Drama class is simply amazing, and while I have a few plays under my belt, I have never stopped learning new and wonderful thing about acting. Acting is difficult, rewarding, painful, and in my humble opinion some of the best fun you can have! Hopefully you learn at least a little from my tips. And they are only tips, if you're interested in exploring and establishing a thorough background or knowledge of acting I suggest you search via your preferred web browser.
Step 1: Building a Character
We are always speaking with body language, often more so than we do with English. What do you think about someone who is always stiff and almost mechanical, or someone who slouches and leans constantly. When a person smiles or laughs a certain way, how do you react? Always realize
that we are constantly assessing one another, moods, status, reputation, esteem (self confidence), intelligence. People certainly can seem wealthier by standing a certain way,
or confident by the way they move through a crowd. How do we know these things? I'm not quite sure, but it just seems to be part of our collective human culture that we associate
certain appearances and actions with traits. A hobo could stand with a posture that make him seem like a king, and a Harvard Alumnus can have a facial expression which makes him/her
seem like a moron.
Keep studying; the more you watch, the more you learn. If anything stand in front of a mirror and practice various poses and expressions and think about how they make you feel and how you would feel seeing someone else doing it.
One key factor that I really find helpful and enjoyable is watching professional actors do their thing. Live theater can a fantastically fun and informative experience. Go see some plays at your local theater or if plays are unavailable, then rent some "classic" movies and just study what the actors/actress do. Don't plagiarize their techniques, analyze how they use their techniques to come across as a "better" actor, body language, voice inflection, volume, etc. Also, be sure to watch "bad" actors, or people who in your opinion didn't do a good job; did they somehow break character? smile or smirk? Look directly into the camera? Try and observe as many examples of both the good the bad to try and asses your personal conception of ways to perform better.
Step 2: C is for Communication
Simply don't be a jerk and just treat people with respect. Nobody wants to work with an arrogant know-it-all or a timid introvert. I've worked with bad people, funny people, good people, and strange people. Getting to know your cast is essential. If you're cast with your worst enemy, don't sweat, tolerate him/her and treat him/her respectfully so that you can both reach your goal. If you feel that someone is lagging behind or struggling, offer your help and you will both learn something from one another and once again, this will add synergy your performance.
Aside from your fellow thespians, it is also key to communicate effectively with your director. If you're given strict directions--follow them. If your given some improvisational slack--make good use of it. The last thing a director would tolerate is a selfish rebel or a robotic servant. Be yourself, but know when to listen and behave accordingly.
Step 3: Lines!
Remember: every line is important! Everything from a "Hmmm?" to the longest of monologues exists for a purpose and is included to move the plot along and develop your character. Playwrights and screenwriters do not just put filler dialog to add pages to their script. When reading your lines think about who/what you are speaking to (if anything), your motivation to speak, and the goal of your speech. Its a sign of bad acting to throw away lines into mumbling or by ignoring the motives/tactics/goals of speech by your sheer laziness or ignorance.
Certainly one of the greatest and most essential things to recognize when memorizing and rehearsing a script are beats. Beats are shifts in the intention, motivation, etc. and are key to expressing a character as they truly are. Whenever anyone speaks in their daily conversation, they have beats. Beats reflect character goals and actions and can occur several times in a single sentence or may drag on for a page or two. Go through your lines and mark where you think a beat occurs and recognize how this would affect your performance.
Don't pester your friends and family, but if you see one of them in no particularly busy state, politely ask if they would run your lines with you. More often than not they will oblige if you ask them kindly enough. The other person will usually get a kick out of seeing you act, and you both will get some laughs (well in my experience nearly everything can be comedic, so your experience may differ), you will strengthen your memorization of your lines, and have the opportunity to vocalize them in several different ways.
If said family and friends are unavailable or you prefer the hermit lifestyle, then a microphone will be your replacement buddy. Buy a cheap usb microphone or tape recorder and record and listen to your recording. This may be a preferable practice choice as the recordings can be stored for later use and will be helpful in memorization or specific vocalization such as accents or inflections, plus the recording device will never get bored or hungry and leave you to play video games.
Step 4: Self Confidence
I'm no psychiatrist, and I certainly can't explain the underlying roots of self-esteem, but I can provide you with some lessons that have gotten me this far.
1. Focus on the objective, not the outcome. People are often very self critical of themselves and worry when it is unnecessary. I'll compare acting to life in general; if you spend all your time worrying or thinking about the future, then you're wasting your present; in acting if you spend too much time thinking or worrying about what people will think of you then your performance will suffer. The key here is focus; your objective here is to give the best performance you can, first for yourself, then for others, not the other way around.
