Last week I started answering some of the questions that the wonderful people of the Instagrams put to me (you can check out part one of my answers here). Now it’s time to talk about what happens after you get an agent/ace that audition.
How do you prep from night to night?
Sleep and food are very big for me. A lot of actors have a post show routine that involves cups of tea & sitcom reruns, but I’ve never had the problem of trying to shut my brain down! The moment I lock my front door behind me, it’s serious sleeping time. (If it does take me more than five minutes to drop off, Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter knocks me out like THAT- true story).
If it’s a gig that allows me the day off, than I try to make the most of that time. Because as we all know by now, I’m a #internetaddict and if I don’t schedule something to do then I can lose hours doing absolutely nothing. And I feel better if I get a workout in, really I do!
The routine I follow prior to a performance varies depending on what it is- if it’s a theatre job, I’ll try to be in my dressing room 60-90 minutes prior to the show. Then it’s makeup time and hair (or a wig). I try to leave getting changed into my costume as late as possible, and once it’s on I make sure to keep a dust-gown on top because there’s nothing more terrifying than admitting to wardrobe that you just spilled coffee on that nice, clean costume.
For a commercial shoot, the routine is basically the same except although it feels like 90% of the time I have to be rocking up at 6am, there’s a coffee cart waiting to IV caffeine directly to my brain, and I get to relax while someone else does my makeup! So my prep for those sorts of jobs is trying to make sure my skin is in good condition, and I turn up squeaky clean, vocally warm & physically ready to go.
Any time I’m about to work, I also like to try and squeeze in a meditation session (I mostly use Headspace) to clean out the chatter in my brain and let me focus on what I’m about to do. Failing that, I’ll plug into some songs that I know from experience are able to settle me down.
Can you see the audience when you’re on stage, or are the lights so bright, and the house so dark, that you can’t? Or are you so focused and busy that you never notice?
This depends on the theatre. With some of the largest spaces (2000+), it might be tricky to see the back few rows, but for the most part you bet we can see you! But normally the only time I really take a look at the audience is during the bows or if the direction calls for me to be interacting beyond the fourth wall (the front of the stage).
An exception to this was the recent production of Rheingold as part of Opera Australia’s Ring Cycle- a major feature of the set was a giant mirror suspended above the stage at an angle, reflecting everything that went on below it from birds-eye. I was involved in the production as an actor (who knew that was something a gal could do?) and lying on the slowly revolving stage as the overture started and the lights of the audience flickered in the mirror above us was a surreal & magical moment. And you can bet I was checking to see who was doing one last phone check after the performance had begun!
What do you have to do when you switch roles? Does it take awhile to shake off the last character?
I don’t recall ever having struggled with this, at least so far! Most of the characters I play, I find quite easily inside myself, I just need to reveal a little more of one aspect of myself or another. I don’t know if my answer would be the same if I was having to dig deep for something really challenging – hopefully I’ll be able to come back and revisit this question one day.
What is it like to finish the final performance of a show.
Bittersweet, that’s for sure!
Actors live in a weird reality where we’re regularly thrown into a room with a whole bunch of people for short periods of time. We all need to create art together, so friendships are formed very quickly and usually very intensely. You’ll live in each others pockets for the run of a show, and then all of a sudden it’s over! You’ll never say those lines again, stand in those lights again, or drink at that bar with those people again.
For me, finishing a job also usually means that it’s back to the casual work I rely on between gigs. Double whammy of sadness. But ending a gig meant that you had a gig to do in the first place! And that’s always something to be grateful for.
How often do you start a new show?
Not as often as I would like! For better or worse, I’m quite cautious about doing unpaid theatre work, which is the sort that seems to come my way the most often. As a Kiwi living in Australia, I don’t have access to financial help from the government, so I always have to be cautious about missing out on paid office work to do unpaid work that feeds my soul. At the end of the day, bills have to be paid! This means that over the past few years I’ve only done one or two public seasons a year, focusing the rest of my time on acting through corporate work and building my skills so that when those paid jobs come, I’ll be ready.
Where do you like to holiday?
I was born a small town girl, and even thought Melbourne, Australia is small compared to many cities, it still feels like the big smoke to me! Any chance I get, I like to get back to somewhere with trees and wide open spaces. These normally end up being small weekend trips to the beautiful areas around Melbourne, but I’m slowly directing some of my income to saving for trips further abroad. In July I’m heading to Tasmania, so send your Must Do list my way, and keep an eye out for that blog post!
What is on your bucket list?
At the moment, travel! I want to see the whole wide world- there’s so many incredible places that I can currently only dream of seeing.
More long term, I have so many goals swirling around in my head. I would love to book a TV show, land a great role in a big-budget play, have one of my many half-baked novel drafts finished and published, create something to help performers with their finances because their bad habits make me streeeessed, live on a place with roaming acres that’s only accessible by horseback (I’m not sure about this one).
Do you ever feel like quitting?
Honestly? Not yet.
But do I ever doubt that I’ll get further with my career than I am today? All the time.
Acting is an impossible career. And of those that are able to make a living from it, how many of them have to credit their successful career to timing, luck, good looks, or just one person at the right time putting the right amount of faith in them?
Whenever I’m asked by a younger person if they should go into acting, my answer has been ‘If you’re asking me that, then probably not’. I’ve always said that there is any other career that can bring you joy and fulfillment, go and do that instead. When I moved to Australia, I had set myself a deadline to go home and retrain if I hadn’t forged a ‘successful’ career. That deadline actually snuck up on me last year, and you know what? I didn’t even need to stop to think about it. There’s nothing that can bring me the level of joy that I get from what I do (when I get the chance to do it), and all the other slaving away at day jobs, the fruitless auditions and the endless acting classes? Totally worth it. So I think I’ll stick at it.
Even if I end up in a garage somewhere doing this