If you’re an aspiring actor, you’ll want to develop a range of skills to help you stand out in auditions and bring your characters to life in compelling performances. Three main areas for actors to focus on are:
The history of theater, television and film
Voice and diction
Understanding the timeline of storytelling and performance, mastering vocal techniques and analyzing scripts are all a part of creating believable, engaging performances that capture the audience’s attention. Read on to learn why these skills are important and how you can master them.
THE HISTORY of THEATER, TELEVISION and FILM
Attaining a clear understanding of the history of happenings in theater and film will allow you to further learn of the development of styles over the decades. It’ll aid you to be aware of the accomplishments of previous generations of performers and to seek out the styles and strategies adopted by actors over time.
Here are some reasons why you need to learn the history of theater, television and film:
Evolution of Storytelling: The history of theater, television and film traces the evolution of storytelling, from ancient Greek theater to the present day. Understanding this will help you to appreciate the different techniques and styles that have been developed, and to identify the elements of storytelling that have remained constant.
Storytelling has been around forever and is an integral part of human culture. But no artist, in my opinion, has had a bigger influence on storytelling than William Shakespeare. His works spanned over hundreds of years ago and have become an invaluable source of inspiration for writers, actors, directors and more ever since.
Veteran stage and screen actor Marc Singer plays the title role in Macbeth at the Capital City Amphitheater. Photo by ALICIA DEVINE/TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT
Shakespeare’s plays are filled with timeless scenarios that we still witness today: the power struggle between family members, conquering ambitious goals, dramatic love stories and moral dilemmas universal to all of us. He wrote his stories in such a way that they remain relevant even centuries later, as he understood the complexity of human nature better than most other playwrights of his time. His characters often seem more relatable than those found in contemporary literature or films due to their deep introspection into the human mind and soul.
Shakespeare actor Marc Singer, who you may also recognize from screen gems such as The Beastmaster and “V”, strongly suggests that people train in Shakespeare. Marc makes a compelling argument, which you can read about HERE.
Appreciation of Previous Generations: This sounds like a partial repeat of what I discussed up there, but I want to stress how learning history is an important way to gain insight into the lives and works of previous generations of performers. By studying the techniques and styles used in various genres, it can give you a better understanding of how those particular crafts evolved over time and what elements played a role in their success. This knowledge can also be beneficial when considering your own creative endeavors, as it gives you an appreciation for the hard work that went into perfecting these skills.
Identification of Influences: History helps you to identify the influences that have shaped acting. By understanding the works of previous generations of performers, actors can identify the techniques and styles that have influenced their own work.
Contextualization of Current Works: Knowing how other performers and their works have developed will help you build a successful career in a saturated industry. By understanding the ways that your achievements add to a larger body of art, you’ll be able to create a distinctive performance.
Understanding of Audiences: By understanding the history of performance, actors can identify the ways in which audience expectations and tastes have evolved over time.
VOICE and DICTION
Aspiring actors should learn how to speak clearly and with proper pronunciation, tone and inflection.
Reasons why you need to learn voice and diction:
Clarity: You need to be able to speak clearly so that the audience can understand your lines and follow the story. Poor voice and diction can lead to confusion or misinterpretation of the character’s words. Oftentimes, you may find yourself displaying the closed captions on your screen when you are unable to identify what the actors are saying. This is what you want to avoid, because if you’re reading the captions, you’re now diverting your attention from the story and acting. Think about it – would you want your audience to read the captions instead of watching you?
Expressiveness: Good voice and diction can help you to express your emotions and convey the meaning of your lines. An expressive voice can enhance the audience’s understanding of the character’s emotions and motivations.
Versatility: You need to be able to use your voice in different ways to create different characters. Good voice and diction can help you to create different accents, dialects and vocal patterns. Read about How Auditioning With A Different Accent Can Help You Land The Role.
Projection: For stage, you need to be able to project your voice to reach the back of the theater without straining your vocal cords.
Characterization: Voice and diction can be used to create a distinct voice for a character, which can help to differentiate you from other characters in the play or movie.
You should be able to analyze and interpret scripts to better understand the character’s motivations, emotions and actions.
Script analysis is a massive skill because it helps you to understand the story, characters and the world of the play or movie. Script analysis involves breaking down the script into its essential components, including the plot, characters, themes and tone. This analysis will help you to understand the context of your character’s actions, motivations and emotions, which is what’s needed to create a convincing performance.
Various reasons exist why performing artists ought to study script analysis:
Understanding the Story: Script analysis helps you to understand the story you’re telling, including the plot, themes and symbolism. This understanding helps you to identify key moments and how your character fits into the overall story.
Developing the Character: You can develop your character by understanding their motivations, backstory and relationships with other characters. By grasping these elements, you can create a fully realized character that is believable and engaging.
Making Choices: You can make adjustments to your physicality, vocal choices and emotional choices by studying script analysis. Do the choices your character makes fit in with your character’s motivations and emotional state?
Collaboration: This may not seem like a big point, but trust me when I say that collaboration is vital to your career. As a part of a production, you’re collaborating with the director, other actors and the creative team. By understanding the story and characters, you can contribute to discussions about the overall vision of the story and how your character fits into that vision.
Interpretation: Script analysis can help you interpret a script in a creative and unique way. By understanding the story and characters, you can bring your own interpretation to the role, which can make the character more interesting and engaging for the audience.
You should take the necessary steps to learn all that you can about the acting craft. From learning the basics of acting to understanding the business side of things, having a well-rounded knowledge base will give you an edge in your career. If, as an aspiring actor, you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you have the potential to succeed in this competitive field.