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How Long Can You Last?

By • Jan 18th, 2012 • Category: An Actor's Advice

One should stay in shape for the sake of one’s own health. Nothing is more important than that, of course. We cannot always help or cure specific ailments from which we may suffer, but maintaining a high level of overall fitness is advantageous to our everyday lives.

By extension, being in good physical shape will also help us as actors.

There are only so many hours in a day, I understand. One who participates in a lot of theatre may not have time to engage in a regular fitness routine. Yet if there is any time at all, or anything else could be sacrificed in an actor’s day to make time for some exercise, it really should be done.

In a perfect world, an actor would be able to work on several things. Flexibility. Strength. Lung capacity. But in a more practical world, the actor may have just enough time to work on only one specific aspect of fitness, for the benefit of his art. But which one is of most benefit? Stamina.

Exercises and diet that can increase your stamina, (that is your ability to perform some kind of physical exertion over increasingly longer periods of time) will help you the most as an actor. Being able to move quickly with flexibility are wonderful tools for those blessed with them, and if you can work on increasing your own, by all means. Yet they are of little value to a person if a single scene with moderate movement tends to drain you.

A scene in a play that is not actually portraying much action will take more energy to get through than spending twice as long in real life doing the same things. That is because energy is being diverted to the actual performance. Blocking. Moving with intent. Hitting a mark at the precise time required. Nerves. None of these factors are in play when you have a conversation with your spouse while clearing the table at home. But if you are portraying this activity in front of an audience…

Multiply this by every scene in which you may appear over the course of your average two-hour play. And anyone who has had even a moderate sized role in a play will tell you that it can be quite tiring. If you are not in decent shape and have a lot to do? Well, intermission won’t come quickly enough. And fatigue can affect a performance in noticeable ways. It may not seem like it, but it can. Being drained or burned out at the start of Act II will be far more detrimental to most performances than not being able to stretch as far as a ballerina can.

Walking and swimming are two simple exercises I have talked about before that are excellent builders of stamina. I highly recommend both for the actor, for any number of reasons. Yet the point here is not to create a specific exercise program, but to stress the importance of increasing your physical endurance. If you can build yourself up to exert yourself without crashing over the course of two or three hours in some activity or another, you will be well ahead of the game when it comes to maintaining your energy over the course of most theatrical productions.

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