are resting in the Alexander semi-supine position. Some sits and thinks. And some just sits.
We all have an actual need for distraction. A need to place attention elsewhere periodically. Too much work and not enough play etc.
“O.K. everyone, let’s get going again!”
Do they dive straight into the unison speech? No.
For the next ten minutes the students separate out into pairs. One of the students, the tester, starts to gently push the other student, the testee, who becomes wobbly and loses balance. After a short pause the testee places their hand briefly over their lower abdomen and then, returning their hand to their side, stands in a neutral posture. The tester begins to gently push again. This time the testee is stable and not only confidently balanced but looking calmer and more collected.
After swapping roles and repeating the same procedure the attitude in the cast is calmer, more powerful and motivation is high. Unison descends on the cast – the collective voice, like peeling bells, is now bright, clear and resonant.
The performance the following evening, both the ensemble and the individual pieces, is a resounding success. Students get agents and take the next step of their career.