3..2..1.. CRY!
January 23, 2014 3:14 PM   Subscribe

How to cry on command

I am acting in a play where crying is 'preferred' but it takes me ages to work up the emotions to cry and I'm worried that on the day of the production (we have two shows per day) I won't be able to cry... Are there any acting tips and tricks that help with this?

Also acting tips in general would be very much appreciated.

Thank you!!
posted by dinosaurprincess to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Rub mentholated lip balm or Vicks Vaporub under your eyes.
posted by milk white peacock at 3:20 PM on January 23, 2014

Pulling a nose hair out invariably makes me cry. Or holding listerine in my mouth too long.
posted by disillusioned at 3:25 PM on January 23, 2014

When you are in the moment, you'd be surprised. I recently directed a little film project, and what I wrote to be a minor tiff between friends turned into tears on set. Like, almost to the point that it was too dramatic to use. When you are actually acting, emotions can be surprisingly intense.

If the waterworks don't happen, though, what's the stage setup like? Unless it's a very intimate theater space I wouldn't worry too much about actually crying real actual tears. You might want to practice making your face look like you're crying, or work out some blocking where you could put your head in your hands or something like that.

Rapid intakes of breath are also a good trick.

Watch some TV shows where people cry. You will notice that a lot of the time, if you scrutinize faces, the actor isn't really crying for real. (TV is better for this, because movies have more time to get the Big Crying Scene just perfect, and films are meant to be seen on a much bigger screen.)
posted by Sara C. at 3:27 PM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

In the scene, concentrate on trying very hard not to cry. Pushing against the prevailing emotion is such a powerful thing to watch. If you're unable to cry, then you can just be still...total silence onstage is disconcerting, and if the scene is written powerfully enough, the audience will hold.

Also, by working hard not to cry, you'll often find your body will "betray" you and the tears will come.
posted by xingcat at 3:47 PM on January 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Watch some TV shows where people cry. You will notice that a lot of the time, if you scrutinize faces, the actor isn't really crying for real. (TV is better for this, because movies have more time to get the Big Crying Scene just perfect, and films are meant to be seen on a much bigger screen.)


I majored in Acting (stage, not film) and had many weeks of homework that involved practicing crying. You can absolutely practice it, it starts with making yourself cry by thinking of the saddest situation, or listening to whatever music makes you cry, etc., for hours on end. Then slowly learning to do the same thing while you're distracted (say, in a busy hallway at an audition.) Then slowly being able to do it at the drop of a hat. But in practice, what you're really doing by making yourself cry a lot (aside from those lucky/messed up few who can truly cry on command every time) is learning all about the physical signs/actions/responses of crying and replicating them. Tears are really the least important part. Make yourself cry multiple times and pay attention to what it does to your voice, your face, etc. Then learn to do that while saying your lines, whether you are really crying or not.

(This is a bias of the techniques I was trained in, but remember: acting is not about whether or not you feel stuff. It's about making the audience feel stuff. They're paying for the experience.)
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:00 PM on January 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

I agree with Sara C, I think when you're up there and all that adrenalin is flowing, you become the character. In the moment, who knows what will happen.

I suppose another trick is think of something really sad, but you're acting, there won't be time for that.
posted by Youremyworld at 4:01 PM on January 23, 2014

For film projects, I've seen people have air gently blown into their eye from a drinking straw.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:06 PM on January 23, 2014

Don't discount the old standby: look directly into a stage light and don't blink for as long as you can. Your eyes will tear up a bit, and that feeling can help trigger actual crying as well.
posted by davejay at 5:06 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Two things:

In a production of Romeo and Juliet I did a long time ago ( I played Montague, Romeo's father), I found that watching the other characters tearing up caused me to tear up. So that might work.

On the other hand, if you are feeling the emotions for real in the moment, it shouldn't really matter whether or not you are crying- the scene will read genuinely to the audience anyway.

The wise director of this production of Romeo and Juliet told me not to worry about crying, and just be in the moment. Everything else would take care of itself.

Hope this helps.
posted by wittgenstein at 5:25 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I can cry on command, literally within 30 seconds. The trick is to contort your face as you would if you were really crying, pulling your mouth and brow down, widening your eyes. My eyes get watery and I can make the tears flow in less than a minute. I don't normally think about anything at all. It's basically just muscle memory.
posted by nikitabot at 7:46 PM on January 23, 2014

I do the same thing as nikitabot, but it's mostly in the eyes and nose. It almost feels like I'm going to sneeze? My nostrils flare and my eyes go kind of fuzzy - maybe they are a little crossed. Anyway, instant waterworks.

With that said, this only gets you the tears. It doesn't get you the emotion, which is probably more important for your purposes. What makes you cry in real life? I have some go-to lines from movies and poems that make me cry every time. I tend to go that route, because at least for me, real-life sad memories are...not helpful. I made that mistake exactly once (also in a production of Romeo and Juliet!), and I got way too upset and ended up hyperventilating and uh, it was a bad scene.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 8:51 PM on January 23, 2014

You can't force yourself to have emotions. Trying to create an emotion from nothing (as Declan Donnelan says) is as impossible as trying to shit through your ear.

I'd say the best way to be present in the moment (and that can allow the tears happen) is to focus on the circumstances of the character. What is happening to the character in that moment? what is making him/her cry? What are the events that have lead up to this moment, and most importantly how does your character see/perceive them? Do the work there, to really see the way the character sees the world in that moment (as their hopes/dreams/goals fall apart, as they lose the love of their life or the only person who believes in them betrays them etc), and place yourself in those circumstances.

These other tricks, of staring at lights, pinching nosehairs, etc, are going to get you waterworks, but without any sense of authenticity. Or more likely, doing these things will pull you out of the character and make your performance feel false to the audience. You can't really control how you'll feel at any particular day (or on the two show days, especially) but what you can do is really do a lot of careful homework and really see/experience the world through the character's eyes, and if that homework is in place, you're more likely to cry each time the script calls for it, because you'll truly be able to understand that in that moment, the character you're playing can do nothing else except cry.
posted by geryon at 9:06 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm more like nikitablot and goodbyewaffles. Open the back of your throat as wide as you can, like a yawn and hold it there. Like smiling is supposed to lift your spirits, cry face can help you cry. If a more cerebral approach works for you, that's perfectly fine, too. I think it's important to cry as much as you can to prepare. If you are entering in a heightened state of emotion, you should be able to work up to tears before you come on, thanks to your practice. If something blindsides you in the scene, then no - don't force it or do tricks to get water on your face - just be truthful. Don't be afraid of spit and snot. Cast off any notions of wanting to look good or attractive because you are onstage, or worry that your castmates find your preparation strange or unseemly. Have fun!
posted by rainbaby at 8:26 AM on January 24, 2014

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