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The Powerful Secret to Great Emotional Acting

3672794277_f42d28a647_oThe best actors know that part of the process involves truly understanding your character’s motivation and inner thoughts. Find out how to get started in this guest post by teacher Timothy S...

 

One of the most effective ways to learn acting is knowing never to accept just the facts when it comes to relationships. The ability to tap into the emotions of your character is the foundation of great acting. That foundation is, in turn, constructed upon the bedrock of understanding your character’s relationship to everybody else. And threatening the collapse of the entire structure is a tiny little hairline crack known as “Just the Facts, Ma’am.”

A Simple Question
What is the relationship between you and your father? Simple question, right? Learn to answer that question regardless of who the other character is and you learn acting, right? Think again. Let’s look at that simple question again and ask a few more questions: What is the relationship between you and your father? Is it the same now as it was when you were ten? What about when you were 16? Is the relationship between a father and a child the same when the child is 25 and when the child is 50? Probably not.

You Don’t Learn Acting By Learning Facts
Again, remember that you should never accept a simple factual statement as the answer to the following question: What is your character’s relationship to _______? No actor ever successfully tapped into a character’s emotions by providing answers to that question along the lines of “She’s my boss that I can’t stand” or “I’m the daughter he never knew he had who tracked him down 20 years after I was born” or even “I’m a hired assassin and he’s the person I’m supposed to kill.”

Facts don’t tell you anything about the emotional tenor of a relationship. If you discover nothing else on your lifelong journey to learn acting, you need to uncover the buried treasure that is realizing the power of finding the emotional tenor of relationships.

The Grasp Slippery
Of course, you need to know whether the other character is your wife or your sister, but you can’t stop there. It’s your job to figure out exactly what the nature of your relationships to the other characters are during the particular time in which the scene takes place. And that relationship may be completely different in the next scene, even if the next scene only takes place a few minutes later. Because of the fluid, surprising nature of emotions and their slippery grasp on relationships, it is quite simply never, ever enough to be satisfied with a factual description.

As an example of this, let’s use a really extreme situation. The factual description of our two characters is this: one character is the President of the United States and the other is a 10-year-old boy. From this description we would probably expect that the President will be more knowledgeable, in control of his emotions, and the dominant member of the relationship.

But what if the scene took place after the crash of Air Force One into a dense forest area? The President is the sole survivor and as if that weren’t bad enough, he has a broken leg. The boy is the first person to the scene and the only hope the President has of making it out of the woods. Now what is the relationship between these two? How has the expected emotional tenor of that relationship changed? Who is more likely to be in control of their emotions? Has the 10-year-old become the dominant member of the relationship? Keep in mind that the factual description of relationship between these character has not changed one single bit. Would you be prepared to tap into your emotions to play the scenes if all you drew upon was that factual description?

The Never-Ending War Story 
Your dream to learn acting is doomed if you don’t become fully aware of just how little the facts of a relationship tell you about the emotions involved in that relationship. Relationships and the emotions that drive them are characterized by a constant give-and-take and daily — perhaps even hourly — struggles for control and power. Sometimes one person has the upper hand and the next day that power has shifted to the other person.

Because of the time constraints inherent in storytelling, emotions and relationships are even more unstable. That shift of power that might have taken course over a year in real life may play out over the course of a week on the screen or over the course of a night on the stage. Simply knowing the facts of the connection between your character and others will be of little help when it comes to tapping into the emotions driving the erratic nature of those relationships.

Where to Go From Here
Rather than thinking of relationships as this solid structure built around a fact, why not start thinking of them in terms of ever-shifting emotions revealed through role playing? Creating a character is a process of role-playing within role-playing, in a way that taps into the real emotional core of a scene. That process is best facilitated by an experienced acting teacher, who can help you tap into a full range of emotions.

Ready to get started? Find an acting teacher near you here!

TimothyTimothy S. teaches writing online. He has his B.A. in English from the University of West Florida, and was twice named to Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers. Learn more about Timothy here!

