How to Stay Cool While Performing in the Summer Heat

Now that summer is in full swing you’re probably performing plenty of outdoor shows. Client’s looove to host events outside. Performing outside can be a very enjoyable experience for both you and the audience, but it can also be an extremely difficult without the proper preparation.

Here are 8 tips to help you stay cool while performing in the summer heat:

1. Avoidance

Unless the weather is absolutely perfect, usually you’re better off doing the show indoors. There will be less distractions for the audience, you’ll have more control over the performing environment, creating a better performance in the end. Once you explain this to the client you may be able to move the party indoors for your show.

Find out during the booking process if there’s an alternative plan for bad weather. Is the show going to happen rain or shine, will it be cancelled, or will it be moved to another location? Find out all of these details in advance so there aren’t any surprises on the day of the show.

2. Acceptance

If you have to perform outside find out if you can be in the shade somehow. Sometimes you might be able to perform under a tent, under a tree, or against the side of a building.

Keep in mind that even though YOU might have shade the audience won’t be. If you’re performing at a festival the stage might be covered but the next available shade space will be under trees that are far away. You can bet that the audience is going to stay under these trees instead of sitting close to your stage. This distance between you and the audience is going to kill your interaction and make your show more difficult. In these situations you might have to setup closer to the audience to get the rapport that you need for the show.

shade under the trees

[ Above: I had a tent to perform under at this show but the audience all sat under the shade of the tree’s. So I left my tent and walked closer to the audience for better interaction. ]

Arrive extra early to your show. [Article: Get to your gig on time every time] Having more time will mean you won’t be rushed. You’ll have an opportunity to re-park the car, talk to the sound tech, get everything setup, double check your props, and still have a quick moment to breathe before you go on stage. You can also use this extra time to change into your costume.

Remember that audiences will also respond to your show the best if they are comfortable. If possible, keep the audience looking away from the direction of the sun. If you need to change the layout so that you’re looking into the sun that will be ideal. If people need to use their hands to shield the sun from their eyes they won’t be able to clap and children won’t be able to interact with the action on stage. The less distractions there are for the audience the better.

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[ Above: At this show recently when I arrived they had all the chair setup so that the audience would be watching me with a view of the lake behind me. The only problem is that the audience would have also been looking directly into the sun. Instead I had them turn all the chairs 90º so that the sun was to our side. I was still kind of looking into the sun but that’s better than the audience looking into the sun. The only reason I was able to make this change before the audience arrived is because I was there early with extra time to spare. ]

3. The Elements

Outdoor shows doesn’t just mean hot sunshine. It can also mean wind, rain, hail, sand, dirt, grass, and mud. Check the weather forecast the day before and plan accordingly. Pack additional clothes if necessary. Pack additional tricks if they can’t be done under certain conditions.

4. UV Protection

Protect your skin by wearing sunscreen. The weather changes dramatically between the time you leave your home and your show start time. It’s a good idea to wear sun screen even if it isn’t sunny outside. You can still get a sun burn even through the clouds.

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[Above: Nothing is worse than getting a sunburn and having to do a show the next day. That’s me performing at a wedding with a sun burnt face! ]

5. Stay Hydrated

Drink lots of water the night before to get pre-hydrated. If you’re on the verge of heat-stroke / sun-stroke it will be because your body is already dehydrated. Drink lots of water the day before AND the day of the show.  Rather than taking huge gulps of water before your show take small sips to wet your mouth then you won’t be rushing for the bathroom after your show.

6. Clothing

Up until recently I always wore my performing costume no matter what. That included dress shoes, black pants, and a button up dress shirt. However, recently I’ve discovered that the more comfortable I am on stage the better the show will be. If it’s boiling hot outside the audience will forgive you for wearing weather appropriate clothing.

In hot weather switch to light colored clothes, switch your jacket for a vest, roll up your sleeves, wear a t-shirt, invest in breathable fabrics, and switch your dress shoes to more comfortable sneakers. If you’re a sweaty person don’t forget to pack an extra set of socks, undershirt, or dress shirt to change in between shows. Don’t forget the deodorant too.

Zombie Ball

[ Above: Performing for a couple thousand people at an outdoor festival in a t-shirt. I started the show with my suit jacket on then removed it during the show. ]

7. Show Material

Performing outside can be exhausting when the elements are against you. Try sticking to the material that your most comfortable with will make it as easy to possible on you. Hot weather is going to make the audience less responsive and so its going to require my energy from you to get the reactions you want.

Try to minimize your equipment and props as well. The less you have the manage the easier it will be.

8. My Biggest Fan

Occasionally when I’m performing at festivals I’ll also bring along my “Wind Machine” fan that I picked up from WalMart.

Big Fan

[ Above: My BIGGEST Fan! ]

It has three different speeds. For extra hot days its just the thing that’s made all the difference in the world. Having a slight breeze can make you drastically more comfortable on stage. Keep in mind though that with a fan you do need to be conscious of your props so that they don’t blow away.

 I hope you found these tips helpful. If you have any tips for surviving outdoor summer shows, please leave them in the comments below!