Listening, Concentration and Other Cobwebs

Every show brings its own challenges. Sometimes it’s the needed energy for the physical life of the show, sometimes it’s the vocal strength needed for the space or the volume of words. This time around I think it’s the mental concentration for the long haul of the performance. That’s what I’m discovering.

After each show I’ve not been so physically drained as mentally drained. In a 2 1/4 hour performance (not counting the much needed intermission) I’m on stage for all but about  three minutes. And while I may not be speaking the whole time, or be the point of focus the whole time, I’m still there, still creating a whole life.

Actively listening on stage can take just as much concentration as when involved in dialogue. It’s so easy to “space out” and stop listening when you know you don’t have to speak for another 5 or 10 minutes. I mean, I could just sit there and think about all sorts of things…my shopping list, what I should make for dinner on my night off, the upcoming vacation plans, what was that guy thinking by wearing that outfit tonight?….but I know I shouldn’t and I know if I do I’ll just end up throwing myself off later, when I really do need to buckle down and perform a scene or monologue.

That’s what this show has been like to perform, and I’ve found it to not always be so easy to keep my concentration. Even my pre-show routines have been thrown off – my concentration seems to be lacking at times, almost troubling. In the end, it works out…it’s fine. But it’s been a struggle. I think if this were a show where I had a lot of stage time but were entering and exiting and having costume changes or whatever, then the energy and pace, for me personally – not the show, would be different and would require a different mind set and a different kind of concentration, something I’m perhaps more adept at – but I’m only guessing here.

This feels more like some kind of yoga or meditation type of focus. There’s a need to clear out all external stimuli…..

clear out any noise from my mind….

concentrate on my breathing….

and then listen and react.

Sounds so simple. It’s not always as simple as I would like. Plus, with the presentational style of the play and the intimacy of the space and clear faces of the audience members sitting within reach, there’s more stimuli to have….and then to let wash over me, leaving me with my breathing and my listening and my reacting.

Only now, in our third week of a four week run, am I realizing this is the kind of thing I need to be doing each night at the theater. Of course the great thing about live theatre is that it’s live….and until it closes, there’s always another opportunity to make it better.

The next performance is this afternoon, in only a few hours. Time to clear my head yet.

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