 

 

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audition tips

Audition Tips: 4 Things You Need Besides Talent

audition tips

So you’ve been preparing for an audition for a few months, and the big day has finally come. But even if you have the talent to back up your performance, there are a few things you’ll need to remember to get on your potential director’s good side. Read on as St. Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. explains…

 

Auditions can be the most unpleasant part of being a performing artist. But with great preparation and forethought, they can also be the most valuable and exciting part. Auditioning shows us clearly and quickly where our strengths and our challenges lie, and they can be opportunities for us to “put our face out there,” in other words, to showcase our talent within our communities and within the small world of the performing arts.

But talent alone rarely gets us the gigs that we seek. Here are four audition tips that go beyond bringing that talent of yours.

1. Arrive on time.
This might be most important of all of the audition tips. I’ve known performers who forgot sheet music or the words in their monologue to pass performance exams and get coveted roles, but I’ve never known a person to be late and to have a successful audition. First, it puts you, the auditioner, into a harried and stressed state. An acting teacher once taught me that a performer should come into the space in which he’s to perform 10 to 15 minutes beforehand. This allows you to get used to the feeling and energy of that space, to focus and to visualize an amazing audition. Secondly, it shows the director or audition team that you’re responsible, dependable and that you take the production seriously. They want to know that you’ll be at rehearsals and performances on time, too.

2. Be tremendously confident.
A vocal coach of mine once told me a personal story of hers to teach me a lesson about the importance of self-confidence. She flew from Virginia to New York to audition for the graduate program at the Manhattan School of Music. When she arrived at the college, she found that the administration hadn’t reserved a room for her in which to warm up, a standard accommodation at that level. The accomplished singer ended up singing vocalises in the women’s restroom. When she got to the stage to sing her prepared audition, she was so frustrated that she almost felt as though she didn’t care whether or not she got the spot in the illustrious school. She sang with such confidence and resolve that immediately upon ending the audition, the panel offered her a full scholarship on the spot. This timid and soft-spoken woman then told me, “You have to be almost cocky.” Please take note of the work “almost.” You own the stages on which you audition for the time that you’re given. Smile, then use that smile to show that you’re not only competent, but passionate about exactly what you’re doing.

3. Bring your listening ears.
So many otherwise great performing artists that I’ve known have had poor auditions because they just can’t seem to listen well to the judges or their crew, like the choreographer. You might assume that every audition and every dance is easy and every director is the same. Or you might not be able to stop talking and goofing off with the other performers. Either way, you won’t make a great impression, no matter how good or experienced you are. Instead, focus and be respectful. Being mostly quiet will also be an outstanding help to running an internal monologue and tapping into your emotions.

4. Be a team player.
This audition tip is meant to balance the aforementioned one about being tremendously confident. Make sure you are willing and open to almost anything. Believing in yourself and your gifts doesn’t mean being unwilling to perform small roles, for example, or singing something other than what you prepared, or reading cold with an actor that you don’t get along with. Performing arts auditions can be strange and spontaneous events. Successful, happy artists learn to go with the flow.

Every director and audition panel is different, but most tend to look for talented performers who are also responsible, focused, and radiantly confident. Stories abound in the opera world of young, beautiful divas found screaming at another performer backstage or showing up to auditions late or even plucking hairs out of director’s heads, then being given starring roles in the most opulent opera houses around the world. But those days are over. Production teams now want to work with people who are willing to work hard with others, those with a balance of humility and self-assuredness. With these audition tips, your best audition may be ahead of you.

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in St. Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!

 

 

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pink

8 Movies Every Actor Should Study

Do you love acting and want to improve your skills? Acting lessons are a great place to start — but you can also learn a lot simply from curling up on the couch for movie night! Take a look at these eight movies you can study to learn about important acting techniques from your favorite on-screen actors and actresses.

Instinct

Instinct is a natural tendency to, in character, behave in a certain way. All actors have a bit of instinct – some more than others. For example, Peter Sellers’ success in the lead role of the 1963 film The Pink Panther is often attributed to his improvisation and strong instincts for the role of Inspector Clouseau – including the well-known (and hilarious) globe-spinning scene.

Peter Sellers in The Pink Panther

Peter Sellers in The Pink Panther

Too young for years of training to hone their skills, many child actors also have excellent instincts. An example is the youngest-ever Best Actress Oscar nominee (2013) Quvenzhané Wallis. In Beasts of the Southern Wild, six-year-old Wallis held audiences spellbound with her poise, charisma, and natural talent. Her instincts are inspiring for anyone hoping to improve their acting techniques.

