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Becoming an Actor: How do you Act?

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In a few weeks time my first public performance in three years will be opening; I’ll be exposed not only to the swath (at least I hope there’s a swath) of directors, agents, and casting directors but also to my family – my close family and my distant but morally obligated family. With the great pressure of estranged family members judging me the time has come to focus wholeheartedly on the rehearsal process. But, I don’t think I have one...

I am of course physically involved in day‐to‐day rehearsals with the rest of the company. These are nothing but great fun, perhaps because our director has given us such a great palate of techniques to draw from; everything from how to play punctuation to the more physical approach of kabuki theatre. But, aside from the group work, I don’t always know what I’m doing when working on my own. This has forced me to face that, as I begin my third year at drama school, I still haven’t found my process... that sounds slightly melodramatic, sorry.

The thought initially worried me. Surely after two years I should have discovered what practises work for me? Surely after two years of intensive training I should’ve learnt something? Surely I should know what to do to be a brilliant actor? ...Of course, in actuality, and herein lies the crux of the problem, nobody knows the answer the last question.

The acting formula

The fact that there’s no formula to being a good actor makes me think that perhaps I don’t need a process. When I say I don’t think I need a process I’m never sure if I’ve just created a consolatory opinion for myself, because I don’t have a process. At the moment the truth feels like a set way of approaching everything would be nothing but restrictive. Two years of training has given me a toolbox of things to do depending on whatever weakness I feel like addressing, which I can draw on if and when I need to.

My initial temptation was to immediately take everything out the toolbox and use it; I think I thought (God, that’s bad writing) that if I applied every technique in the box then it would make me a better actor. I’m not saying it won’t, but in regards to acting I’ve found that a+a doesn’t always equal 2a – in other words the amount of effort you put in doesn’t always have a baring on the results – if it did, then it would easy to be brilliant.

My process, though I don’t have one, over the next few weeks will simply be to remain objective over what it is I need to work on; hopefully, whatever it is, my (much overused metaphor of a) toolbox will provide a solution. It’d better; imagine if my great Aunt Norma who I’ve not spoken to in four years thought I was dreadful! I couldn’t live with myself.

On a side note

You might remember a few weeks ago I talked here about how I felt music was under used as a way of accessing emotion both on and off stage. Last night I visited the tour of Earthquakes In London in Plymouth and the use of music was extraordinary.

I didn’t remember it being so prominent in the original production, but the underscoring in the last act was so emotive it quite genuinely had me in tears – very filmic. Well worth catching!


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