Actors need to be tenacious creatives, to never stop learning and growing. The moment we become set in our ways, our acting becomes stale. Which is why I think it’s important to get into as many workshops as you can.
Never stop learning. Even if it’s a refresher of something you already know.
This list is by no means extensive, but I think if we are continually growing and learning more about these areas, our acting will stay fresh and alive. Thus you’ll be truly living in imaginary circumstances.
1. Character Breakdown – With Warner
For a quick source on one way to break down character read Character Is A Beast, in which I list some great questions you can ask yourself.
Recently, I’ve been introduced to the Warner Loughlin Technique. I’m still a novice, but I’ve been consuming the book Warner published at the beginning of the year. It’s been an amazing resource and refresher on how to break down a character. I highly recommend it. It reads more like a workshop than a book.
In it, Warner talks about the importance of giving significance to everything written in a scene. Not just the dialogue and action, but the props too. By doing this “homework” your character comes more to life because not only do you know what your character’s going through in the scene, but you have the added detail of how they’d react to everything.
I also love Warner’s take on character breakdown because it allows you to use pure imagination and not pull at old wounds from your past. And the more you do this with even random scripts you come across during those dry seasons, the more ready you’ll be when the real thing comes along.
Subtext goes hand in hand with breaking down your character. Everything we say has a meaning and there’s always a new subtext we can discover. Here’s one look from fellow Independent Initiative writer Keaton Evans where he describes the importance of subtext.
The beauty of subtext is how much we can flesh out the character through the subtext of the words on the page. This will be something you workshop with the director, but it’s a good thing to work on before the day too.
Again, if you’re finding yourself in a slow season of acting jobs, dig out an old script or find one online and start imagining your way into some awesome subtext. How many different ways can you take a scene because of the meaning behind the words?
One way to release your creativity in the area of subtext is improv. Improv is all about “yes and …” meaning you accept what your scene partner(s) incorporate into the scene and then you add to the scene. It is a fun way to force your brain to think creatively on the spot, and more importantly, not just what you’d do in the situation, but what your character would do. Improv not only helps you find different ways to bring subtext to life, but it helps you to build a character under an extreme time crunch.
My favourite aspect of improv is how it helps you to remember to have fun and play. Acting should be fun, never just a job. So if you find you’re starting to drift into the “acting is work” camp, then find a workshop or acting group where improv is a main component so you can come back to the fun side.
If you need a reminder of the guidelines of improv, read this amazing piece by Annette Lange, writer for The Independent Initiative.
4. Read Books, Acting Books and Novels
I may be biased because I love to read, especially fantasy novels. BUT the truth is reading is one of those secret weapons for actors. Studies have been done on the benefits and it may surprise you how helpful it can be.
Two amazing benefits of reading is how it makes you more empathetic and improves your vocabulary. Both are good things for the actor. The empathy will help you relate to your character. And having a bigger vocabulary will help you communicate clearly with the director on where he sees the scene going, especially if you’re working on a mumblecore film.
Even if you think you’ve read all the acting books out there, re-read them. We never retain all the information and it can be a great refresher.
If you’ve never picked up an acting book, here’s a list of great reads put together by Keaton Evans, The Independent Initiative writer.
Or if you want to read some short fiction, check out The Dreamcatcher’s Journal written by yours truly. They’re all dreams I’ve had and caught for you to enjoy too.
5. Meisner’s Repetition
While I feel like most actors either love or hate Repetition, I still think it’s something every actor should explore. When I first tried it, I didn’t understand it. It felt forced and awkward and the kind of thing those actors who take themselves too seriously do. But then I gave it a chance. And I was REALLY surprised.
The whole point of Repetition is to help you listen, not just listening with your ears but with your eyes too. If you want to learn more about it, read writer Annette Lange’s article about what she learned from Meisner’s repetition.
There are so many other amazing types of acting training, including Cold Read workshops, Suzuki training, and more. These are just a few I think can help not only the novice actors, but be a source of refreshing and inspiration to the pros too, now get out there and act!