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Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild

Character Development

Beyond instinct, most actors spend a lot of time developing the character they’re playing. Some actors even go as far as dropping everything in their day-to-day life to “become” the character, using method acting techniques. In the making of the 2005 film Walk the Line, actor Joaquin Phoenix immersed himself in his character to successfully portray famed country singer Johnny Cash. For the role of June Carter Cash, Reese Witherspoon learned to sing and play the autoharp in order to perform live in the film. Witherspoon won numerous awards for the role, including an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role.

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Johnny Cash in Walk the Line

Stage Direction, Blocking, and Physicality

Acting involves paying attention to stage directions and blocking – your positioning, movement, and body language – some of which are outlined in the script, while others are not. These stage directions often convey a character’s emotional and physical state. For example, poor posture could mean insecurity, or a stumbling gait could mean the character is intoxicated, old, or injured.

In the 2003 film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, actor Johnny Depp showed off this acting technique in various scenes, from his mischievous swagger to his quick-thinking rescue of the fainting Elizabeth.

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Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,

The 2006 comedy-drama The Devil Wears Prada is another great film to observe this technique. Meryl Streep’s role as an ego-centric and cold magazine editor is defined and then reinforced by her demeanor, walk, and gestures. Anne Hathaway’s initially insecure character evolves throughout the film to become a confident but stressed young professional; Hathaway’s role relies heavily on physicality to show this transformation.

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Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada

Projection, Diction, and Breathing

It isn’t just singers that need vocal training! Actors need to learn how to project and enunciate, and some roles require additional training in learning specific accents or vocal tics. For example, in the 1980 biographical film Coal Miner’s Daughter, Sissy Spacek plays a convincing Loretta Lynn based on her ability to incorporate the singer’s speaking style.

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Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner’s Daughter

The 2005 film Brokeback Mountain demonstrates the skills of actors Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Randy Quaid in assuming their characters’ physicality and speaking styles. Ledger’s character has a quiet nature and a distinct rural Wyoming accent, and his spot-on performance earned him several award nominations.

Ledger and Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain

Ledger and Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain

Listening and Reacting

Acting is rarely a monologue. During your acting lessons or performance practice, you’ll learn to hone the skills of listening and reacting to acting partners. Think of the spark between acting duos like Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. One particular performance that epitomizes good listening and reacting is Robert Redford and Paul Newman co-starring in the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. They skillfully play off each other like old friends, especially during the ambush scene when they’re working as guards at a mining company.

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Robert Redford and Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

As an aspiring actor, there’s something you can learn in just about any movie you watch. What movies are your favorites? Leave a comment and let us know!

 

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Method Actors

3 Drama Games for Learning Method Acting

Drama Games For Method ActorsMethod acting requires you to fully embrace your transformation into your character. To create an authentic experience for your audience, you need to lose the speech inflections, facial expressions, and physical mannerisms that wouldn’t make sense. For example, when an actor plays a depressed man, his cynical speech won’t be convincing if he delivers it with perfect, confident posture.

When Hollywood stars stay in character between takes, or improv comedians wear disguises to interact with unwitting strangers, these actors are employing method acting techniques. You can follow in their footsteps by honing your method muscles with these easy, effective drama games.

Exercise Your Animal Instincts

Before you can transform your body to reflect a specific background or personality you must be fully aware of every inch of it. This exercise helps you do just that.

  • Pick an animal (this can be random).
  • Watch one closely: observe a pet up close or a zoo animal from afar, or simply watch wildlife documentaries.
  • Observe its behavior patterns, and if possible, how it reacts to you and other humans. Does it have a lot of energy? Is it shy and careful, or curious and hungry for attention? See if you can guess what it’s thinking.
  • Pay attention to the body parts you both share: hands, feet, eyes, etc. How does the animal use or hold them differently than you do? Do you make similar gestures in private, but not in public?
  • Perform as that animal. Show your audience how it would eat, fall asleep, play, etc. Lose social inhibitions; sit in unflattering positions if it’s more accurate. See if they can guess who you are.
  • After practicing on your own, portray that animal again. This time, there’s a twist: you have to stand upright and perform an actual monologue (or share a dialogue with someone else) as that animal.

