Stagecraft is variously defined as:
- Experience or skill in staging or writing plays
- The technical aspect of video, film and theatrical productions
- A catch-all term for the preparation involved in stage performance of any kind
For our purposes, we’ll be using definition number 3 to refer to performance across the spectrum from fronting a band to bringing the work of the bard to the stage.
Thanks to the expansion of social media allowing instant sharing of content, audiences are arguably savvier and more discerning than they once were. Performers who really connect with their audience and offer them an unforgettable experience inspire true loyalty.
1. Know Your Material
Using your rehearsal time wisely is essential; don’t get distracted by irrelevant conversations, phones and other devices or petty squabbles. If you’re working with a team make sure you agree a rehearsal etiquette, such as arriving on time and not bringing friends or devices in with you. If you’ve only got yourself to rely on make sure you stay disciplined. Yes, cat videos are great but are they going to help you learn those lines or nail that solo?
2. Constructive Criticism
Once you’ve rehearsed to the point that you can perform the set or script in its entirety invite friends and family to watch. Explain that you want to hear their constructive criticism and make sure you’ve left enough time to take any suggestions on board.
3. Keep Relaxed
As important as practice is, you don’t want to hit the stage with a tense body and mind. Part of practicing enough is allowing yourself some relaxation time prior to the performance. If you’re performing music, using some light humour can help get the audience back on side if you falter. Don’t clam up between songs – the audience will feel as awkward as you do.
4. Visualise Success
When you’re spending a large proportion of your time practicing it can become easy for panic to set in. The best way to avoid this is to begin practicing as early as possible, but visualising success can help calm your nerves. Last thing at night and first thing in the morning imagine your performance in a positive light. Consciously adjusting your body language so that you pose in a powerful way can also help.
Dynamics are applicable to both actors and musicians. If you’re performing a play familiarise yourself with the script and your character’s motivation; find space in the words to go slower building emphasis, speed up to heighten drama and movements to reflect these peaks and troughs. If you’re a musician map your set to take your audience on a varied journey; begin with a sing-along / clap-along crowd pleaser to get them on side from the beginning of your set. Mix up-tempo numbers with slower tracks to keep things interesting.
Sometimes inspiration is found in the most surprising places. It goes without saying that if you’re a performer in plays you should know your plays and if you’re in a band you should know your bands! Taking in the culture around you is key to finding inspiration for your performances, whether its trips to local art exhibitions or attending shows. You should always stay open to the world around you, soaking everything up to nurture your creativity.
7. Stage Clothing
If you’re an actor with a wardrobe team behind you, now is a good time to rehearse a few lines as we appreciate this doesn’t apply to you. However, if you’re a performer in charge of your own garms why not set yourself apart from your peers visually? Of course, you want to sound more impressive than them, but your look is also important. Thanks to the advent of MTV and other quick disposable culture, modern audiences often have very short attention spans, so you need to lure them in and keep them there. We’re not suggesting you pipe track specific smells into the audience, but a multi-sensory approach can help keep audience attention; interesting (cohesive if you’re a band) stage clothes and projections can help.
8. Stage Persona
Sorry actors, keep your eyes on those lines for another paragraph… You don’t have to go full Ziggy Stardust, but exaggerating aspects of your personality for the stage can build a recognisable stage persona. This can set you aside from the hoard of flannel shirted shoe gazers (nowt wrong with a bit of shoe gaze!) and ensure your act is memorable.
9. Every Night is Wembley
Even if you’re in a dingy arts centre or a tiny pub make sure you’re playing with the enthusiasm, professionalism and exuberance required for a stadium show. You never know who’s watching and word of mouth is vital.
Though you may not be familiar with the terminology outside of acting, blocking is as important for a musical performer as an actor. It’s generally accepted that movement should be restricted for the first line of dialogue as it simply looks better for the audience. The same principle can be applied to music performance; work out where you’re going to start on the stage, allow the audience breathing space to see you and listen for a few moments then work out where you’re going to travel on stage next, how you’re going to interact with your fellow performers and which movement works with the style of song.