The goal is to be in the moment — in life and on stage.
I don’t care if you are an actor with a script, a storyteller telling us a seven minute story from your life, an improviser doing a long form show, or you’re out to dinner with your friends — your goal should be the same: to be in moment.
That is where the joy lies in everything we do. Attaining that feeling of presence is fleeting, but necessary.
Today, more than ever, it’s harder and harder to be in the moment because we have far more distractions. If we are not texting on our cell phone, we are posting on Facebook or binge watching Netflix.
And because it’s become trickier to be in the moment in our lives, it can affect our what we do on stage.
Being in the moment is the ultimate form of listening. It’s about giving 100% attention to the task in front of us.
It means when you are performing you are not thinking about what you are having for dinner or who is in the audience. You are not judging yourself or your performance. You are in the flow. It is as if you have stopped “trying” and have instead given yourself over to a force bigger than yourself. You have completely lost yourself in what you are doing. That is what is meant by being present.
I am not saying this is easy. Not at all. But when we can truly be in the moment on stage, that is where the magic lies for us as well as the audience. They, too, want to lose themselves in your performance and forget about the stress and anxiety of their lives.
Here are a few things you can do to practice being in the moment, so you are better able to do it on stage:
- Limit your time on social media
I think one of the biggest addictions in this country is the addiction to social media. I know I suffer from it. It was so bad that I had to take Facebook off my phone. I have the same relationship with social media that I did with alcohol and food when I was addicted to them; I use it numb myself out, which, by the way, is the opposite of being present.
- Mix things up a bit
I am a creature of habit. I love routine. I consistently take the same route when I go to teach class or to do a show. It’s as if I am asleep when I drive and take public transportation. If you want to be more in the present, mix things up. Take a different route. Shop at a different store. Eat at a different restaurant. Allow yourself to be scared and surprised. The thing I love and hate about going somewhere different on vacation is it forces me to be more in the moment because I am experiencing everything for the first time, which is what we do in good acting, improv and storytelling.
- Stop packing so much in the day
We love to run around. We love to over commit to so many different projects because this one will be the one, we are sure of it. When I was younger I could do three shows a night and rush from teaching class to doing auditions. I would go from one thing to the next without even getting dinner sometimes. I was into quantity over quality in those days. It didn’t work out well for me. Instead, give yourself some time in between things so you can show up and be more present.
- Take a Meisner repetition class
In Meisner class they have an exercise called repetition, where you focus on your scene partner and call out their behavior. To me, it is the purest form of improv, because you are not concerned with a scene or dialogue or a performance. Instead, you are emotionally connected with the other person on stage simply by repeating how you think they are feeling. It’s one of the best ways I’ve ever found to practice being in the moment.
Yep, I’ve said it before and I will say it again. Every actor, no, every person would benefit from slowing their mind down a bit. Meditation is the perfect tool for this. But please, go easy on yourself — start small with just 5 minutes in the morning.
Got any other ideas of how to be present? Let me know in the comments below.