By the final step, you’ll find yourself brainstorming specific ways to mimic the animal you chose. Instead of resorting to the obvious — distinct roars or squawks, crawling on all fours — drama games like this one force you to focus on the details. Stepping into a human character’s skin will feel easy after this!

The Coffee Cup Game

This tried-and-true game, an old favorite among acting coaches, will teach you how to ignore the limitations of your surroundings, and adjust your behaviors to accurately represent your character’s reality.

  • Sit down in front of a warm mug of coffee or hot chocolate.
  • Observe as much as you can without touching it; use your sense of sight and smell to figure out how big it is, how it must taste, and how heavy it will be.
  • Pick it up; were you right about the weight? Does it feel as smooth as you expected?
  • Switch it between your hands and hold it in different ways, noticing how your fingers, wrists, and arms adjust.
  • Sip it and hold it in your mouth, savoring its taste.
  • Swallow it, and notice how your body feels and moves as it goes down.
  • Put it down.
  • Repeat steps 4, 5, and 6 without the cup.

After enjoying the full sensory experience of a coffee mug, you should be able to immediately recreate your own behavior without it. The same thing happens with method acting; there’s just more time between you and the emotions you’re recreating.

Alone Time

To accurately recreate a character’s reality, you have to pretend you’re not performing at all. This isn’t easy, especially when you’re under a bright spotlight and have to exaggerate your voice or behaviors for a big audience. Plenty of drama games coax you into character, but this one actually requires you to be yourself; it’s the first step in adjusting your public behavior to create a private moment.

  • Imagine walls between you and your observers (classmates, instructor, friends who volunteer, etc.)
  • Think of something you usually do in private. This can be anything at all, as long as you normally stop doing it when someone walks into a room.
  • Do it! Dance with abandon, sing off-key, pick your wedgie, etc.

By stepping out of your comfort zone, you’ll be one step closer to stepping outside yourself the next time you perform.

Method actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis have decades of experience filling different characters’ shoes, and simulating senses and emotions they may not normally feel. They’re talented because they can successfully pull you into their movies, convincing you that fake knives actually cause them excruciating pain, or that a green-screen background is actually a monster they didn’t see coming. Drama games are still part of their arsenal today, in the form of rituals and off-set requests that keep them in character. Over time, you’ll develop your own arsenal of techniques to get into character; start now with these exercises!

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My_Left_Foot_Daniel_Day_Lewis

Top 5 Wildest Method Acting Techniques in Hollywood History

If you’ve ever watched an actor disappear into their role, shedding genuine tears or adopting mannerisms that aren’t their own, then you’ve seen method acting techniques in action. Most people think of this approach as “becoming a character,” and some actors do take that literally, pretending to actually be the person they’re playing. 

Method acting is taught everywhere from Hollywood to Broadway. But a few notable actors are well-known for taking it to award-winning extremes, making enormous physical and mental sacrifices in order to give realistic performances.

1. Daniel Day-Lewis – My Left Foot

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Daniel Day-Lewis is well-known for his extreme and hyper-realistic performances, but the most famous example of his method acting techniques is the role that won him the first of three Academy Awards. For My Left Foot, in which he portrayed a paralyzed artist, Day-Lewis lived in a cerebral palsy ward for eight weeks. He also spent the entirety of the film in a wheelchair; crew members had to carry him to each scene and spoon-feed him. According to The Telegraph, the Oscar wasn’t his only takeaway; he also ended up with two broken ribs as a result of all the time he spent slumped over in a chair.

2. Marlon Brando – The Men

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Today, the name Marlon Brando is synonymous with great acting. However, when Brando was preparing for his very first film role, he was desperate to give a realistic performance. His task: getting into character as a veteran who lost the use of his legs. Brando himself had a bad knee, but he was also rejected from military service in real life. To better understand the life of a paraplegic war hero, he stayed in a military hospital, just as the film’s screenwriter did. There, Brando spent two weeks using a wheelchair as he attended classes and therapy sessions with patients.

