Acting Tips for the Young Actor
Imagination and the young actor. One very important tool to develop is your imagination. Acting is play, and the imagination is such an obvious tool to use when you are playing and yet most actors do not use this simple and powerful tool. If you can imagine, you do not need any emotional or mental tricks to prop up your performance. How do you become a prince of Denmark who mourns the loss of his murdered father? Use your imagination. What kind of world is London in the eighteenth century for a poor pie shop owner, who is also a woman, and on her own? Use your imagination. What would it be like to live in another country, another time, in another body? You trust yourself and use your imagination. If you are currently involved in a play, there are things like consonants, upward inflections, tempo, emotion and character to think of, but if you imagine how that person would talk and move and what inspires that character to speak the lines that he or she does, a lot of the technical tricks will fall into place. If you imagine what the character is trying to tell the audience, what the charcter is trying to tell her mother, his girlfriend, or him or herself, then the world of acting will open up to you. Most young actors do not use their imaginations nearly enough. They don’t work at it. Turn off the television, put away the Ipod, forget facebook for awhile, and do something that engages the imagination like reading, or walking, or sitting in a field of flowers. Take time out of your life to think and to imagine. Your task as an actor, is to convince the audience that you are the character you are playing. If you can’t convince yourself, how can you convince anyone else?
Imagination is a powerful tool. Use it!
Observe other people
Observation and the actor. Hamlet says, in his acting advice to the players; ‘ Hold the Mirror up to Nature’. Can you do that? Can you reflect reality? Can you mirror the characteristics, mannerisms, voice and actions of real people. Observe other people and note how they move and how they talk. Listen to their speech patterns. Watch what happens physically to them as they get expressive. Watch and learn. Acting is the study of human nature. Take what you have seeen in real life and apply it to your acting. When a person sits do they lounge, or do they sit up straight? In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Puck calls the actors ‘mimics’. Actor’s mimic real-life people. In fact, learning to mimic other people’s voices and movements, is all some other actors do. The more successful an actor is at holding up the mirror to another person, the more he or she seems to submerge themselves in that character. When looking at a role, think of it in terms of real people that you have seen, and work on the outward voice, movement and characterisitcs of that particular person. In that way, you are not imagining you are the character from the inside out, but from the outside in. Carefully constructed characters based on observation can be a very effective way of creating your on-stage character. You will learn from real-life character studies how people change speeds in their voices, how they punctuate sentences, how they end sentences in upward inflections if they want to be heard and dwindle off if they don’t really want to be heard or if they have lost their way. Observe the stillness of a real person in a time of crisis, the way emotions are betrayed in their voice. Observation will teach you how a person moves in real life, how they relax, what happens to them physically if they are upset, how someone moves when they want something and how someone moves when they are rejecting someone or something. As an actor, be the mirror that reflects human nature.
Don’t fake it
Actors and faking it. One thing you should never do when working on a character is to do it as you have seen other actors do it. For one thing, you won’t do it as well so why bother, and for another, it is like cheating on a test. You haven’t really learned how to do the part. You are not holding the mirror up to nature, but rather you are holding up the mirror to a copy of human nature. The view is more distorted. Young actors will often say, I saw so and so do it like this in a movie. Now, there is nothing wrong with looking at how other actors might have done the piece and learning a trick or two, but to not think and blindly copy everything another actor has done is to not do your homework. Even if you get away with it, why bother? You are only cheating yourself. You are not seeing yourself in the part, you are seeing another actor, in fact; you are seeing yourself as that other actor.
A subsequent point and a worse offense, is to act generally how you think an actor would act while doing your audition piece. In other words, some young actors will affect phony English accents while they are auditioning for Shakespeare. I am sure that’s what they think they have seen on television or in the movies but it is not borne out of careful consideration. There is a phenomenom of acting which certainly pops up in community theatre, of acting on top of other layers of acting. Some people act all the time in every day life, and when they try to act in a play they have no clear vision because they are supporting two roles; the one in real life and the one they are doing in the show. It becomes a murky perception of the reality needed for acting. As in all arts forms, the pretend actors are everywhere, but they are not very good. They like the idea of being an actor, of living the lifestyle, of even pretending that they are actors but they are not. Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream calls the actors shadows; ‘If we shadows have offended’. To pretend that you are an actor, to have one role built on top of another, is to be as Hamlet says ‘the shadow of a shadow.’ The actor’s whole person, inside and out, is the canvas on which a role is created, where a character is constructed. The canvas needs to be clean, free from the remnants of other roles, and not already stained with the colours left over from always pretending one is an actor. Don’t pretend to be an actor, be one. Use yourself as the mirror to human nature, and keep that mirror clean and untarnished from fake acting.