Theatres shuttered. Shoots postponed. Rehearsals on hold – it’s easy to feel despondent in these uncertain times, yet there’s a multitude of things you can still do to hone your craft, and there’s a generous, creative online community all in the same bizarre boat. Rumour has it that Shakespeare wrote King Lear when in quarantine from the plague and Thomas Malory wrote Le Morte d’Arthur from his prison cell (although it seems he solidly deserved to be there), so time to get that pen out, get scribbling, or learn a new song or monologue – there’s plenty to do from home. Here are 5 ways you can work towards keeping morale high and do what you love from your bedroom and on a budget.
Watch + Learn
Now could be the time to finally tackle that ever-growing book list. The Kings Head Theatre is offering free online support skills sessions and book clubs, as are many other venues across the country. BAFTA is an absolutely brilliant source for endless podcasts and online Q&As. Subscribe to their mailing list and check out their Guru tab here. You could get started with some words from Tarantino, then move onto all the audios from their masterclasses and interviews from independent filmmakers. The Met Opera is live-streaming shows for free, while Paines Plough has got over 160 brilliant short plays for you to listen to on their Come To Where I’m From App. And Backstage has launched The Slate, packed with daily virtual seminars and workouts, from acting advice to voiceover training, to maintaining physical health. Currently largely populated by US talent, it will increasingly feature UK talent too.
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Matt Lucas, AMC’s Into The Badlands main cast trainer has developed all his classes onto an online format here. I worked with him on Badlands in 2018 and was amazed by his expertise and knowledge of various forms of martial arts and wellbeing. You can pay for one-on-one lessons or select from free short videos – or split the difference and purchase something a little longer, like a session on Persian Yoga or his 5 Elements of Practice, which is perfect for performers. Not only is it important to be physically ready for when things get back to normal, but exercise releases endorphins and balances out nervous systems, which is really what our mental health and immunity could need in these uncertain times. Also, British fight directors Ruth and Rachel from RC Annie have just launched a YouTube channel packed full of stage combat tricks, so get kicking and punching...
Your voice is your instrument. We all know how expensive vocal coaches can be, especially in these testing times, so why not download an accent app for a fraction of the price? My personal recommendation is The Real Accent App, where you can choose from England, Celtic, Europe, and the USA, for £10 per region. This could also be a great time to record some voice demos in your native accent – or ones you have used quarantine period to perfect. Pop them up on SoundCloud or get involved using the #SkypeAccentPairUp hashtag on Twitter. There is still work out there for the ever-expanding voiceover industry, so why not also join AHAB, where Penguin Random House do all their castings?
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Being glued indoors, there really is no time like the present to neaten up that online presence. Update your Backstage profile, tidy your showreel, catch up on social media, or get on wix.com and design the website you have been promising to create for months. Or while you’re watching and reading, finally get au fait with spreadsheets and take note of who is casting all those extra Netflix shows you’re binging. And don’t forget to keep your thoughts tidy too – Headspace is currently offering free meditations and sleeping tips under the Weathering the Storm category.
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Keep your self-tape game strong. Our guide to self-taping tells you everything you need to know. And casting director Manuel Puro runs the 21-Day-Self-Tape Challenge whereby a new script is issued every night to work on as a daily project. Manuel provides top tips for shooting and set up, and offers feedback afterwards, creating an online community where actors can watch each other's tapes and discuss the content. The next challenge starts on 4 April and costs £35. This could add some routine and focus if you’re at home self-isolating. Also, casting director Sophie Holland is offering free one-to-one 15-minute casting sessions. She tells us: “The response has been overwhelming. We had no idea that there would be such an appetite for the one-to-one sessions, or that other casting directors would be so willing to dive in and stand with us in supporting the industry.” Keep an eye on the Twitter hashtag #CastingCrushesCorona to book a session.
Everyone will have their own way to reach balance and equilibrium, so learn what is right for you. Community is key in troubled times, so find your tribe and keep talking to people. Lots of creatives are hopping on zoom.us for industry advice sessions and virtual link-ups. It is important to know, if you are struggling, that you can call the Theatre Helpline on 0800 915 461– a free, independent, and confidential help service – or follow IndustryMindsUK on Twitter to learn about their counselling support. We are stronger together, and “This too shall pass.”
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More for UK actors? Check out Backstage