The Calm Before The Performance

We are rehearsed and ready to go for our show on Saturday.  (What show, you ask?  Why, here is the information to bring you up to speed. )  After our run through last night, William suggested we take today off, and this is a smart move.  Today is a mental health day, so to speak, so that we can relax a bit and be refreshed and really looking forward to singing together when we perform on Saturday.  Resting is actually a part of set preparation that can get overlooked, but it is a crucial part to putting in a good performance.  When you are performing, you are essentially multi-tasking–you are thinking about your singing technique for good breath control, good posture, good placement, as well as your acting choices, as well as taking in what the audience is giving you in terms of response to temper what you are giving to them, as well as dealing with microphone movement and placement, as well as remembering patter and song lyrics, and making it all look fresh and spontaneous, or at least well-rehearsed, so the audience knows that they are in good hands for our set.  That is a lot of focused mental activity, and it is necessary to give yourself a break as needed, because it is easy to start to get sloppy if you rehearse something to death–you start taking parts of the act for granted, rather than applying the full force of your attention to each moment in the show.  Being in the moment, so crucial to good acting, is also vital to great cabaret performance, and if you are feeling stressed, likely it is because you are focusing on the past (wow–I really screwed up that last note . . .oh my god, I said the wrong patter here, etc.) or you are thinking about the future (I have a really hard to sing song coming up two songs from now, hope I can do it, we have so much equipment to pack up after this gig, I wonder how many response cards are getting filled out, etc) instead of being in the moment, and feeling the song through your body and delivering that message of the song to the audience.  It takes a little time off sometimes to rest your mind, rest your voice, and in that extra time that is set aside you make sure that everything is ready to go well in advance of when you need to depart for the gig.  Packing lists are very important, because even if you feel scattered, you can always rely on your impartial list to help you get everything done, stay on track, and thus remove the tension from the experience.  We will do some last minute things today–get a haircut, buy a mic cover, pick up some cassette tapes–and then we’ll pack, prepare and lay out all our clothes and accessories the day before so they are ready to go early in the morning, and then have a relaxing evening of dining and watching a good movie, followed by a good night’s rest.  You also want to surround yourself with people who are supportive of your efforts at performance.  My partners in this show are amazing in that regard–a pleasure to work with, and I know that I am very fortunate in this regard.  I try to live up to their good examples by being a good scene partner, being generous when I perform with them, and being polite to each other and offering supportive comments as we work through our sets.  In a supportive environment, you feel comfortable to take risks in performance, and sometimes that is where brilliant ideas lay, and that is certainly what keeps me so enthralled and enthused about cabaret performance, and keeps me going.

All of this helps to bring me to the point where I can give a great performance the day of the show.

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About Athena at McElrath Cabaret

Athena McElrath is an entertainer with a love for theatre and singing. She enjoys delving in the area of historical cabaret, researching the singers and clubs that were in business from before 1920 to the present, in New York and beyond.
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