3. Adrien Brody – The Pianist

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When Adrien Brody won an Oscar in 2003, it was a pleasant shock. Not only was he the youngest Best Actor in history at age 29, everyone expected fellow method actor Daniel Day-Lewis to win for Gangs of New York. However, if you knew what Brody did to prepare for the part, his win wouldn’t come as a surprise at all. As he later detailed to the BBC, he fully committed to his transformation into Holocaust survivor Władysław Szpilman. Brody sold his apartment and car, did away with telephones, and even stopped eating, which helped him finally understand the “desperation” of hunger. He also became an actual pianist, practicing Chopin for four hours every day.

4. Jim Carrey – Man on the Moon

Jim Carrey Man on the Moon

Jim Carrey built a career out of uncanny imitations on the sketch show In Living Color. However, when he was cast in the biopic Man on the Moon, he shed his comic exaggerations to focus on a realistic portrayal of a man with larger-than-life quirks. Carrey took on the dramatic role of comedian Andy Kaufman, adopting his tics and erratic movements both on- and off-set. According to Entertainment Weekly, producers collected more than 200 hours’ worth of footage of Carrey living as Kaufman. He even befriended Kaufman’s real-life romantic partner, who filmed his behind-the-scenes antics.

5. Joaquin Phoenix – I’m Still Here

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Like Jim Carrey, Joaquin Phoenix is known for diving into roles. When he was filming Walk the Line, he insisted on being treated like Johnny Cash himself. However, his most iconic foray into method acting wasn’t related to a real-life character. For his friend Casey Affleck’s “mockumentary” I’m Still Here, Joaquin turned himself into an intriguing character. The actor bewildered his fans, critics, and the occasional talk show host by pretending to give up acting while cameras followed his “reinvention” as a less-than-talented rapper.

No matter what type of actor or actress you want to become, working with a private acting instructor is the best way to tweak your techniques and tap into your emotions. In order to truly master method acting techniques, you must demonstrate an ability to dedicate yourself fully to the art of acting, and nothing is more intensive than private lessons. Good luck!

 

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Annie

Musical Theatre Audition Songs: 6 Great Options for Kids

Annie

Does your son or daughter have an audition coming up? Here are some ideas for musical theatre audition songs, courtesy of Hayward, CA teacher Molly R...

 

It’s not always easy to find the right musical theatre audition songs–and the same can definitely be said when it comes to kids’ repertoire!

Is there a way to avoid warhorses like “Annie” and “Oliver” while finding songs that will excite your young actor and the audition panel? YES! Here are some suggestions that will make your young actor a standout at his or her next audition.

For girls:

  • “I Always Knew” from “Annie Warbucks” – No need to be the zillionth young auditionee with “Tomorrow”. You can show them you’re the perfect plucky orphan with a song from the lesser known SEQUEL–and it happens to be a lovely song!
  • “Gee I’m Glad I’m Nobody Else But Me!” from “Anne of Green Gables” – This is a delightful uptempo number that is hardly overdone–perfect for the young soprano.
  • “Sayonara” from “How to Eat Like a Child” — The right performer can really get smiles and laughs out of the audition panel with this sassy and funny number. In fact, the whole show is packed with great options.

For boys:

  • “When I Get My Name in Lights” from “The Boy from Oz” – This is for the young song and dance man–the extrovert!
  • “My Best Girl” from “Mame” –This is a really effective ballad, and would work especially well if auditioning for a role like the lead in “Oliver” or any other show from the 50s-60s.
  • “Big Blue World” from “Finding Nemo” — Looking for something newer? Look no further–this show is great for young boys to sing from! Because this show is only performed at Disney World, you don’t have to worry about everyone else walking in with this one.

So there you have it! There is so much to explore out there as far as musical theatre audition songs go, but remember that the right material shows off both your voice AND personality, no matter what your age is.

Lastly, remember that working with a voice teacher is the best way to find the song or songs that are right for you.  He or she will have plenty of ideas about repertoire, both classic and new, that will suit your voice! Your teacher can also help prepare you for the big day and help you gain the confidence you need to really sell your song. And most voice teachers are knowledgeable about upcoming auditions in their respective communities, so they can help you or your child find local opportunities you may not normally hear about. Break a leg!

mollyrMolly R. teaches online and in-person singing lessons in Hayward, CA. Her specialties include teaching beginner vocalists, shy singers, children, teens, lapsed singers, and older beginners. She joined TakeLessons in November 2013. Learn more about Molly here!

