It's pretty obvious that I love acting and I want everyone else to love acting as much as I do: I rope in my friends at every opportunity, whether it's to take part in a show or to come along and watch. I will sing praises of this industry till the day I die and I’ll keep singing them as a theatre ghost that lives in the dressing rooms. So I decided to make a list of 5 things I’ve gained from my acting training that benefit me outside of the theatre.
1. Volume control
This one has come up a lot in my survival jobs.
I’ve worked in hospitality on-and-off for 8 years, and there’s one thing I see people in that industry do all the time that I know could be fixed with basic acting training. Picture this: you’re in line at your local cafe waiting for your 'decaf, quarter-strength long black', and you keep waiting, and waiting. You definitely gave them your name and you see people grouping around the coffee machine. So you head on over and check on your order.
“Oh, it's right here, we called out your name.”
Maybe it could have been said a bit louder, but you thank them, take your cold coffee and go.
This being said I’ve worked with people that yell out the name with such gusto that the entire store stops. This is where projection and volume control come in handy; having the ability to be heard in all environments without being called obnoxious and bossy is a skill. I’ve worked with my fair share of head chefs that have insisted I’m hard-of-hearing whilst they’re mumbling orders into the bubbling deep fryer.
If only they’d realised they were working in a fast-paced business with pans banging and exhaust fans humming constantly, and that that meant they should speak up!
2. Spatial awareness
Who doesn’t have slow walkers among their pet peeves?
I certainly do. It’s fine if they have a reason, and often I’ll just walk around them, say a polite good morning and be on my way without a second thought. What really gets me is when they are shocked that you were there in the first place. Or even worse, when they’ve been walking towards you and actually ran into you.
And then said, “Sorry, I didn’t see you.”
I realised this during the COVID restrictions. It didn’t seem a hassle for me - or any of my actor friends - to keep my distance from others, with or without it being conveniently marked out on the floor. But it got me thinking: I never physically bump into people in crowds, on running tracks, et cetera, because I’m aware of what's going on around me.
The only thing I could think of that would set us apart is the hours of spatial awareness training. For those who’ve never done anything of the sort, you literally walk around a crowded room of actors, where everyone has to keep the same distance from each other and fill any gaps that occur on the ‘stage’.
I'd highly recommend it to anyone - and everyone. Particularly everyone in the veggie aisle at Coles.
I am always at my fittest during a show and not just the production week!
From about a week into rehearsals, I start seeing the payoffs. I get more toned, I get stronger from schlepping the set on and off every night, and I actually drink the recommended daily intake of water. I mean, who does that? And when I’ve been blessed to be working for companies that actually do warm-ups, I’ve benefited the most.
It's a way to do exercise for 3-plus hours without realising you’re exercising. It takes the chore out of getting fit, and I love that about theatre. Honestly, if there was a gym program disguised as acting (™), I’d sign up in a heartbeat and I think there’s a real gap in the market for that considering a lot of theatre actors consider themselves 'unfit'.
4. Ability to function on very little sleep
I’m honestly not sure if this is a good thing. My neighbours don't think so.
If anything, I’m convinced it's bad for me in the long run, but, hey, we all have our vices. But all the late-night rehearsals before a full day of work, only to have a late night rehearsal again, is exhausting. For the first few months. After that, you get used to it - and now I can easily function normally on 4 hours of sleep or less.
Apparently, it can take from 24 hours to 2 weeks to adjust from jet-lag or a disrupted sleep schedule. Imagine just bypassing the jet-lag stage completely. Or even just being able to adjust to strange sleep patterns.
Disclaimer time: I’m no health professional and I’m definitely not saying you should give up a healthy sleep schedule. But for me and my busy lifestyle, being able to function on less than recommended amounts of sleep is like a superpower! For all I know, this could just be something that works for me, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers.
5. A better memory
No need to brag, but I’ve got a pretty good memory. As any actor should.
You need to remember your lines, blocking, what props and costume you need and when. I hear a chorus of people in the distance saying, “But you’re trained to do that!” Exactly. I have trained my brain to remember things easily because I need that in my line of work. I’ve also had years of practice. If anyone practiced memorisation techniques everyday they would ultimately get better at it. But why not have fun while you’re doing it?
This has been great for remembering orders in hospitality, information and facts needed for coaching and tutoring, and winning arguments against my SO. Although there is no proof of brain training preventing dementia or old aged memory loss, it certainly couldn’t hurt right.
All in all, these 5 reasons are a GREAT list of things that should get anyone involved in theatre, acting, and performance in general! These are all things that have worked for me and I could go on for a long while about how great acting is and why everyone should do it. But this is hardly a full list of all of the benefits of acting.
Actor friends, performers and theatre-makers: comment below! What benefits have you seen from your life on the stage and under the pump?