How to prepare for a theatre performance
Preparation is key in every stage of preparing for theatrical performance. From the auditions, to the rehearsals, to the final show.
Firstly, you need to relax your mind, body and voice. The three are intrinsically connected, and the more you do, the better you feel.
So, in preparation for the performance, you should already know your lines, blocking, direction, arc of your character's story, the story itself, everything, pretty well by now. If not, why not? and get to it.
Having solid knowledge to rely on gives us something to fall back on, our security blanket, and relaxes our mental state allowing us to take in more information and react accordingly in the present ("in the moment"). If you sort of know your lines, kind of know the story and maybe know what you should be doing, you will undoubtedly feel nervous.
Often you will hear that having nerves before a performance is a good thing, and I agree; it is the adrenaline pumping through your veins, boosting your oxygen levels and enhancing alertness. All great things to have whilst performing. However, if you suffer too drastically from nerves it can be extremely detrimental to your performance and your well-being as an individual; raising cortisol stress hormones, affecting your digestive system and making you feel physically sick, not so good during performance.
So, the next big step is to relax your body and voice, I like to work from toe to top, my head, neck and mind being the most affected by stress, I leave the best to last. This can be through stretching, yoga, massage, Alexander technique and drama exercises designed to relieve tension build up. To finish, and if you have time, try to end just lying down for a few minutes completely relaxing into the floor.
Secondly. Now you have relieved all that tension and nasty stress that we acquire through out the day, it is a very good idea to begin warming-up. Always start gently as you don't want to undo all the relaxing you've just done. Again, I like to work from toe to top. Gently awakening muscles and re-firing all the nerve endings ready to face the performance. Remember, to pay particular attention to elements that are challenged by your performance, for example, if you are in a musical, work on your vocals and singing, range and projection. If you are in a physical theatre piece, work on movements and parts of your body that are used most, but try not to neglect any part of your body, as they are all linked.
Thirdly. By now you should feel pretty confident knowing what you're suppose to know or do and feel relaxed yet energetic for the work ahead. One final piece of advice I would give, that is often missed, is now include your cast, theatrical space, director, technicians who ever is around you and who you work with to make this performance a success. After all, theatre is about people. So grab members of the cast, play a game, step into the performance space, get a feel for it, say hello to who is working around you, lighting, ushers, etc, and create a happy and supportive environment for yourself.
Finally, go out and enjoy it.