Although there are many acting challenges, I wanted to share some of the ones I’ve faced as an actor and teacher. Each one of us has our strengths. Some actors can read a script only a few times and retain it forever. Others’ vocal warm-up consists of a cigarette, a Red Bull and an hour of rolling on the ground. While it is important to recognize your strengths, we must also work on our challenges if we want to be great actors. Let me share some common problems actors face and offer suggestions for overcoming them.
We find it frustrating when people ask us, “great work, how do you learn all those lines?”. Don’t they realize how much more work goes into putting a show on a stage! Learning lines can be difficult. It’s a huge challenge. It can cause a lot of stress and lead to disconnected, mechanical acting.
Planning and time are the keys to my success. Although I’m not good at learning lines, I’m good at planning. I have set dates for when I want to be out of the book and plan my route. You should allow yourself three weeks if you know it takes 3 weeks to learn lines. You can take a few days if it takes you that long.
Overcoming fears is the best thing to do for actors. Fears are what keeps us from doing great acting. It could be limiting our emotions, preventing us from connecting with other actors, or making us appear superficial or safe when performing. While some people’s fears don’t require having a bucket ready for every audition, they can still hinder their potential as actors. We must do our best to alleviate these fears. Acceptance and cooperation with these fears is the best thing.
Practice is the answer. As with all things, the more you practice on stage and screen, it becomes second nature. We can build upon our experience. You can encourage hypnotherapy and acupuncture, but you need to do more. Here’s the catch: You can’t play it safe.
Consider the Circumstances
The other day, two wonderful actors were working on Revolutionary Road scenes in class. One line in which Frank (played brilliantly by Leonardo DiCaprio) refers to two friends who are outside waiting: Milly and Shep. Who the hell are these people? The teacher helped the students detail these names and got them to replace Shep or Milly with someone from their real lives. It worked. These two names, which the actor had previously rushed to get over, suddenly came to life and had meaning.
This is the key to great acting! We must work to bring people, places and events to life. In reality, they may be completely imaginary and have no meaning to us. It doesn’t matter if you are a prop-holder or a scene partner. It is important to be able to relate to any scene.
When actors reach out, emotion is more prominent than any other. How can I connect with emotion? How do I cry? What can I do to be more emotionally? The best thing about acting is that almost all major methods emphasize emotion. Emotion is a byproduct of pursuing what you want in a scene.
While we all want to feel our emotions, it is not the goal. Many people have experienced tragedy and felt numb, pragmatic, or angry. It is possible to be unpredictable with our emotions, which should guide how we act. Focusing on achieving certain emotions, we can become complacent and lose the story.