Developing skills for Performance
The definition of actor or actress is; a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity. Their main job is to interpret a dramatic character. Actors, like singers, musicians and dancers are performing artists and specialists in the field of entertainment. Actors may act on stage or become involved in film, television or radio productions. Since singing, dancing and the playing of instruments form part of many productions, it is to their advantage to have some knowledge of, or talent for the other performing arts.
During their careers, many performers choose to specialise in a specific field of acting. Some actors find live theatre demanding and rewarding, while others prefer acting in front of a camera. Depending on the media used, different skills are required of actors. Actors involved in live theatre make greater use of exaggerated movements and voice-projection than persons acting in front of a camera do. Film actors employ more subtle body movements and facial expressions as their audiences often view them from the close-up angle of the camera.
Someone involved in radio production primarily makes use of voice modulation and intonation in order to create the desired expression. The acting techniques may also depend on the type of role actor’s play. Some actors may have the appearance and personality which enhance their skill as comedians, while others may have the assets and skills required for the interpretation of serious dramatic roles. Versatility in all areas of dramatic performance creates more employment opportunities for the actor. Despite what many people say about people who take a career in acting the profession is far from an easy one.
It requires hard work and serious vocal, physical and mental training. It needs long hours of study and intense concentration as well as discipline. I believe that one of the most important skills that an actor can obtain is to have a relationship or rapport with the other actors and the audience, and to make the audience believe that they are the character, if they can do that they have performed well. Obviously there are many other skills need to become a success in the industry, such as patience because often actor have to go sometime without work.
Also perfecting vocals and movement is vital for a good performance, but not to over analyse the performance; as Michael Caine once said “less is more”. Deciding how to scale the performance is vital sometimes but not always. When rehearsing or researching a role an actor must be observant to see how that character behaves but they must know the right level of research to do as before it can lead to over thinking the role causing a over worked performance that does not look natural. To be versatile can benefit an actor greatly because it enables them to play many different roles such as; comedy, drama and classical.
By sticking to just one genre the actor can become pigeon holed by directors and miss out on many opportunities to perform other genres. For many types of acting especially stand-up, timing is crucial. For most types of performing in front of an audience you need some sort of timing if the actor didn’t then the performance would not work, conversations wouldn’t run smoothly. For stand-up comedy or a comedy play comic timing is needed to fully engage the audience. Actors also need to be healthy and keep their bodies in good condition, back in Shakespearian times at the Globe theatre the actors were expected to do their own stunts.
Their skills would include sword fighting skills and they had to be able to fall convincingly. Acting is a form of communication and the actors are the medium through which writers’ thoughts are communicated to audiences. Actors therefore should be able to read, analyse and interpret scripts thoroughly before they learn their parts, otherwise getting halfway through rehearsals and finding out that they do not understand the concept of the script because a great deal of an actors time is taken up by rehearsals.
They take place under the guidance of directors who have knowledge and experience of acting, design and stage management. Actors therefore follow the directions and advice of directors. Movements and gestures, vocal and speech skills, pauses, facial expressions and many other acting techniques, are practised and repeated, until a polished performance is obtained so that the performance is memorable. Skills Audit To be successful and improve at whatever you do, not just in performing, you must know your skills, weaknesses and most importantly your aims.
This is where a skills audit comes in; it allows me to highlight my strengths and weaknesses, therefore allowing me to identify my own personal aims and move forward in my learning process. Strengths and Weaknesses Strengths: My first and probably best strength is being able to confidently assume a persona very distant to my own; I am usually quite reserved but have no problems playing someone emotionally out of control as I did for my GCSE drama exam.
I especially become more confident when I am in costume because I can therefore feel separate from myself. By playing many different personas I can further develop this skill, therefore making me more versatile and able to perform many roles and not be pigeon holed into a certain genre. An actor’s methodology is used to create a characterisation from the actor’s feelings, memories and sensory perception. For me relaxation is a key part to focus me into thinking like the character and to release all physical, but also mental, tension.
Another is that I can change the tone and dynamics of my voice quickly and fluently which is useful if I am saying my thoughts aloud and they are different to what I am saying to other characters, like I did in my GCSE piece, this is very useful when doing voice work. I will improve this skill by practicing different voices. I can come up with unique and original characters to play; this makes my performance more interesting, but I also research my characters personality, this is how many actors work, such as David Tennant who had brain injuries, for a part allowing him to have an insight into their lives.
When researching a role or character I like to recognise the characteristics and mannerisms of others and compare them to my character if they have a similar personality, because it helps me build up a multidimensional character. Also trying to have empathy for a character can help, if you can’t have empathy then you would struggle to put yourself in the mindset for that role. Another major strength is costume, getting into costume helps me greatly when getting in to role for a performance; it sort of puts me in the mind set therefore dramatically improving my performance.
