As we are watching the best world athletes compete at the London Olympic Games, we are reminded that actors too, are athletes and should follow the same rigorous preparation. They are a different type of athletes, yet they should give the same kind of attention to their body, their mental state and their emotional preparation before and after performance. After all their body, mind and spirit are their unique instrument...
Excerpt of A BALANCING ACT by Emmanuelle Chaulet © 2008-12
Athletes and stuntmen
Performers are like athletes. They have tremendous pressure put on their body, on their psyche, and on their souls every day. They cannot leave the job, go home and forget about it. Most often, it follows them around for days and weeks. The schizophrenia of being two, the character and you, can often lead to instability. Whether active or dormant, the character is always in the background. Since they are not being given the proper training to learn how to tame this intense relationship, actors let themselves go along a slope where alcohol, drugs and sex are easy fixes to an inner emotional and energetic imbalance. The media, of course, immediately jumps on this situation and exhibits their lives and mistakes to the public, like gladiators were thrown to the lions. Being exposed like this when they are so fragile and vulnerable is recipe for disaster. After doing their intense emotional stunts, actors are left alone to recover with no one coming to help them, but on the contrary, with rude paparazzi trying to grasp as much pain and despair they can find to plaster the tabloids. They dig the dirt and drag actors in shame destroying what is left of their delicate self-esteem. At the very moment when actors would need to regroup, re-center, recharge and be alone, they are sent to public appearances, cocktail parties and TV shows. These constant ups and downs are exhausting and taxing. Without proper emotional management and energetic clearings, actors often fall into the traps of stress and burnout, and spiral downward. Olympic athletes know this well: in order to succeed and last, they have to rest between the games and competitions, they have to eat well, sleep well, and recharge. They are specifically trained for mental endurance and persistence, as much as taught to develop their physical abilities. They do visualization, sophrology, and relaxation. They get nutritional counseling and motivational support. They are coached to manage their sleep and rest time to reach an ultimate performance. Conversely, actors are simply left to themselves with absolutely no help, no guidance or even classes on this subject. Open, vulnerable, naive, and a bit narcissistic, they live like children in a world of imagination, and seek to be loved. Unfortunately, they often find the wrong friends to support them. Attracted by the brilliance of their charismatic personalities, many admirers and fans are in fact energy takers, and instead of supporting actors, take advantage of them and of their fragility. Led early on to a life of partying and drinking, which often starts at the college level, actors –who are starving for this sense of closeness and warmth, this illusionary family-like atmosphere – quickly let themselves go to excessive, sometimes manic behavior.
In reality, actors are fragile artists who need strong support and strict discipline to manage their ever-flying emotions. Like gymnasts, dancers or musicians, they should follow a daily routine to nurture and care for not only their bodies, but also their minds and spirits. [This book gives] some ideas and directions, which I firmly believe are the most important aspect of the Energize technique. This is where the ultimate strength of an actor will lie: in his capacity to maintain a healthy, self-controlled, harmonious and balanced lifestyle. It is only then that he will be able to reach his highest potential as an artist and a performer and, moreover, that he will be able to last for a long career.
Emmanuelle Chaulet is an artist's coach and Lecturer in Theatre at the University of Southern Maine.
She works in the USA during the year and in France during the summer months.