BWW Blog: Christopher Panella - Stop Taking Your Craft So Seriously
I take my craft too seriously. Yes, I said it. Every theatre kid takes their craft too seriously. Now, I know how misleading that sounds. It sounds like I'm claiming we should all relax and stop working on our pieces. Trust me, that is NOT WHAT I AM SAYING. What I am saying is something that is built on advice hundreds of people have told me. From vocal coaches to directors to fellow cast members, basically everyone I know has told me that I take my craft too seriously. And I do. But I think we all do. I think we all spend far too much time worrying and questioning rather than doing. Thus, I present new advice for a new school year: stop taking your craft so seriously!
I think too much. I always have and I always will. That's just the way my brain is. I am constantly thinking, wondering, contemplating. My brain is always on (I know all of our brains are constantly on, but you get my point). I believe that as we develop our craft and work on our pieces, we begin to care too much about questions that shouldn't even cross our minds. What do I look like when I perform? How do I sound? Am I moving enough? Wait, I think I forgot the next eight count. Stop caring so much about those questions! Stop asking yourself questions that do not matter. When we perform and don't think about how we're doing, we perform so much better. I have a personal example: most of the time, my directors and voice coach will stop me during a performance or piece and remind me to stop thinking and just perform. The moment I do that is the moment I perform my best and the moment my craft becomes more than great. It can't just be that has this problem. I'm sure hundreds of theatre kids think too much when they should just be enjoying the moment they're in. My first few dress rehearsals as The Cat in the Hat were riddled with this problem. Every time I was on stage, all I thought about was what I had to do next, what prop I needed, what side of the stage I had to be on next, and what my next move was. It drove me insane. After a few tries, I was able to block that out and make it all completely natural. I didn't think, I just did. I didn't try to force anything or make anything happen, everything just fell into place the way it should.
I know I seem pretentious, but I promise you I am the least pretentious person. I am just being honest: we perform best when we don't take everything so seriously. If you're worried about mistakes, then you'll make them. If you're questioning your movements and acting, then those movements will seem completely out of character. Instead of creating problems for yourself, just let yourself fall deep into character. Become that character to the point where no matter what you do, it feels right and honest to the character. The only way to be pure in terms of character is to be pure in your ideals and thoughts. Don't question yourself, just do it! I used to question myself all the time in my daily life and sometimes I still do. But leaving my brain behind when I perform has helped me realize that questioning myself is what causes mistakes. When I disregard any sign of doubt, I immediately become confident and honest. Now, I'm not saying you should walk into rehearsal without any thought and just leave your brain at the door. I'm saying you should have a little more confidence and stop questioning yourself. As my directors always say, "Get out of your head!" That doesn't mean lose your head completely. It just implies performing is natural to theatre kids and should be treated as honest and pure.
If you're looking for a recommendation for a play, I highly suggest A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen. I know, it's extremely popular and well-known, but there is a reason it is so well liked. Give it a try.