Basic Tips For Young Actors

Mary Gray • July 2023Musical Theater • July 16, 2023

People may think acting is easy and anyone can do it, but in fact it is a skill that takes time and effort to learn.  Here are some basic tips that may be useful for the next generation of young actors and youth theatre directors:

Both during rehearsals and performances, an actor needs to focus on the scene and always stay in character. Every actor must commit to learning their craft. It isn’t automatic. Actors work hard to learn and constantly improve.

Reacting to everything that is said and happens while you are on stage is as important as how you say your lines. Never “step out of the scene,” meaning don’t forget to be involved in the scene as your character would be and to react as he or she would.

Before saying your line, take a deep breath and speak as loudly and clearly as possible.  Always face the audience, either at an angle (called “cheating out”) or straight out. If you must turn your back for some reason, you will have to speak extremely loudly to be heard. Never look at the floor! Look at the other actors when they say their lines.

You must say every word clearly and slowly. The audience won’t understand you if you mumble or speak quickly. Pay special attention to consonants (b,d,t, k, etc.) Remember to pause between sentences.

What emotion is in your lines? Anger? Fear? Love? Nervousness? Jealousy? Joy? Disappointment? Curiosity? Satisfaction? How can you express that emotion when saying the line? As you study your lines to memorize them, also think about HOW you should say that line. Frequently there will be some direction in the script, such as – [angrily] Where are you going?

Use large facial expressions both for your lines and for your reaction to other actor’s lines. This is especially important in comedy. Stage actors use larger facial and body expressions than do film actors because the audience is farther away than a movie camera would be.

Use a lot of gestures on stage. Gestures need to be larger than normal so they can be seen by the entire audience. The gestures you make will help the audience know how your character feels about what’s happening. If your role involves singing, it will be necessary to make gestures while singing that help explain the emotions in the song.

Write in your script for each line WHERE you will stand and WHEN you will move while on the stage. Always bring a pencil to rehearsals. Learn: SR (stage right), SL (stage left), CS (center stage), down stage (meaning near the front of the stage), up stage (meaning deeper into the stage), main curtain, mid-curtain, wings, apron (extra stage areas on the edge of the stage), proscenium (the frame of the stage).

Read through the scene you are in. Then have a friend or parent read the lines leading up to your line. If you don’t remember your line, they should read the first few words as a clue. If you still don’t remember, they should read the entire line, then you should repeat the line. Knowing the lines before your line (your CUES) is as important as knowing your lines. You need to know WHEN to say the line! You also need to be able to “cover” for the other actors who might miss their line. If it makes sense, you could say their line, or you could just skip over it and go straight to your line.

Don’t worry about “embarrassing” yourself. Actors need to be willing to pretend to be different from who they really are. That’s what the audience expects you to do. And most important, enjoy yourself on stage. If you’re having fun, then the audience is, too.

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