It’s Sunday morning…no, wait, it’s Sunday afternoon. You closed your show last night, helped with bumped out, then went to the cast party. And now you’re feeling ALL the feelings. Grief that the entity you dedicated most of your spare time to for the last six-plus months (from audition through to closing) is over. And you’ll miss the cast and crew, the audiences, the “other-worldliness” that is the romance of the theatre.
But it can’t go on forever. Seemingly only minutes after your final bows, as the “workers” (harsh fluorescent lights over the stage) are turned on and the set is pulled apart, the starkness of the stage proves to you that it really was all make-believe.
So, you roll over and start thinking about WHAT’S NEXT. (I am a sucker for that phrase…thanks President Bartlet!) Maybe you have another project lined up, in fact maybe you’ve already started rehearsing it. Or you might have some clear space to rebalance you and your life.
Either way – this blog is for you. It is about ways you can draw breath and regroup, restore normality for your voice and your heart, but capitalise on the vocal fitness you received from the show.
Although this is not a new concept, I’m drawing some of the specifics of this idea directly from Charlie Gilkey, founder of Productive Flourishing and author of Start Finishing.
- Help with bump-out
- Help with washing or packing away costumes
- Help with returning props
- Take a “victory lap” – celebrate with your peers, read the warm reviews and social media posts, look at the photos, create a memory box (digital or real)
- Go to the reunions
- CAT (Gilkey)
- Clean up – make sense of what’s around you
- Archive – make good decisions about what’s worth keeping and what’s not
- Trash – get rid of what doesn’t matter by donating, recycling or binning it
Take the time to make sense of things, put them away, and breathe calm back into your surroundings. This activity will help you to process the end of your project, even while you are making space for the next one.
A surprising range of inefficient habits have a way of creeping into our vocal technique while we are meeting performance expectations. As you enter a routine that has less rehearsals and performances, take time to return your singing instrument to its home-base technique in the following areas:
- Weight even over both feet
- Body stacked floor up – foot arch -> knees -> pelvis -> ribcage -> shoulders -> head poised on top
- Breath management
- Lower abdominal release
- Rib expansion
- Throat quiet
- Tongue at rest behind bottom teeth (front)
- Register coordination
- Use the messa di voce exercise to check in with the relative strength of your lower register (chest voice) and upper register (head voice).
- If you find it difficult to change from soft to loud, do some lower register strengthening.
- If you find it difficult to change from loud to soft, do some upper register strengthening.
- Resonance balance
- Timbre resonating evenly between throat and mouth.
- Tone colour reminiscent of chiaroscuro, i.e. light and dark (or treble and bass).
- Accent/vowel production
- Volume regulation
- Gentle listening
- Style reset
Over a period of 1-2 weeks, turn your attention to one of these areas at a time and look for ways to restore the ease and efficiency that you have refined with your singing teacher or vocal coach.
- Reset your optimal amount and habit
- Take a couple of weeks and reset your bedtime gradually
- Reset your sleep hygiene
- If you’ve been cutting some corners, try digging out some of your favourite healthy recipes and watch your body respond with deep gratitude
- Get out into the fresh air and reconnect with your usual exercise routine
- These are often set aside for the pressures of rehearsal and performance schedules. Dig a couple out and dust them off and take some deep breaths as you recreate mind and body.
Were there relationships and random acts of kindness that had to be neglected while you were in the midst of such a mad performance schedule? Your family and friends understand and really love to watch you perform. But now you can catch up on the things that are important to you.
- Call or message friends you’ve been meaning to reach out to.
- Follow up on a promise you made.
- Say those thank-yous that are on your list.
- Send a gift that you overlooked.
- Connect with your support network.
Replenish Your Gig Bag
As you bring your gear home, some of it needs sorting out, throwing out, even replacing. Grab a checklist of ideas from the blog on preparing your gig bag.
Sing Other Material
In the same way that a swimmer does more than just swim to stay fit and efficient, so singers should sing a variety of musical content to help the voice feel vibrant and flexible.
This table gives some examples of vocal goals and the variations you might want to switch to for vocal recreation.
|Balancing Goal:||Type A||Type B|
|Register Coordination||Chest/lower register dominance||Head/upper register dominance|
|Delivery Style||Vowel driven||Consonant driven|
|Breath Management||Short phrases||Long phrases|
|Styles within genres||Sondheim70-80s pop||Rodgers & Hammerstein2000s pop|
Maintain Your Vocal Fitness
You have just finished a period of intentional, frequent vocal use of lengthy duration. This should have given your vocal fitness a boost that you’d like to keep. Unfortunately, unless you maintain some intentionality and frequency, it will slip away. Click here for more information on how to train your voice.
Why not set a small goal to consolidate your gains.
- Add a song or two to your audition folder
- Record yourself singing some songs you’d like to preserve
- Sing with someone else – a duet, trio, quartet…
- Pretend you’re going to take an exam and go hunting through syllabus lists like it’s Christmas
- Set yourself a repertoire challenge
- Learn all the songs for a particular role
- Learn 3 contrasting songs from a composer you’ve never studied before
- Explore a style of musical you don’t usually sing
- Book in a singing lesson for a technique tune-up
I’m sure this collection of ideas is just the beginning, and hopefully you’re now thinking of other ways you can do a vocal refresh as you process the closure of your last major project. I wish you much vocal ease, peace of mind, and joyful singing.
If you’ve thought of a great idea to add to this blog…I’d love to hear from you!
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Gilkey, C. (2019). Start Finishing: How to go from idea to done. Sounds True, Colorado