Your Pocket Guide to De-Role

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We spend so much time meticulously getting into character – thinking, feeling, speaking, and moving as someone else – how much time and energy do you spend getting out of character?

Getting out of character properly can help you avoid:

Hopefully you will find tips and tricks to help you return to your wonderful self!

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In rehearsals

My process for getting out of character can vary - physically I like to 'move it out' -  jump, shake and breathe. I will spend time away from others or time with others depending on my needs each day. And listen to music on headphones! Music that speaks of you or a song you associate with your life and not the character's or the show.

Immediately following a performance

"You want what you do to be honest and truthful - but at the same time, you can't let it ruin you. When I played Fantine in Les Miserables, I felt lucky because I could actually use the fact that she died as a way of letting her go each night. I had the time to lie there on stage during the confrontation to make peace with her, and leave her on the stage when I walked off. With Elphaba in Wicked it was as simple as taking off the green make up - it was like taking her off." 

Reinforce the difference

For any post show meet and greet, forum or backstage tour, make sure you are introduced to audience and participants with YOUR name, not the name of your character. For example: “This is [Meg Jones] who plays the role of [Sally].”

You could even make mention of the differences between the two. For example: 
“You might have noticed everyone in the show is really scared of [Sally], but [Meg] is actually one of the sweetest people you will ever meet!”

Subtle shifts in language can make a big difference.

I consider leaving the character part of my job. But leaving the stress and crippling insecurity of being an artist is something else entirely. The thing that helps me is to have something outside of the theatre that I am truly passionate about. Painting, writing, whatever. But a verb, not a noun. They're things outside of the theatre to 'do' not just like.

Notice your thoughts

Sometimes a character isn’t a problem until you’ve been doing it for a while. Notice when your mind supplies you with thoughts or suggestions, or dreams, that are from the character and not you.

Practice saying to yourself, “Thanks mind, but that’s (CHARACTER), that’s not me” and then turn your attention back to what you were doing in the present moment.

Over time, the thoughts will come less frequently and you’ll be able to identify and deal with them faster.

Connect with ...
Your spaces

Pay attention as you move through different spaces – offstage into the wings, into the dressing room, out stage door. Engage your senses as you leave the theatre and re-connect to the real world – what can you see, smell, hear, taste and feel? Notice all the differences.

Your body

Let go of certain physical character traits that are not like your own. Dance to your favourite music, do a quick yoga wind down, meditate (search the web for a ‘body scan meditation’ as a good starting point), or simply sit quietly and take some slow, deep breaths.

Your people

Call a loved one and find out the details of their day – a good antidote to the epic arc of performance. Plus, you get to speak to someone who loves you for you. If you are playing a role that isolates you, make a conscious effort to connect with others.

Your things

Some performers create a ‘self-kit’ to keep in their dressing room. A collection of things that remind you who you are outside of work – keepsakes from loved ones, objects that represent your hobbies and interests, and photos of friends, family and pets.

More than the show

Sometimes we confuse what we do with who we are.

There’s nothing wrong with being passionate and committed, but the risk is that the show and/or the character starts to become your whole world – WHO you are, not WHAT you’re doing.

It’s just one part of your rich, complex, layered, awesome identity. Have a think about all the other threads – outside of the show – that make you YOU.

What else do you value outside your current role? Connecting with your values can help orient you to goals beyond this current gig.

I think the thing you need to do to 'step out of character' after a show is a bit of a post-show action plan. You need to give yourself something to look forward to afterwards. Whether that be a meal, a drink with a friend, a book, a TV series, supper with your lover, a workout - you need a bit of life post show to remind you what this life is all about. It is NEVER all about the show.

De-role in action

Actor and writer Daijah Porchia interviewed the cast of ‘Columbinus’, a hard-hitting play written by Stephen Karam and PJ Paparelli and directed by Jennifer Vellenga. The play tells the story of the Columbine High School massacre, and contains difficult and heavy content. Daijah shared some effective de-role techniques that were used by the cast and creative team:

Reach out for help

It’s always ok to ask for help. Performing can be a physically exhausting and emotionally draining job, and you’re only human!

If you are worried about someone, ask if they are ok, and if you are still concerned, stay with them and connect them with other supports. If you feel like you are in crisis, reach out and do not be alone.​

Support Act Helpline

1800 949 500

Free, confidential mental health support available 24/7.

Emergency Services

000

If you or someone you know is at immediate risk of harm to themselves or others.

Beyond Blue

1300 22 4636

Lifeline

13 11 14

National Relay Service is available for people who are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment. Chat options are also available. ​

People who do not use English as their first language can get free translation support from the Translating and Interpreting Service at tisnational.gov.au​

Contributors

Content created, reviewed and informed by Arts Centre Melbourne, Alicia Gardiner, Simon Gleeson, Matt Heyward, Bert LaBonte, Daijah Porchia, Dr Alison Robb, Patrice Tipoki, and Deone Zanotto.

At the time of writing, there are no formal research-based guidelines for getting out of character. The following ideas are drawn from anecdotal evidence and clinical experience.

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