What's Your Performing Personality?

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I’m fascinated with habits. As a voice teacher, I’m always to trying to find ways to encourage students to develop great practice routines. Even beyond the voice studio, the ability to foster good habits is a key element of being a successful and consistent actor. It can be harder than we might think to change engrained life patterns. I’m sure many of you have struggled with eating right, showing up for auditions, exercising regularly, or any number of things that require consistent follow-through. This is where a little self-knowledge can really help out.

I’ve created a 40-question quiz called “What’s My Performing Personality?” to help you get some clarity. The quiz is based on the work of Gretchen Rubin, whose book “Better than Before” examines habit-creation in detail. She identifies four basic types of people when it comes to meeting expectations:

Upholders are excellent at creating habits and easily meet demands placed upon them by others. They are also great at setting goals for themselves, and find it easy to keep on task with internal motivation. Upholders tend to make excellent students, and make quick progress when it comes to training. They love getting a “good grade” and thrive on recognition. Because they place a lot of value on doing well, they can be reticent to try new things, fearing that they will fail.

Questioners are perfectly happy to meet an external expectation, but only if it makes sense to them. Questioners like to have rationales and explanations for what they’re told to do, and tend to be frustrated by rules that seem arbitrary (why wait for the walk signal on the street when it’s obvious that no cars are coming?). Questioners like to gather information and tend to do copious research before making a decision; they have to watch out for “paralysis by analysis.”

Obligers have an easy time meeting other people’s expectations of them, but may struggle with expectations that they have set for themselves. They rely on accountability to others to stay on track with their habits. Obligers tend to make great colleagues and team players; many performers fall under this category. The thing that obligers have to watch out for is burnout; they can become exhausted from meeting others’ demands.

Rebels resist any constraints on their personal freedom, be they external or internal influences. They tend to relish new environments and new situations, and are suspicious of creating habits or getting stuck in routines. They are not afraid to go against the grain, and enjoy seeing how far they can push any boundaries that are placed upon them. They place a strong value on autonomy and personal integrity. Their voice of dissent can be a hindrance, but also valuable in a creative process.

When you identify which of these four personalities you lean towards, you can make it much easier on yourself when it comes to incorporating new habits into your life. Rubin’s contention is that this awareness has the potential to make you much happier and more productive as a person, and I would agree. For more details, read her book and/or take my quiz. It’s designed specifically for performers, and when you get your results, you’ll also get some advice from me on how to apply your performing personality to your career.

Ready to sing for casting directors? Check out our Broadway audition listings! And watch the video below for more greta advice from Andrew Byrne.

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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

Andrew Byrne
Andrew Byrne is a voice teacher, performer, and composer-lyricist. His songs have been featured in movies, Seth Rudetsky’s “Obsessed!” series, and in many international concert venues. He has served on the University of Michigan musical theater faculty, and has taught internationally at the Shanghai Theatre Academy, The Banff Centre, and the Danish Academy of Musical Theatre.