We communicate silently every single day through body language. It can tell someone how nervous we are when trying to present confidence, or how isolated we feel in a crowd of people. One of the major aspects of theatre is body language and learning how to control your natural movements. In order to truly become a character, one of the first steps is to walk how they would walk. What you should also practice is how to breathe through what you’re trying to feel and leveling your breath. Finally, and this is more of a personal choice I suppose, you have to mediate your relationships with your peers.
Walking is an action we pick up from very early on. If you’ve ever ‘people watched’ before then you might have noticed that every person has a different spring in their step. With practice, these steps can be easy to mimic. You start by walking around in a space large enough to give yourself some freedom of movement, from there you begin to pace around as you normally would. Think about how this character would move – are they goofy? Are they mad? Are they of high importance and well-mannered? What kinds of movements are associated with the emotion you’re going for? Once you have a grasp of what an emotion looks like it begins to get easier to apply that out in the real world, and not just in the room you’ve been pacing in. Are you going into a job interview for the first time? Try to appear confident. Keep your shoulders relaxed and be conscious of foot tapping or playing with jewelry. Your employer won’t see your anxious inner self, they’ll see a confident and prepared individual, ready to get to work!
At one point in your life you’ve probably chanted at yourself to breathe, just keep breathing normally, inhale deep and exhale deeper. The reason we do this is that our breath, and how we breathe, is closely connected to how we feel. In our brain, there are neural pathways that connect regulatory breathing to emotions. So in order to calm your nerves, breathing is actually very important.
The real challenge in theatre isn’t always the audience, sometimes it’s the actors that you work with. It’s not always about making friends in theatre, sometimes it’s about trying not to make enemies. You won’t always get along with everyone you meet, especially in a place where diversity is the most prevalent. Building relationships with people around you is a necessary part of being in a workplace. When you work closely and for a prolonged time with people on a project, like a play, for example, their imperfections tend to shine through. It’s all about dealing with their imperfections in a friendly manner and letting them know that your relationship isn’t permanently damaged. If someone is irritable for seemingly no reason, it’s in your best interest to remain level headed and let the person go through it. Or, you can read the person and try to figure out what they need through their body language or just by asking them.
By training your body and breath to cooperate with what your mind needs, you’ve taken the first few steps to overcome nerves in sticky situations. If you can jump the last hurdle of dealing with negative people, then you can master whatever environment you need to.