The Five P's of Performing
Posted Tuesday, March 29th 2022 by Arbender Robinson
Arbender Robinson, Broadway Veteran and NYVC team member, shares his special brand of uplifting wisdom and encouragement...
Like many of our readers, I dreamed of being a performer. Many laughed when I shared this dream because it seemed like an impossible task. I was not blessed at birth with immense talent. I had to work extremely hard to master even the most simple and basic performance skills. After a great deal of struggle, intense training, and numerous failures, I am proud to say that I have made the Broadway stage my home for nearly twenty years!
I have appeared in close to a dozen productions on Broadway and have had the honor of appearing in over 5,000 performances (and counting.) While performing eight times a week, I learned various lessons along the way from some of our greatest Broadway legends. I feel honored and blessed to share my experiences with fellow performers and teachers.
I recently lead a talkback with a group of young actors, and I was asked, “What is your secret to having a great career?”
I sat quietly for a moment, then told the story of The Five P’s an excellent teacher told me early in my training. She, Joyce van Oss, always said there were Five P’s to Create an Outstanding Performance:
Pride: A feeling of satisfaction derived from one’s achievements and from those with whom one is closely associated. Always have pride in your work, the work of your colleagues, cast members, and crew.
Poise: Graceful and elegant bearing in a person. Balance and equilibrium. Poise must always be present in your choices and actions on and off stage.
Professionalism: The competence and skill expected from a professional. A professional performer always treats this craft with respect.
Practice: The repeated application or use of an idea, belief, or method leading to a habitual or expected way of doing something. You must practice your craft as this profession will not come easily.
Phun: Remember to have phun! Finally, go out there and have fun! Just be sure to spell it with a ph!
What about Perfection? Maybe one day, Perfection will join the list as number 6, but let's get the definition of perfect straight. Perfection is achieved when equal amounts of passion and precision meet.
Perfection never looks the same from day to day. What was perfect today, will look completely different tomorrow when you create a new version of perfection. Once you grasp this concept, your rehearsals, auditions, concert work, and performance will lead you to the next level.
It is indeed possible to be practically perfect with every performance or audition, and because it's possible, it is expected. I am sure this may sound like a great deal of pressure; however, perfection is possible, plausible, and phun!
There are several performers filled with passion for the craft. Many have dreams of being a performer since childhood, and some develop a passion for the art through training, hearing a particular song, or seeing a certain show.
The next tool on the quest for perfection is Precision. Practicing precision on our journey is very important. Similarly to passion, Precision takes many forms as well. Use precision to deliver text or lyrics. Be precise in your vocal dynamics and acting choices. Give yourself goals. When Precision meets Passion, Perfection is achieved!
Sometimes your Passion for a song or project is at an intense level, but you may not give the same energy to your precision. Or there may be times that you are Precise in your approach without Passion for the project. Perfection is achieved when equal amounts of Passion and Precision are met.
I am currently in the Broadway production of The Book of Mormon, playing a main role nightly and understudying for other roles. In particular, one role has caused me a great deal of stress. I know what is required of me, but for some reason I have not found a way to relax into the role.
Suddenly the dreaded call came. I was needed to perform the challenging role. The nerves immediately flared. I told myself that I could do this, and went on stage. I performed in the show to the best of my ability. It was...okay, but was it perfect? NO!
I had precision and may have given a good show to the audience, but it was not perfect. Due to my lack of passion, not a lack of passion for the show or the art form, but a lack of passion for myself. I allowed nerves and doubt to overshadow all the precise work I put into the process.
I went on again in this role a week later. This time I allowed myself to celebrate my Precision and fully celebrate my Passion. Can you guess the outcome? I experienced The Five P's along with the bonus of being practically perfect in the moment.
Now get out there and have phun!
Musical Theatre Associate
Arbender Robinson is currently the Musical Theatre Coaching Associate at New York Vocal Coaching, and Co-Director of New York Acting Coaching. No stranger to the stage, Mr. Robinson has appeared in ten (10) Broadway musicals. He made his Broadway debut in the Tony Award winning production of Hairspray; where he covered the role of Seaweed. In the original cast of Disney’s The Little Mermaid he covered the role of Prince Eric. He also served as the Dance Captain and Swing for the Broadway revival of Hair and appeared in the Broadway revival of Ragtime. His credits continue with Disney’s The Lion King, one of Broadway’s longest running and all-time highest grossing show. Later, he was in the original cast of Beautiful- The Carole King Musical and the 2014 revival of Les Miserables and as the cover for Marius. He is also the first African American to ever play Marius on Broadway. Arbender was also in the original cast of Shuffle Along and performed with many Broadway Legends including Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell. The list of legends continue with Director George C Wolfe and Choreographer Savion Glover.
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