"There is an entrance first, just as there is always an exit later." – Maria Callas
The hardest step is always the first. Whether it’s a step through a door or a dash into a crowd, the raise of the conductor’s baton or a stage managers “Go,” or simply stepping behind the curtain before it rises after the overture, that first step for any artist in the theatre means there is no turning back. The train leaves the station with that entrance and there will be no stopping until the final step is taken.
It is common before that first step in a show to warm-up, shake it out, take a few moments of stillness beforehand. We have all seen that cliché "ay-ya-ya-ya" before an actor starts an audition, but there is actual value in it. We have our rituals as theatre artists that prepare us to run that sprint that is a show. They ground us and center us and help us, not with the stuff in the middle, but with that first step.
At the end of the show we usually have a ritual as well. If you are stagehand you prepare for the coming day, setting the ghost light center stage and replacing props on shelves. An actor may take a shower or cool down vocally. (Imagine an Elphaba who doesn’t shower after the show.) Traditional after show meals often include all the fun things you avoid before singing or speaking on stage, like cheeseburgers! (Anyone? Just me?)
But do we practice the same in life? I know I have a tendency to jump out of bed and immediately head to the phone to see if an email came in late or if someone tweeted me or whatever that is. At the end of the day I don’t always brush my teeth or do the dishes.
So recently I have been trying something new. I wake up a little earlier than I think I need to. Instead of reaching for the phone I walk to the bathroom and splash water on my face and brush my teeth. I then make coffee and open the window and read an article from a magazine or a chapter from a book. All this before I have even looked at the Internet or turned on my phone. At the end of the day I make sure I wash my face and brush my teeth and give myself time to read or listen to music before bed, again not looking at a screen as the last thing I do.
I don’t have scientific results yet, nor will I ever. I am not a scientist and plenty of them have researched this topic, easily Googled under "What successful people do with their day," and things like that. But I can tell you that this new way of entering and exiting in my day has made the middle part FEEL more settled, more grounded.
The next focus I am bringing to this is on how I enter and exit individual events in my day. What if before every class or rehearsal I took a second to ground myself. Rather than trying to rush in that last conversation in the hall, what if I got seated with time to spare and took some deep breaths? What if, instead of throwing my stuff into my bag and running from the room, I took a few moments after class to breathe again and step out with purpose?
Hopefully you will join me in this little "theatre of life" experience. Feel free to let us know what you find!