 

 

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Grease

How to Sing While Breaking a Sweat: Tips for Triple Threats

Grease

John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, and Catherine Zeta-Jones are just a few of the Hollywood celebrities known for being “triple threats”–skilled in singing, dancing, and acting. Here, Corona, CA teacher Milton J. shares his tips for reaching their superstar status…

 

So you’ve decided to take vocal lessons to learn how to sing better, but the buck doesn’t just stop there for your own ambitions. You have your eyes set on the stage and the screen, and you won’t stop until you’re there. You may be doe-eyed and eager to learn, but you’re sure of where you want to end up. Your guide is nigh–just remember The Three P’s: Preparation, Practice, and Performance.

Preparation

That first wonderful step is taking vocal lessons. (And if you haven’t started those yet, what are you waiting for?! Book lessons with me, or find a teacher near you!) Finding a vocal teacher is very important in order for you to understand how to use your entire vocal cavity–not just how to sing. Taking vocal lessons will indeed improve your speaking and recitation voices as well.

Next, taking acting classes and workshops will allow you to put those new speaking and singing tools you’ve acquired into action, all the while improving your cue, marking, beat, and improvisation skills. From there, taking dance classes will start the third leg of your Triple-Threat race. Taking dance lessons will help you continue improving the skills you’ve picked up in your acting classes while adding in rhythm, technique, ensemble and solo routine, and vocal/dance incorporation.

Practice

You’ve heard the old adage time and time again–Practice Makes Perfect. It’s been around so long because it’s true; the best way to improve yourself after you’ve acquired the tools is to cultivate them into skills. After your vocal lessons, it’s important to do your daily vocal warm-ups and exercises to continue building strength in the muscles of your vocal cavity. After your acting classes and workshops, continue to run lines, blocking, and scene rehearsing. Visualization with a virtual stage at home can help to put all phases of your scene together. And after your dance lessons, continue doing your daily stretches and routine practicing in order to polish them up for the next class and, ideally, the eventual performance. P-R-A-C-T-I-C-E!

Performance

After the preparation, and after all of the practicing, the payoff draws near–the Performance. With your vocal lessons, seek out vocal opportunities either solicited from your vocal teacher or elsewhere. Community choral groups are a wonderful place to learn how to sing with others and cultivate your musical score reading skills. As a solo singer, your local coffee shop, bar, or music store may lead open mic nights for you to pop into and sing a few selections you’ve been working on for an audience.

For acting, look into your local community theater companies for audition opportunities. Check the audition dates (usually on their website or the theater box office) and ask your acting instructor for input on audition pieces if you haven’t already.

Lastly, for dancing, dance showcases are the perfect opportunity to strut your stuff. If you’re attending classes at a dance studio, chances are they’ll have a showcase coming up. If not, actively seek out showcases you can audition for–try your city’s Park and Recreation department, or other local dance studios. These organizations are always looking for new undiscovered talent or new dancers to join their ranks.

Preparation is the first step, Practice makes perfect, and the Performance is the goal. Now that you’re set with The Three P’s, you’re on your way to becoming the Triple Threat you know you can be! Break a leg!

MiltonJMilton K. teaches guitar, piano, singing, music recording, music theory, opera voice, songwriting, speaking voice and acting lessons in Corona, CA. He specializes in classical, R&B, soul, pop, rock, jazz, and opera styles. Learn more about Milton here!

 

 

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acting classes

How to Become an Actor: Why, How, and Where to Network

acting classes

Networking is a huge part of becoming an actor–the more people you know, the more opportunities you’re likely to find! Here, Brooklyn, NY teacher Liz T. shares her tips for networking success…

 

Being a professional actor is no easy task, but making sure you are at the right place at the right time in front of the right people will definitely increase your odds of getting noticed in the entertainment industry! Here’s my advice on how to become an actor through successful networking:

1. Move to a city where acting is happening. You’ve got to place yourself where all the action is happening; NYC, LA, Boston, Chicago, Nashville, Las Vegas, and Orlando are just a few cities where there are many acting opportunities in film, TV, and theater. Perform as much as you can in your hometown and use the resources you have there to help you save your pennies and prepare you for moving to a big city!

