Monday, 27 July 2015

Read an extract from Louise Dearman & Mark Evans' book

Last month West End stars Louise Dearman (Wicked/Evita/Guys and Dolls) and Mark Evans (The Book of Mormon/Ghost The Musical/Wicked) released their debut book Secrets Of Stage Success, published by Nick Hern Books.

In Secrets Of Stage Success Dearman and Evans answer questions which were submitted by fans and aspiring performers under four sections: Secrets of Learning Your Craft, Secrets of Getting a Job, Secrets of Doing The Job and Secrets of Living the Life. 

Dearman and Evans said: "This is the book for anyone who’s seen a show and thought: ‘That could be me…’ That’s what we used to think growing up, dreaming of working in musical theatre. Now, after years of hard work, we’ve been lucky enough to star in some amazing shows including Wicked, The Book of Mormon, Ghost: The Musical, Evita and Cats. We’ve picked up lots of tips from other performers, and have developed our own strategies and solutions too. In this book, using this knowledge and our experiences, we want to draw back the curtain and shine a spotlight onto how you can follow in our footsteps."

Read an exclusive extract from the book below:

How can I prevent my voice shaking on stage when I’m nervous?

BOTH: Nerves are a totally natural response when you’re doing something that makes you feel slightly vulnerable – even if you enjoy the activity (which is how we hope you feel about performing!). No matter how many times we have performed, whether it has been to thousands of people or just two, we still get nervous. It can be incredibly frustrating when you’ve finished a performance and you know you could have done so much better if your nerves hadn’t got the better of you. So we know exactly what you mean when you describe your voice as shaking when you get nervous.

In fact, everybody feels nerves at times – and dozens of people asked a question about how to deal with them, so we know that it’s very common. The truth is that some people just hide them better than others, so they never show any sign of nerves, and always seem confident. You have to learn to hide it too. Before you are about to perform on stage or in an audition, give yourself time to go and find a quiet space on your own; the toilets or bathrooms work well for this as the acoustics are great. Take some slow, steady breaths in and out, close your eyes, put your warm-up on your mobile, and gently do your exercises, focusing on your breathing – and then sing your song. Before you perform, take a few more slow breaths, focus on the character, and remember how easy it was to sing when you were in the loo! Be confident and in control.

LOUISE: When I first graduated from drama school, I used to get unbearably nervous before auditions. My voice would shake and my breath control would be so erratic that I couldn’t sing as easily as when I rehearsed the song. My legs would also shake a little and I had to work really hard to look relaxed and confident. I still get nervous, but it has definitely become better over time – now it’s more like butterflies in my tummy.

I think that nerves mean that you care about your job, and you want to do it well, so start thinking of them as being a positive thing, as long as they don’t completely take over you and your performance. Harness your nerves as something that pushes you to do your best, and think of those butterflies as excitement rather than nerves. Always remember: you love performing, so why be nervous about it?

How does it feel to step out in front of an audience?

BOTH: The first time you perform a new show or role in front of an audience, there is always a feeling of nervous excitement and adrenalin, along with understandable anxiety. Nothing you do on stage is yet fixed in your body’s muscle memory, and therefore a lot more brain power and concentration is required. Comedy scenes that have become predictable and unfunny in rehearsal are finally in front of an audience, so you can see how the reaction to them will change the pace and timing of the scene. All in all, it’s an overwhelming feeling of euphoria. It’s why we do it, after all: to have that experience performing live on stage and being in contact with an audience.

MARK: My favourite part of opening in a new show is hearing the overture play for the first time. The sound of the orchestra fills you with the adrenalin you need to be able to focus and take your performance to the next level. Hearing the climax of the Ghost overture on my first night in that show was such a buzz. It’s such a well-orchestrated piece of music and makes you tingle just listening to it, but to be standing backstage in the dark whilst waiting to make your first entrance, is amazing. I very often think of that first night.

How can I maintain a social life when I’m in a show?

BOTH: It’s hard! But it’s not impossible. The question you need to ask yourself is: what kind of social life do you want? Do you mean that you’d like to continue to party hard and stay up late with friends at the weekend? If so, that is going to be very difficult if you want to be at your best on stage for every show. Whether you are in the ensemble, a swing, an understudy or playing a lead role, you should take pride in the performance you deliver eight times a week.

You also have no idea who is in the audience on any given night. It should be enough that you want to give a great performance for the general public who have paid good money, but there could also be important casting directors, producers, directors, journalists and fellow actors in the audience, who will be able to tell if you’ve been up partying all night, aren’t feeling great, and are having a bad show. We don’t believe it’s possible to maintain eight shows a week at your best standard if you are out most nights and not looking after yourself. It’s hard enough to keep your stamina up and maintain good health, but it’s even tougher when your body and mind are tired.

Having said all this, it is important to bond with your fellow cast members and enjoy yourself, so get the balance right and you can enjoy a healthy social life and still perform well. A social life outside of a show doesn’t have to mean late nights out partying. You will usually have most of your daytimes free (apart from matinee days, obviously), so plan to meet friends and organise enjoyable things to do during the day, or on your day off (usually Sundays or – if you perform a Sunday show – on Mondays). If you are playing a role where you have to sing a lot, it’s wise to think of things that won’t involve you raising your voice too much. Many of your friends may work within the industry too, and have the same pressures and demands on their time and their physical health, so they’ll be very understanding. You should certainly make time to be sociable and have fun, otherwise you’ll end up resenting your job.

Illustrations by Mark Manley

Secrets of Stage Success is out now, £8.99 paperback, published by Nick Hern Books. Get your copy for just £6.74 (that’s 25% off the rrp) plus free UK p&p – use code SECRETSFRAME at (Everyone who purchases the book via the NHB website will receive a free, exclusive A3 poster of Louise and Mark (while stocks last.)

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