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Getting Back into Acting: What to Expect

by Ryan O'Connor

So things seem to be slowly getting better: we can go out to restaurants, we can see our friends, we can even start travelling (a little). So it won't be long, we hope, before we can all get back into what we most love doing - acting and performance.

There's a big hope going around, we know, about how everything's going to go back to normal, and a big wave of others who claim that things will never be the same for actors. And there are these questions: are we going to have to change theatre to accommodate social distancing, in future? Are we going to be doing more Zoom performances, or rehearsals from home?

It's a big question, and I don't think that any one person knows the answer for sure. All we can say is what we know, and what we've observed. So, that being said, here's what I think we can expect, and what we ought to do our best to usher forward:

1. Everyone's Aware That They Don't Need To Be In Person All The Time

This one's going to be a pain for some, I know. It's not very nice to have spent all these months cooped up inside, waiting for the day that things go back to normal, only to be told that - well, sorry, but things aren't going to go back to normal. Not all the way. Not really. We've all been through the same stuff, and we're all aware now that we can do a lot of our jobs - including a lot of the rehearsal process - from home.

Not everything, of course. But a lot of things. Not a choreographed sequence, but certainly a characterisation workshop. Not a tech run, but possibly script analysis.

Don't get me wrong, I know that we're all keen to get back into it. But there's going to be a spread from now on: some rehearsals in person, and some from home. And those companies who don't change may very well end up losing out to those who do.

2. We've Learned To Hear The Voice That Says, "Too Close!"

I'm sure we've all been there, recently. We're sitting down, watching a movie or a recorded performance, and there's a swell to the tension. A musical flourish. Two characters look giddily at each other, and sweep into an embrace.

And some New-York-accented voice within you thinks, "Waitasecond, waitasecond, wattabout the social distancing! Move it apaht, you two, leave some room for the hand sanitiser!"

It's going to be the instinct for many to move back into being really close all the time. To get up in everyone's faces. To breathe on everything. Which might be fine for some - but there's still going to be that voice, that voice that whispers, "He's too close!" or "God, cover your mouth!"

We've learned these lessons, we've had to think about closeness and conveying our friendships and our emotions without that immediacy of presence, and it's up to us not to let that slip away.

Start thinking about that, I say. And don't get lazy. We've learned these lessons the hard way, and it's up to us to use them.

3. We've Changed, And We Should Embrace That

This hasn't been a wasted time. Arguably, there's no such thing. We've all changed - socially, emotionally, expressively. And we can let that all slip away and go back to the way things were, but there will be those who don't. Those who have a mastery of both methods: the way before and the way during.

Which, do you think, will be better off?

Don't stop using what we know. Zoom performances aren't the niche thing that they once were. Recordings of plays are much bigger than they used to be. We know how to speak and act wearing masks now. We've adapted, and we're changed.

The question, really, isn't: "How are things going to change?"

It's more: "How have I changed? And what am I going to do about it?"


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