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Cooling Down: How Actors Unwind After Taxing Performances

cooling down

Most actors methodically warm up for emotionally draining performances. But what do they do to recoup reality?

BY JONATHAN MANDELL

Every night I had to kill myself,” declares actor Daniel N. Durant with an exasperated shrug.

Durant made his Broadway debut in the recent revival of Spring Awakening as Moritz, a young man who commits suicide in a climactic moment. It wasn’t easy. “Most of my day was spent getting into character, and then I had to go through those emotions every night,” Durant recounts. After the performance, most of his night was spent trying to reverse the process: “I played video games to get out of it. My favorite was Call of Duty, a high-energy game that I confess I’m addicted to.”

Austin P. McKenzie, Durant’s castmate in the musical, portrayed Moritz’s close friend, Melchior. He had a more old-fashioned method of recuperating from the emotional pressures of performance. “The professional answer would be to do a ‘warm-down,’ or that kind of stuff, but what I really like to do is have a drink!” McKenzie says with a grin. “That’s what works for me. Maybe a cigarette.”

The two actors, picking up their Theatre World Awards at Circle in the Square Theatre last year for impressive New York City stage debuts, were among several current and past winners in attendance to whom I posed a straightforward question: How do you wind down after a performance? How do you regain psychic stability after throwing yourself deeply into a role?

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