When I first started working with Weathervane back in 2009, Matthew Trombetta quickly earned my respect as the Managing Artistic Director by repeatedly advising the entire company that the summer season was "a marathon, not a sprint," and if we worked too hard early on, we wouldn't have enough energy left at the end. I'm finding that philosophy can be used to describe just about every theatrical endeavor. It's heartbreaking when you see a production of Hamlet where Hamlet runs out of steam about 35 minutes before Laertes comes back to pick up the baton. But you know what? It's especially true for outdoor Shakespeare.
Temperatures here in Fayetteville were over a hundred degrees going into our performance of Much Ado last night, and even by the time the show was over and things had cooled off a bit, it had only dropped down to the nineties. Working in that kind of heat and humidity is especially taxing on the body, especially dressed in many layers of costume, and while both our director ad stage manager kept telling us we could dress down a bit from our standard costumes, most of us didn't. Pride and all.
Performing in extra-stressful environments is great for helping you figure out where you're pushing too hard in the wrong places, where you're not breathing enough, and when you're sticking around the stage too long. One of my favorite lessons in my acting class with Allison Glenzer was that getting off stage is always a great motivation for your performances because it will keep you moving, but last night getting off stage quickly meant being able to get to a towel and water, which were collectively the best things ever after performing for five minutes or more.
I want to float out there that I've never run a marathon, and I probably never will, but you've got to do things to keep your stamina up if you're going to make it through a performance, especially when the heat is on: that means training. I've done most of my line learning and personal rehearsing outdoors to help get my brain used to having distractions around, but I've also tried to be mindful of keeping my body in shape for this sort of thing. Leonato in Much Ado isn't Hamlet in Hamlet, but performing in these conditions puts additional strain on both mind and body, and you need to be ready for it.