I can be versatile when it comes to characters I am able to play an energetic young child or a cantankerous old man. This is important because it means I am not limited to certain roles although I am better at some characters and if given a choice I may have a preference. I can improve this by trying new roles completely different to my situation. I can accept constructive criticism, and try and bring whatever has been said into my next performance, I like receiving constructive criticism because it means I can improve with the help of others.
This is something I think is very useful because I cannot possibly see every aspect of a character that other people may be able to, by listening I can perform to the best of my ability and see how others see me. Weaknesses: One of my main weaknesses is turning away from the audience during a performance I can usually correct myself but having to think about it can distract me from what I am saying. This is defiantly something I will have to concentrate on because it is a main thing that people may notice or pick up on and the audience will not clearly hear what I am saying.
This can also make the audience feel left out just like when someone you are talking to turns their back on you, by correcting this weakness I will improve my performance by being able to interact with the audience, making the performance for them more enjoyable. Another weakness is not being organised especially with papers and coursework, but also with time which is crucial for creating a polished and professional performance.
To try and organise my time better will be harder but it would be worth it, there are things I could do to improve like creating a schedule and sticking to it or planning with others what we shall do next, I just need to find out which of these work for me. A bad plan can lead to a bad performance, especially if I am working on a part for some time, but having bad organisation skills would be disastrous if I am playing more than one role or rehearsing for two or more plays, which could be very likely.
This is another one of my top priorities. Also a weakness is not using all the space that I have, when I did my GCSE piece I did not use all the space between the audience and I which was about 1 1/2 meters this is something I regret because it may well have enhanced my performance especially when I was angry and shouting at the audience, I realised this straight after we finished but not when I was performing, although I now know for future performances. But this can once again make the audience feel left out from the performance.
Judi Dench said that “acting is for others” so if the audience doesn’t feel like they are connecting with the performance, the actor has failed. I often struggle to keep to scripts written by someone else because I struggle to remember the words exactly and I often find myself thinking that things would sound better if I altered something. I can learn the script if I apply myself but it’s not something I particularly enjoy, or if I can relate with what the scrip says, for example Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare is difficult because it is not spoken in modern day language.
The only way to really improve is rehearsing the lines on my own and with others. Not moving enough when saying a monologue is often a weakness of mine, because I often get so absorbed in concentrating on my diction that I don’t even realise that I have just stood still for the entire thing, rehearsing is key to correcting this weakness. Aims: My first aim is to not turn my back on the audience in a performance; I mentioned that I did this sometimes when, to achieve this aim I will have to concentrate on this in rehearsals so that in performances which are in front of an audience I automatically do this.
This is a very important aim for me because I want every performance I do makes the audience feel like they are part of it. Secondly I need to become more organised especially with papers and coursework, but also with time which is crucial for creating a polished and professional performance. I know that organising my paperwork should not be too difficult I just need to stop leaving it around and keep all notes no matter how useless I think they are at the time.
Another aim is to ask for more feedback from unbiased people, i. e. people who are not my friends who are more likely to give me good feedback instead of critical because they don’t want to hurt my feelings. To start rehearsals in my costume as soon as possible, because it really does help me portray the mannerisms and voice of my character, but often when rehearsing I do not get into my costume until a few days before the performance and this limits the time spent in character.
Deciding what is a priority and what can be done in my own time is also something I need to work on, this is crucial because learning lines can easily be done at home but movement is not so easily done at home because of the lack of space compared to the hall I have available to use in the class so it would be pointless having all that space and either talking to others about plans for whatever project we’re working on or learning lines. Work Schedule
As well as attending the workshops, to improve my movements, voice and overall skill in performing arts, I researched actors Janet Mcteer, Helena Bonham-Carter and Judi Dench to see how they prepared for a performance, this was very interesting to me because it allowed me to see how professional actors saw acting and performing, their opinions gave me something to think about afterwards such as when she commented how observing other people is now like breathing. This has influenced me because when I’m out around lots of people I watch their mannerisms, because you never know when it could come in useful.
On the 28th October 2009 I went to see “A Winter’s Tale” at the theatre. This was defiantly important because it gave me an insight into how actors in a theatre perform and I could relate some of the thing I was taught in the workshops to what they were doing on stage. Outside of movement workshops I attend movement and fitness classes in school, this helps me prepare for movement workshops because It goes without saying that it would be ideal for this body to be as fit and as flexible as it can be.
After all the physical demands placed on an actor are many and can be extremely tough especially if performing night after night. To be able to perform at best, I need to practice what I have learnt in a workshop at home, this is necessary because it allows me to improve upon what I learnt in the previous workshop without taking up precious time in classes, as well as showing dedication to the workshops.
For example after workshop 2 I went home and practiced against a wall on my posture, I finally managed to do it quite well, but without going home and doing it I wouldn’t have been able to. Again when bringing movement into the Launcelot monologue I practiced at home, by experimenting with movement but also with learning the lines so I could use time in the class more efficiently instead of sitting down trying to learn the words so that my hands could be free to move.