2. Get involved. Start going on auditions for theater or film. You never know what kind of actors you may meet at these auditions, who may help you in your career, or the types of directors you will be seen by. These casting directors are the key to getting you in front of the camera or on stage, so it is wise to make yourself noticed (in a positive way). Many casting directors also have meet-and-greets at auditions, or you can look into seminars that you can attend at a low cost, such as Actorfest or Talent Meet Rep in NYC. Also, start registering with the casting directors in your city–many will keep you on file, so when a major film or TV show is in your city, they could perhaps call you for work! Being a background actor in film and TV is a great way to start.

3. Attend shows and classes. Take as many dance, theater, and acting classes as you can. Again, you never know who is watching and what connections you may make! Treat every improv class or Broadway show as a new opportunity and chance to network with other people who are passionate about your career. This will keep your acting skills fresh!

4. Use social media to network. I have gotten so many of my acting and music contacts just by simply having a professional presence on social media. Use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube to your advantage to follow actors that inspire you, and learn about new shows and companies. It is a great way to start that personal connection! Also, start a website that showcases your work, resume, headshots, etc. Again, you want to a create a strong presence!

5. Be your own agent. Trying to find an agent can be a very daunting task, so don’t be afraid to be your own agent and constantly submit yourself for roles, showcases, and jobs. You can also create your own opportunities by writing a musical you could star in or a screenplay you could envision yourself acting in.

Now that you know how to become an actor, make sure to continue improving your skills through classes or private acting lessons. Keep your head up, and with hard work and determination you will be on your way to becoming a successful actor!

LizTLiz T. teaches online singing, acting, and music lessons. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

 

 

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4 Drama Techniques to Always Remember

Drama Techniques That Are Important To KnowStars like Meryl Streep and Al Pacino make it look easy, but if you want to become a professional actor, don’t expect to rely on talent alone. Even if you’re a natural performer who can cry on command and memorize lines, you’ll need to learn the following fundamental drama techniques to really master the art of acting.

1. Vocal Dynamics

Your lines are just words until you deliver them, but unless your voice is well-trained, they’ll still fall flat or sound forced. In order to accurately portray different characters and emotions, you need to expand your vocal toolbox and learn about the ways that range, pitch, and pronunciation affect your performance. Sometimes you need to adopt an unfamiliar accent or use slang naturally; other times you must change your pitch to communicate building anger, excitement, or sadness.

If you hope to perform in theatrical productions, vocal projection is an incredibly important skill. Whether you dream of exciting Broadway musicals or quiet, character-driven dramas, it’s equally important to work on your volume, range, and pitch so the audience can hear and understand you!

2. Body Language and Mannerisms

Stage directions are separate from spoken lines, but they work together to explain the events of the plot and clarify each character’s emotions and personalities. Actors bring their characters to life by moving, reacting, and even standing in nuanced ways that are natural for their character. Very subtle differences in posture, walking speed, or even the force with which you pick up a prop can speak volumes about your character’s intentions.

For example, if your character is angry at another character, your body language should be as tense as possible. You might pace back and forth within a small space as the other actor speaks, or tense your shoulders and clench your fists; these all indicate levels of restraint and anger. If your character is relieved or excited, put a “swing” in your step and relax your shoulders to express openness and contentment. Watching real-life examples is a great way to study this important drama technique. The next time you’re out and about, observe how strangers stand and readjust themselves during long conversations, or how a friend moves her arms while walking down a sidewalk.

3. Use and Awareness of Space

It’s important to be aware not just of your “marks” on stage, but also of the actors who must interact with or move past you. Your position on the stage or set affects everything from lighting and sound to camera angles and audience perspective. If you know how to make use of the space around you–and seamlessly hit the right marks at the right time–it will show immediately in your performances and auditions. You’ll look and sound more authentic, it will be easier for other actors to do their jobs, and you can focus on losing yourself within a fictional world.

4. Improvisational Techniques

You might associate improvisation with comedy clubs and sketch shows, but on-the-spot creativity is a skill that comes in handy for actors of every discipline. For example, if a castmate flubs his line during a live performance, you must be able to think on your feet and respond like your character would; if you’re convincing, the audience won’t even realize there was a mistake.

