Theatre Thursday

Healing the “Walking Dead”- Tips for Sick Actors

School has started.  Rehearsals are in full swing.  You are feeling good about how things are going.  You know what I mean… you’ve been sounding good, holding up in rehearsals, keeping up with the demands of school and rehearsal.  Then, one morning, you wake up and your nose is running like it’s joined the cross country team.  Your throat is sore and scratchy.  You’ve had sleep, but you feel like a semi, loaded with a ton of bricks, just hit you.  This is not a normal teenage “I don’t want to get out of bed” moment.

You are sick… every performers nightmare.



Every singer, every actor, knows that even “just a cold” can make your vocal life a living nightmare.  For a performer, there is no such thing as “just a cold.”

These public service message is for the kids I love and coach at school as we work on sets, rehearse scenes, and try to make it through the day.  You know who you are… my lovable “walking dead.”  Illness is hitting kids at school with a vengeance!


In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to sing or act while sick.  Still, in our imperfect world, you should avoid singing and projecting while sick.  Here is what tell my students.

Do NOT sing if:

  • You have any malady that directly affects your throat or lower respiratory system (strep throat, laryngitis, swollen glands, bronchitis, mono, or a hacking cough).
  • You have the stomach flu.  Vomiting is super hard on the vocal cords.
  • You have anything else that severely inhibits the amount or quality of sound you normally put out.

Here are some things that might help:

  • Drink warm beverages and cooked food.  Lungs tend toward dampness during flu and cold season.  Warm beverages and warm foods will to remove the clammy cold feeling.  I like Emergen-C and a lemon, ginger, honey tea. ( I will share my concoction at the end of this post).  Throat Coat works for some people.  It tends to  dry out the throat.  The ingredients in it may be healing, but you need to be careful of the immediate side effects.  Personally, I stick with echinacea tea and my lemon/honey mixture.
  • Stay away from dairy and any other foods that cause an increase in mucus.  However, eat plenty of vegetable including leafy green vegetables.  There are many reasons why you should eat a healthy diet: getting the nutrients you need for one.  Make fruits, vegetable, whole grains, and and small amounts of lean meats your staple.  There is a reason that chicken soup is good for you when you are sick.
  • Hydration is crucial!  I find the coconut water is a smart choice.  It can help lubricate the throat. WATER! WATER! WATER!
  • SLEEP!  I know.  You are students.  You have homework.  You have social media.  You have entertainment (tv, games, texting, etc.).  However, nothing helps the body reboot and recover like sleep!  Sleep is the only instance where you can shut down and let the body miraculously heal.
  • Try to avoid coughing and clearing your throat.  These two thing irritate the delicate membranes of your vocal cords and can cause swelling.
  • WARM UP before rehearsal… even if the directors don’t gather the cast together for a formal warm up.  Start with a very quiet hum or hum related exercises.
  • Try gargling salt water.  It can help clear the phlegm that’s having a party on your vocal cords.
  • Don’t over do it.  You will not have the stamina you normally do when you are sick.  If you sing or rehearsal too much or too heavily when you are feeling under the weather, you will no doubt pay for it for the next few days.  Be very careful.
  • If the character you play yells, laughs or hoots and hollers, try speaking sections of music to avoid vocal fatigue.
  • The stronger your technique, the better your voice will hold up while you are sick.  This is why you practice.  This is why you should get help with a teacher or a coach.  Practice and coaching help you to condition and develop a healthy vocal system.
  • Put yourself on vocal rest… don’t make a sound for a few days.  I like to call is a vocal nap.  It just gives your vocal cords and your body a break and a chance to recover.  Get a white board and have fun!
  • Remain calm.  Recovery is much easier when you feel peaceful and calm and relaxed and healthy on the inside.
  • Wash your hands!  Your parents are right.  The world is full of germs and we come in contact with millions of them every single day.  Give your immune system a hand and kill the germs before they get to you.  Refrain from touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze – preferably with a tissue or the inside of your elbow.  Then, be nice… put your nasty tissues in the trash… just saying.

honey lemon ginger tea-8

This is the lemon/ginger/honey tea.


I cut up fresh lemons into slices.  I slice fresh ginger.  I layer the lemon slices and ginger and honey in a canning jar.  I let it sit for awhile (at least over night).  I take a couple spoonfuls of the mixture and add it to a mug of hot water.  I drink and sip to my hearts content.


I have other concoctions, but I will blog those on an other day.

Now… get better!

I just came from rehearsal and “their dropping like flies over there.”

2 thoughts on “Healing the “Walking Dead”- Tips for Sick Actors”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.