The Actor's Warm Down
In 2016, I worked with a group of students and alumni from Marymount Manhattan College to create this warm down for actors. It is aimed at allowing the actor to release from a challenging role and return to a healthy life. We presented our findings in an interactive workshop at Bedford Correctional Institute as part of the 2016 Crossing Boarders Conference. Since then, I have taught this warm-down at the University of Central Florida, Vassar College, Marymount Manhattan College and to a variety of ensembles in professional theaters.
The Actor's Warm Down lasts about 20 minutes (though it can be adapted to your personal needs or the needs of the ensemble) because when the body is Flooding*, in fight/flight/freeze/fawn, the heart pumps at over 100 beats per minute, adrenaline surges and blood pressure raises. And, it takes about 20 minutes for the body to regulate back to normal. So, I created The Actor's Warm Down as a way to encourage your body to release not only the physiological response, but also the challenging role or material on which you've been working.
Here it is in pieces for you to use in your own practice. I hope it helps you to find ease and release when working on emotionally demanding material. Please feel free to contact me if there are parts I can make more clear.
Here is a quick outline if you want to lead this in your rehearsal or class and find having a reference sheet helpful.
The Actor's Warm Down has several sections. This order is the one I use it in most often, but note that the Meditation/Visualization section works better for some actors if it is before the Yoga section.
The Actor's Warm Down - Instructions
Begin with the Breath:
Start with three inhales and audible exhales.
Use the exhale to let go of the character or whatever you're feeling.
Click here for an audio description of this section.
Remember that the key here is to open the heart. When we play roles where the character is experiencing fear, depression, grief or other heavy emotions we close our bodies. Even though this is pretend, we are putting our bodies in the actual positions of these emotions, so our bodies still experience it. This practice is aimed at opening us back up.
Click here for an audio walk through of the visualization.
Power Pose and Check Out:
The Ensemble joins in a circle.
Stand in a power pose. (wide stance, open heart)
Ask a check-out question that brings us back to who we are, as opposed to our character.
Dance it out:
(Optional) For days when it feels particularly heavy, or simply because you want to, have a dance party. You can have a play list prepared for this, or simply pick a song and belt it out together while dancing.
*Flooding is a term coined by Dr. John M. Gottman, Ph.D. in his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.