Written by 5:15 am News, Uncategorized

Behind the Curtain – Pre/Post Show Rituals

Written by Zack Johnston

We’ve all seen a production and wondered what’s going on behind the scenes to make it so spectacular, but what happens during all the time in between? Different artists around Orange County talked about their pre- and post-performance routines and shared insightful knowledge on what helps them prepare for and unwind from doing a live show.

Whether you’re a part of the crew or in the cast, being in a theater production takes a huge physical and mental toll. Between hours of rehearsal and the bittersweet closing night, our bodies and minds go through daily obstacles, which can be minimized with the right habits.

Pre-Show Rituals

Anyone working in live theater will know it’s essential to keep the body active and well-fueled. For Larking House resident artist Sidney Aaron Aptaker (Pirates vs Leprechauns, The Revolutionists), if there’s anything they must have before a performance, it’s a decent-sized meal and a little caffeine-boost to stay energized. Aptaker emphasized the importance of building habits throughout one’s whole day that support a healthy body and mind.

From left: Rachael VanWormer, Jazlyn Lewis, Sidney Aaron Aptaker, Danielle Heaton. (Photo credit: Francis Gacad) The Revolutionists at Curtis Theatre (2023)


“Our bodies are our jobs so it’s important to take care of them,” Aptaker said.

Christopher Diem and Catherine Last in “The Secret Garden, The Musical” at Chance Theater. Photo by Francis Gacad.

The importance of practicing self-care was echoed by Christopher Diem (The Secret Garden, American Idiot), a resident artist at the Chance Theater. For Diem, some light cardio and stretching followed by vocal warm-ups is a must before going on stage. He also makes sure to have a full bottle of water on-hand. Keeping the body physically loosened up and active while also making sure those basic needs are met is how many performers lay a foundation for connecting with their characters.

One simple pre-show practice used by Aptaker and many others is to create a specific playlist to listen to while getting ready. Not only does it help with staying relaxed and grounded, but some actors also use this as a character-building tool by selecting songs that connect them to their role.

The Beauty Queen of Leenane (2023) Costa Mesa Playhouse photo credit: Michael Serna

Michael Serna (Beauty Queen of Leenane, RENT), Artistic Director of Costa Mesa Playhouse, has a unique perspective as a performer and a director. What he does before and after a show can vary. His best advice for other performers before a show is to do whatever clears your mind and helps you focus. One trick he likes to do is to take those final moments before the house opens to spend time alone on stage. This can be a useful tool for actors to mentally dive into the world of their character.

As a director, Serna likes to take this time to check in with members of the cast, talk about their day outside of the show, and make sure the group is relaxed and well-connected.

Post-Show Comforts

When it’s finally time to take a bow, and the curtain falls, there are a few different ways creatives like to decompress and end their night. When performing highly emotional material, it’s especially important to have a post-show routine that incorporates some self-care practices. This is one area where Aptaker is looking to build more on.

“After shows, I find my body is buzzing with energy so it would be nice to make a more consistent way to decompress,” they said.

Christopher Diem in Chance Theater’s production of “Green Day’s American Idiot.” Photo by Doug Catiller

For some, this can be another opportunity to have a moment of solitude and leave it all behind before going home after a show. For Diem, this is especially helpful for heavier material.

“I always like to take a moment sitting on the stage in silence after everyone has left to do some breaths, and release the character,” he said. After decompressing, Diem will sometimes enjoy a cup of tea and put on a favorite movie or TV show.

Many groups will also have a regular spot to meet after a show and share in the comradery. However, for some, the only thing needed after a performance is their favorite comfort food.

Whether directing or acting, Serna often treats himself to fries and a Coke from McDonalds after a performance. It’s a small celebration, but as his old mentor used to remind him, each performance is something unique that only happens once for that night’s audience.

“That’s a special thing,” Serna said, “let’s not forget how great that is.”

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Tags: , , , , , , , , Last modified: January 9, 2024