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Vienna Shakespeare 

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Our take on acting Shakespeare

 

learning to think as your character

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...but from what the character feels

There's a whole post on how to do that
here.  

It's so easy to think that COMFORT on stage is the same as CONTROL on stage.
So easy to think that if you can just memorise every line, choreograph every gesture, plan every facial expression, then you'll feel fine and everything will be great.

And hoo boy... I've got some bad news for you. 
Trying to control your stage like that makes the audience feel like you're trying to control them.  And they'll resent you for it.

The true key to comfort on stage is to become familiar with how your character thinks, and then allow yourself to respond organically to your environment on stage.

The best thing you can do, is take the time to understand your character before you're performing on stage. Figure out who your character is, what they want, and what's important to them.  Not from the perspective of what you think the audience should see, but from what THE CHARACTER feels.
There's a whole post on how to do that here.  With that understanding, you'll develop a consistent sense of self as your character.  This not only gives you the flexibility and freedom to create a deeper, more human performance on stage, but feels more real to your audience. 

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Now that's the tricky part, of course.  It's not easy... slipping into someone else's train of thought, finding someone else's world view, feeling the reactions of your character rather than yourself. 

 

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On stage, just as in life, there's always too much going on to notice everything.  
What your character notices and how they reacts to that is deeply influenced by their expectations.
So, for your character, at this moment in the play - 
Who is most the important to you on stage?
What do you expect to happen?
In your imagination, what's the worst thing that could happen right

It's not easy... slipping into someone else's train of thought, finding someone else's world view, feeling the reactions of your character rather than yourself. 

It's not easy to forget that the audience is there to watch you, especially in a  Shakespeare play where interaction with the audience is so frequent.

It's much easier to plan every action, choreograph every gesture, nervously try to keep a sense of control over your time on stage.   

Easier. 

And absolutely terrible for the audience.

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When it comes right down to it, feeling comfortable on stage is about three things. The first two are the easiest, and it's where most people get stuck.   

You have to:

1 - Prepare.  You've got to develop a thorough understanding of how your character thinks, what's important to them and what they want.

2 - Memorize.  When the impulse comes, and the words have to come out of you - there cant be any hesitation at all. It's got to be as natural as spontaneous thought.

These are intellectual exercises that you can tick off a list.  They make you feel safe and in control, because everything you're doing on stage is planned, so you're sure not to embarrass yourself.
These steps 
They are also just the beginning. 

The third step in the hardest, and it's the actual acting. The final step to feeling comfortable on stage is:
3 - Let go of your sense of control, predictability and safety, to let yourself listen and react spontaneously on stage.