Watch More TV: One of the best acting classes you can get is currently sitting right in your home and it’s free. Staying up to date with the most current television shows can help you get a leg up as an actor. Knowing which shows are doing well and which are set to premiere will increase your understanding of what’s popular in the industry.
Studying the market in this way will also give you insight into what type of actors casting directors will be looking for. Watching television can be just as beneficial as your typical scene study classes where you’d spend time watching your peers perform. One of the best ways to learn is by watching others. Studying professional actors will help you get an idea of what works and doesn’t work on screen, as well as how to develop a character that is authentic to yourself yet believable to the audience.
Read More Plays: One cannot understand how to play Chekhov if they have never read Chekhov. In fact, an actor can never fully understand any play if they haven’t read and processed the classics. Playwrights such as Shakespeare, Chekhov and Pinter laid the groundwork for the contemporary writers you love today.
Well-read actors are more knowledgable actors and actors who know their stuff are the most desirable to work with. Not to mention, having a toolkit of information to turn to when creating a character will make the experience more enjoyable and fulfilling. Set a goal with yourself of how many plays you’d like to read each week; three to four is a good place to start.
Build your Repertoire: One of the most important lessons that I have learned as an actress is to always stay ready so that you don’t have to get ready. Making a habit of learning new monologues on a weekly or monthly basis not only builds your memory muscles but will result in a repertoire that you can pull from at the drop of a dime.
Having this ready allows you to audition for last minute roles without feeling unprepared. Start by learning one contemporary comedic monologue and one contemporary dramatic monologue and then branch off into other eras, genres, etc. having a toolkit of information to turn to when creating a character will make the experience more enjoyable and fulfilling. You want to be sure to cycle different monologues every six months to a year as you grow and evolve out of a role or new roles arise.
Audition: It doesn’t matter where you are located or how robust the theater scene is, if you want to be an actor in any capacity you must audition, and audition frequently. Auditioning helps you get more comfortable performing in front of casting directors. The process not only enhances performance experience but allows you to handle rejection and develop a thick skin. Auditioning is a skill, just like learning to act in front of a camera or singing a ballad.
Audition by Michael Shurtleff is a great place to start if you are interested in learning some tips and tricks for nailing your next audition. Take a look at backstage.com, Playbill.com, or the Capital District theatre community’s mailing list at dx.ayw.org/mailman/listinfo/capdist-auditions for upcoming audition information and go for a couple shows for this month.
Journal: You cannot know your character if you do not know yourself. Take some time every night to write about the hard things, ask yourself questions, reflect on the day, make a list of things you love, teach yourself about who you are. While you’re at it, do some journaling about your character and their favorite things, life experiences etc. Setting aside time to be intentional about connecting with yourself and your character will result in more authentic, relatable performances.
Morgan Heyward is the founder of Illuminate Theater, an actress, director, and producer committed to creating theater that is representative of all people. She graduated from Russell Sage where she starred as Anne Frank. Heyward is most recently known for her role as Lady in the Orange in For colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf and is finishing her own play, Naturally.