Stars 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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