2. Learn from your mistakes! Its painful and difficult, but that's life and it can be just as fun and easy as well. I've gotten stage fright, we all do sometimes. It's horrible, it hurts, and you never want that sinking feeling in your stomach again, but we learn from pain. If you ever burnt your hand in a fire or on the stove as a child, then I'm sure you've never intentionally done it again. The same goes for acting. You make a mistake. You suffer the immediate embarrassment. Then you move on and avoid repeating those past mistakes as quickly as would you pull your hands from scalding water.
3. I won't give you a real third or forth bullet point for the sake or your time and my own. I probably couldn't fully explain confidence if I gave you a thousand bullet points, but my final two cents on it are: never back down and never give up, what I mean is that if your desire to act and give a great performance is greater than you fear of failure then you're on the right track. If not, get comfortable and get interested-- if you are only comfortable acting alone then do so until you can do it in front of someone, then do it in front of a group, then do it in front of a crowd, build yourself up step by step. When it comes to interest, you simply have to be motivated. You can't persuade yourself to be a better actor the same way you couldn't persuade a car without fuel to start; it just doesn't happen. If you lack motivation to dedicate yourself, then it will be a real struggle, if not an impossible feat.
Step 5: Miscellaneous Mumbo Jumbo
Be sure to keep hydrated. I suggest keeping a large water (yes water and only water) bottle backstage to keep your body (most obviously your throat, to prevent coughing and thirst), and mind hydrated.
Be sure to keep well rested. This is a basic given, you are simply less likely to give your best performance if you are tired!.
Keep full. I mentioned previously not to eat right before a performance, which is extremely helpful, but it is also important to not act on an empty stomach. Once again keep some goodies backstage (and be sure to share, the rest of us actors get hungry too ya know). AVOID SUGARY SWEETS! they may be tasty, but the surging and crashing energy levels they may give you during a performance may impair you once again.
AVOID EXTREME SPORTS!! Its not worrying, its precaution! An injury can not only be fatal to you, but to your performance as well. If you get the part and are in the process of rehearsals, then it would be best to leave that mountain bike on its rack in the garage and your rock climbing gear in its bag. Whatever the potentially bone-breaking adventures you enjoy, put them on hold until your performance is complete. Arm casts and crutches cannot be easily worked into scripts and scenes, and either you may get the boot or the production itself may go under because you "just had to" go bare skin diving with sharks you and lost your pinky toe to Jaws. Dont risk it.
Step 6: Showtime!
Hold for laughs. If you or one of your fellow thespians cracks a joke or performs a comedic action and the crowd chuckles or erupts into laughter be sure to pause a little until they quiet down; this way your lines don't get lost in the sea of noise.
Don't rush when you don't need to. Once I was backstage holding glass of wine my character was drinking, I hurried too quickly for my entry and collided into an unfortunately placed sub woofer, which caused me to spill the drink onto my costume. Thankfully the stain was conveniently unnoticeable on my wine-colored toga, and the sub woofer was unharmed, but I got lucky. Take your time, to avoid injury and possible set damage!
On the spot: If you find yourself in a situation where your cast mate or yourself has forgotten a key line its time to improv! Perhaps the cheapest but fastest way to get someone else back on track is to add a reassuring line , that is if their missed question line was "What are you doing?!" you might fill in the silence with a quick "Are you interested in what I'm doing?" or if their missed line was a statement such as "Wow, she's beautiful" then you might fill the void with "Don't you think she's beautiful?" and if your partner is really drawing blanks then you might potentially have to skip their lines up to a point where someone else speaks so as to maintain continuity. When it come to your own memory loss, always remember to STAY IN CHARACTER. breaking character during a performance is theatrical suicide and you must keep your calm. stay in character and respond in a way that your character would respond not the way you would respond to a situation. Hopefully, you will recognize your cue and the lines will come back and all will not be lost.
DON'T LOOK AT THE AUDIENCE! Unless it is in the script, never look at the audience. You setting is the only location your character is aware of, you, on the other hand are the only one away of all those people staring at you.
Remember, this is a one shot deal, there are no bloopers allowed during a play and no one yells cut.
Due to the magic of editing, all your flops and follies can be cut out of the final production, but they should still be avoided for the sake of time. When you're in front of a camera a lot of people are spending time and money to be there, so every moment is precious and you should still strive to do your best every take.