A performance day in life of an MSU lead actor

When audiences sit down for a play, they only see a masked version of the actors and the polished production they work to create. It draws a viewer to wonder what a day in the life of a lead actor may be. Miles Cowan, a senior at Minnesota State University, Mankato, plays Tartuffe in the Theater Department’s production of “Tartuffe”.

8 a.m. Monday Morning: Wake up and make a cup of tea.  

 “First of all, I’ll start my day with a nice cup of tea or a nice hot cup of coffee,” said Cowan. “Hot tea is good for the voice, which is our biggest tool as actors.”  

9 a.m.: Go to classes

From there, Cowan attends classes before his performance. His first class of the day is Acting Scene Studies, where Cowan observes students and gives them suggestions on where they could improve.

“I’m there performing and I’m watching scenes and we talking through [situations], giving suggestions to our peers who are performing,” said Cowan. “Then I have Theater Management after that, which is the money side of theater, the business side.” 

His third class of the day is History of Western Theater, followed by a music skills class. He then sneaks in dinner quickly before the bulk of the day.  

6 p.m.: Call to theater  

Although the show doesn’t start until 7:30, Cowan has various preparations to complete beforehand, the first of which is makeup.

“Makeup isn’t necessarily one of my strong suits, so I like to take a little bit of extra time,” shared Cowan. “My character’s a bit more sinister and evil, so [the theater department] wants me to cover a nice foundation of something a bit more pale and do an angular, darker cheekbone.”  

After makeup comes costume which includes wigs and tights. Cowans then warms up with a series of exercises and tongue twisters, his favorite being ‘Will you wait, Willy Wonka?’ 

“You’re supposed to over exaggerate the movement of your mouth and your enunciation, and that really exercises the muscles of your lips and tongue to help you really be able to move them quickly and still hit the noises accurately,” shared Cowan.  

Before the cast heads on stage, there’s a group chant they all participate in. 

“We will stomp around a bit and we’ll use our voice and then we say, ‘One, two, three, team theater!’ because we’re a team too,” said Cowan. “I don’t know where [the chant] came from, but it’s always been here for me, so I just do it. It’s a good time and it really gets us all hyped up before the show.” 

7:30 p.m.: The performance 

Following the show, the cast strips their costumes, greet the audience, and head home. Once Cowan makes it back home, he’ll lay down and watch a movie or TV to unwind if he doesn’t have other work to complete.

“The Theatre Department here is busy, so there’s always work to be done. So I will often say ‘I need to do a little bit of work before I go to bed,’” shared Cowan. “Without fail, I’m always really hungry after a show, so often I’ll make a bowl of pasta or throw a pizza in the oven to wind down, but it’s also as my reward for the performance in a way.”  

After going through this exhausting day, Cowan heads to bed and is ready to do it all again on the next performance day.

Header photo: Miles Cowan, who plays the titular character in “Tartuffe,” has long days of classes before performing onstage. (Courtesy photo)

Write to: Lilly Schmidt at lillian.schmidt@mnsu.edu

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