Becoming a Better Actor Without Acting
As actors we are storytellers. Now for the real question: how are you supposed to afford to go to the movies every week?
Acting is a trade, it is a marketable skill. Thus it follows that the only way to really be successful at it is through practice. You can read all the books you want about cooking a souffle, but you’re never really going to know the physical craft of doing it until you try it yourself. The same can be said for acting. Are there ways you can improve your art when not acting though? Oh, how lucky that you asked!
It just so happens that your good friends here at CallBoard have assembled a handy little list of ways to expand your mind and grow your skills even when you’re off the stage. So pull up a chair, cuddle a little closer to your smartphone, and let’s do this thing.
#1 Good movies.
Who doesn’t like to do this?!? Honestly though, seeing good acting is one of the best ways that you can learn. There are few art forms where you actually get to see the act of the creating as it happens in real time. True, there is off-screen and off-stage work that goes into great acting. A lot of it. However, the beauty of watching a phenomenal actor is that you’re seeing someone who is well prepared, and who is then relying on that training (and genuine human connection) to make impactful choices in the moment. Good stuff.
In addition to learning about acting, watching quality film also opens your mind to new, engaging stories. As actors we are storytellers. Now for the real question: how are you supposed to afford to go to the movies every week?
Netflix and Hulu have some good offerings, or there is this magical, magical thing called Movie Pass. We’re not going to talk a lot about it here…but seriously, CHECK IT OUT. The other alternative is robbing a bank. We are, however, not going to suggest that or give tips regarding it. So good luck.
#2 At home exercises.
Alright, acknowledging the fact that we dissed on books earlier in this article, we are now going to name a few. We actually think books are great. That being said, we want to point out some that have exercises you can do at home to fine-tune your acting skills. You might even get some actor friends together and a have a little at-home training party. Whoo! That’s when you know you’ve arrived.
Honestly, though, we really like these works of acting literature. Our first example is Freeing the Natural Voice by Kristin Linklater. Many actors will be familiar with Linklater already from classes, but using the book for training on your own can be incredibly useful. It includes breathing and vocal exercises focused on “the removal of the physical and psychological blocks that inhibit the human vocal instrument” in order to develop “a voice in direct contact with emotional impulse, shaped by the intellect but not restricted by it.” I’m sorry, is there anyone who doesn’t want that? Didn’t think so.
Another great one is The Art of Acting by Stella Adler. This book gives exercises that you can do regarding observation, creative sensitivity, and fine-tuning the senses. Pretty cool stuff!
#3 Read plays.
Not reading plays as an actor is like wanting to be in the NFL without an understanding of the rules of football. Or some other, more clever analogy, about not doing things that are obviously necessary. Even if your focus is film, you need to read some Shakespeare. Lucky for you, he’s famous for a reason!
Reading plays expands your audition repertoire, prepares you for auditions and callbacks that you don’t even know are coming yet, and ignites your imagination. It allows you to analyze a script and causes you to think about the approach that would have to be taken in portraying certain characters.
Additionally, it will make you seem like you’re actually informed and invested in your acting career. And then you can continue that facade, and do even more acting. Just kidding, we know you’re the real deal.
#4 Get involved in your community.
This might seem like a weird one to have on this list, but there is something to be said for getting outside of yourself and learning about the world. Find a service organization to be a part of.
Connect with new people and get outside of yourself. Pursuing acting can be an inwardly focused thing because so much of it is self-driven. By turning outward you can have new experiences and hear people’s stories, thus you’ll be growing as a human being. Not to mention that the attribute of selflessness makes you better to work with and creates exceptional performances. Any way you look at this one, it’s a positive thing.
#5 Care for your body.
Your body does a lot for you when it comes to acting. It’s almost like you couldn’t even act without it! Crazy! As such, another great thing you can do to make sure you’re ready to go when it comes time to perform is to be in good shape. Take a yoga class (or subscribe to a yoga channel on YouTube), go to the gym (or download a free workout app on your phone).
Regardless of your circumstances, there has to be at least one option that fits your budget and your schedule. Even if it’s just once a week. Yoga especially is great because it can release tension and bad energy in your body. You might also want to look into classes offered on Alexander Technique.
Whatever you choose though, it’s sure to make you look and feel good. Which is always nice.
Connect with new people and get outside of yourself. Pursuing acting can be an inwardly focused thing because so much of it is self-driven.
Sources for this article
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash.
Photo by Conner Murphy on Unsplash.
Photo by Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash.