Since I was ten years old I knew I wanted to make theatre when I grew up. There was nothing else I wanted, I didn't have a backup plan. I loved the days of rehearsals, to dive into a project, the evenings of performing, even the nights of waking up with an idea and writing it down quickly - afraid to forget it as the morning comes. I always knew I wasn't made for the nine to five job, I am easily bored and working for a boss is not my strongest point (a little of an authority problem;)).
But, how do you keep structure when you don't have fixed hours?
Make lists - Making lists helps me a lot, I write down what I want to have done by the end of the day. Mornings (or afternoons after rehearsals) are for answering e-mails and doing administrative stuff. When I am in the preparation phase for a project, I try to sort out practical things first, so there is plenty of time and space in my head to be creative.
Wake up everyday at the same time - When I am rehearsing for a performance, like now, it is not that difficult. Everyday my rehearsal starts at 09.00, having a daily rhythm is very important to me. When I am working on my own or when I am performing in the evenings, this is a bit different. However it may be tempting to stay in bed after an night of performing, I rarely do this.
Don't see in between time as free time - This one I have to explain. Some days in the week I teach theatre workshops after my rehearsal. That means that I sometimes have one hour or more in between. I use that time to have a break, but also to, for example, work off my to do list. Preferably at a nice cafe :) So I don't have to do that in the evening before I go to bed.
Switch off - I am not very good at this one, I have to say. Creativity, inspiration, work never stops. Ideas come and go, and when I suddenly know the end of my performance at 00.00, I have to write it down. And before I know it I am working and working and working and a few days later my body warns me that I didn't really relax. So, time for yourself. Switch off your phone, internet, take a bath, read a book, watch a series.
When I keep an eye on those four things, the rest can be as chaotic and rural as it can be. Because that is what I love about my job, not a single day is the same :)
I realized that, when I am performing, there are some rituals that always come back. I have to do things in a certain way, otherwise I have the feeling I am not totally concentrated.
Sounds a bit neurotic, right? It is. I thought it might be fun to share those 'rituals' with you, maybe you recognize yourself in it! ;)
Before the performance starts, I sit in the audience and stare at my stage setting.
Yes, this started when I was studying at the Academy of performing arts in Maastricht (NL) and I made a rain installation for a solo performance. I had to turn the thing on 15 minutes before the audience came in. There was just a blue light and rain drizzling down, the sound of the water and the calm atmosphere brought me in a kind of meditative state of mind. So, every time I had to perform I sat down in the still quiet and empty audience and stared at my stage setting. After this time, I kept on doing it. It makes me calm somehow.
I have to go to the bathroom 13 minutes before the performance starts.
Ok, this is a weird one. When I perform alone, I don't even think about it that much. It was a normal thing to do, I checked the time and went to the bathroom 13 minutes before. But my colleagues started to tease me a bit, like: 'let's see if you can also go 11 minutes before.' I tried it and, of course, nothing bad happened. The world didn't disappear, I didn't forget my lines. But still, I'll keep my 13 minutes rule.
Five minutes before the performance you find me somewhere leaning with my head against a wall.
This one only counts when I am performing alone. With colleagues we are in the dressing room, we talk a bit, make a circle, say our 'magical performance words' and are ready to start. When I am alone on stage, I need a strong focus and before I start, I am not a very social person. The five minutes before I need to be alone and only in my head, to get into the story I want to tell. To be there with my whole self. So, if you see me, leaning against a wall, looking like I am either on drugs or in another world, it is a good sign! ;)
I drive myself crazy the first time.
The premiere, a big thing. A scary thing. Because, what if you think you made a wonderful performance, but nobody understands what you are trying to say? And this one, especially when I perform in German: what if I suddenly have a black out and all my German is gone and only Dutch things come out? And, when I perform alone: what if they hate it? Why am I doing this to myself? This is a weird situation; there is an audience, a stage, and soon I will be on that stage and do things and say things and people think something about that. What if they don't laugh at that funny part? What if they laugh at a very serious part?
It all goes through my head the two minutes before I enter the stage. And when I enter the stage... I forget about all of it and I love it. That is why I want to do it again and again and again.
So, do you recognize some things? I am curious!