Group improv exercises are great practice for this, as they force you out of your comfort zone and require you to come up with believable, funny, or relevant responses to a wild variety of unrelated prompts. Comedic actors develop a better sense of timing and rhythm by practicing improvisation, and dramatic actors benefit just as much. T

Ultimately, mastering these drama techniques will make it easier to shed your own identity and become your character. When you’re aware of your voice, mannerisms, and movements, you can combine them in infinite ways to communicate the moods, feelings, and backgrounds of the characters you play. Practice this, and soon it will become like second nature!

 

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The Actor’s Life for Me: How to Make a Living (and a Life!) as an Actor

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What do you need to succeed in the arts? Is it possible to make a living with an actor/actress salary? Learn the ins and outs of the on-screen or on-stage life in this guest post by Saint Paul, MN acting teacher Emily B...

 

While you may not have chosen a traditional career path, pursuing the life of an actor does not mean you must be flung out into the abyss without a safety net, prepared only to fly or fall. There are many ways to build a life worth living as an actor. In my experience, these are a few of them.

Know what you want.

This may seem like an obvious first step when choosing a career path, but its importance cannot be underestimated. Be realistic about your desires without losing the passion and enthusiasm you have for your craft. Consider the city you live in. Would you be happy staying there, working locally? If your desire is to act in television, film, or larger theatres, your geographical options may be confined to areas better suited to those goals. Labor unions like the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and Actors Equity Association (AEA) are more active in certain parts of the country. They provide benefits and establish a standard actor and actress salary based on the type of project. No matter where you end up, remember everyone is different and despite the many opinions you may hear, there is no “right way” to start a career as an actor.

Create your own work.

Not only is creating your own work essential to your artistic development, with potential to grow your visibility and connections in the field, it can be incredibly fulfilling! As an actor, if you wait for opportunities to present themselves without putting forth any effort, you will be waiting for a very long time. Find out how to enter local fringe festivals or write a play and cast actors you want to work with for a workshop production.

I can personally attest to the value of creating your own work. I spent the summer after I left drama school adapting Richard Boleslavsky’s 1933 novel Acting: The First Six Lessons with my father. We developed it into a two-person play that we performed for free in workshop-form at a library, a community center, and finally as a full production at Theatre West in Los Angeles. Representatives from Samuel French saw the play and it was published in 2011. An effort that began as a purely creative endeavor became something I now continue to benefit from (personally, creatively, and financially) years later.

Make a financial plan.

If one thing is certain about an actress salary, it is that it’s never certain. While not exactly glamorous, a financial plan is necessary to navigate the feast and famine of an actor’s life and to avoid burning out when work is slow. This will not look the same for everyone. Some people work full-time jobs to save up money and then take six months to a year off to focus on auditions, while others may find temporary work that they are able to leave easily when they are cast.

In my own experience, a balance between these two is ideal. I currently work part-time for a nonprofit arts organization and teach private acting classes. This allows me to remain financially stable and still have time to audition and work as an actor in film, theatre, commercials, and television.

Important: Remember that a “financial plan” is not the same as a “backup plan.” In my opinion, the phrase “backup plan” was created to undermine the professionalism and dedication of those who work in the arts. While a small percentage of actors are able to work without the support of a second income, it is common (and encouraged!) to make your finances work with your chosen career path. Find what works best for you.

Use the resources available to you.

Did you know you can write off travel for auditions, acting classes, headshots, and mailing supplies on your taxes? Many cities have nonprofit organizations that offer financial and legal advice to artists at little to no cost. If you belong to SAG-AFTRA or AEA, there are programs that can help you with everything from housing to retirement planning and access to health clinics.

Be kind to yourself.

If being an actor were easy, more people would do it. You have chosen this path, so own that choice. Remember not to get down on yourself if you go a while without booking something good. Create your own opportunities to fill the spaces between new projects. Find a theatre company or group of actor friends to develop your ideas and practice your skills. Keep training. Cultivate a supportive network of friends, family, and fellow actors to navigate the ups and downs.

While your chosen path is often competitive and unpredictable, it can also be deeply rewarding. Remember that your options are not limited to anyone else’s idea of what an acting career should look like. Give yourself time, space, practice, and patience. The best goal is not to simply make a living, but to make a life!

EmilyBEmily B. teaches acting in Saint Paul, MN. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Performance from Fordham University, and her Masters in Arts and Cultural Leadership from the University of Minnesota. Learn more about Emily here!

 

 

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