Many students will approach me and ask what they can do on a day to day basis to practice their craft and keep their acting instrument alive and fluid?
This is a good question and I will attempt to give you as many different exercises as I can in a few short blogs. It won’t be everything but it can get you started.
First off I’d like to talk about discipline. Because without it you are probably reading lots of acting books and taking lots of acting classes but you are not practicing on a day today basis when you are on your own. Discipline requires you to take all the knowledge you’ve learned and put it into embodied practice. Thinking about acting simply will not work!
Dancers stretch every day. Musicians play their scales every day. Athletes practice their fundamentals daily. Singers sing their scales every single day. But actors don’t seem to know what to do to keep their performance art alive in the down times.
All that time you’re putting into watching inspirational YouTube videos of actors talking about their craft, and reading books on the art of acting, and googling about it, could be put into actually doing it. Maybe if you know what to do that will be a good start. So let’s start with your actor scales.
An actor’s practice is very different from any of the others I mentioned above. This is because the actor’s instrument is not separate from your very self. The actor is using her own psyche, his own imagination, her own body, his own emotions, her own voice and his own soul. I sometimes think this is why the actor can stay away from practice because it demands opening up the instrument. The actor has to face his own vulnerability and sensitivity and pain and hunger and longing. And sometimes I think the novice actor would rather read about it than do that. This is understandable and often the ‘holding’ of a good acting class helps to give the actor permission to do this. As an acting teacher I recognize that it takes an enormous amount of courage for actors to drop into extremely profound and personal places and reveal this in public. It requires a real feeling of safety when practicing as opposed to performing.
But back to how to do this on one’s own! I’m going to divide this blog into two or three parts. If what I have to offer interests you, you can stay tuned for the next part. In the meantime I’d like to start you off with simply telling you that the way you live your life will vastly improve your acting. In order to stir your imagination, go and visit art museums, read fictional books (instead of watching TV), travel to different places, ask people about their life stories and daydream. Now…what an incredibly fun practice this is!
Stay tuned for part two where I will discuss how to practice your instrument and craft work.
Cindy was recent Chair of the Toronto Association of Acting Studios (TAAS) and is a member of ACTRA and Theatre Ontario.