acting advice for new actors




I’d never sit here and tell you that working in these industries and living on the salary of a creative is anything short of very very difficult, but I will say it’s not impossible. Far too often we are told that our fellow creatives need to be beaten in some sort of race to the top, but I have always been a big advocate for collaboration over competition. So here I am, hoping to give some advice on both being and working as an actor and theatre maker


Now, actors in their very nature want to act, why? They will tell you. It could be any reason, from a deep desire to become another person, having the natural buzz of attention from an audience, even something as shallow as wanting to be famous. Once this is understood you can begin to make decisions as to what best route to take to make this need a reality. The method in which you do this should be completely individual, which is something that we often forget the more we compare our progress to our peers. My goal personally is to build a creative career that can both maintain and support me. I want to pay bills from acting gigs and one day buy a big old van and start my own touring company. That’s not too much to ask right? Anyone?

One of the main reasons you should star in your own play regardless of being an actor or not is purely due to the creative challenge. Not only is it a cost effective way to get your work seen but if you can master the one man play you can master anything theatre. This is a highly skilled form of theatre making and only the brave and broad can make a one person play impactful.

writing your one man play

To write a single actor play you have to identify with the character first. This is especially important if your staring in the play too. Your story has to have enough drama, problems to overcome and interesting subject matters to keep your actor talking for a lengthy amount of time. When writing your first single actor play I'd suggest to keep your script under 60 minutes ( 60 pages) and focus on quality not quantity. 30 minutes or less is usually a good marker for a one man show and when writing your script bare in mind every page counts for a minute of performance time ( similar to screen time ) while also factoring in scene change time and intervals.

Because it's a stand alone story you're trying to tell you have to make sure your plot is super clear and topics are explored well. Choose a overall topic that will keep audiences interested, something with allot to discuss and dissect, that raises questions with the audience or draw from personal experience. For example the show Freak


In 1991's Mambo Mouth and 1993's Spic-O-Rama, Broadway star, actor John Leguizamo introduced Broadway audiences to his explosive storytelling style in single man play, 1998's Freak

Freak opened at the Cort Theatre. A semi-autobiographical series of Leguizamo's family stories and was later filmed for posterity by Hollywood legend Spike Lee.

Other notable one man / woman shows you should be aware of before writing your script are:

training to be an actor - WARNING ( IT'S NO EASY FEAT)

There are millions of way for an actor to train. Drama school is the obvious go too, but you should really make sure you are ready. I joined the Foundation Course at East 15 because no one else would have me and I panicked after leaving college, “I have to go to drama school! I need to learn how to be an actor” I was 18 and didn’t know how to be a person yet, let alone an actor. The course ripped me apart as I was not emotionally ready and I had absolutely no life experience. My failures hit too hard and I didn’t have the thick skin needed to breeze through as some others did. While I learned so much, I would beat myself up when I couldn’t connect with the training. All I could do was keep trying, but on a Foundation course the name of the game is competition. The same desperation that got me into this mess in the first place is now pitting me against my peers to win a place on a 3-year B.A Acting Course! After over 30 auditions and two years of being on a waiting lists I gave up. These are the things I wish I knew before joining a BA. Start with a smaller acting course or collective first to see if you are suited to acting. If you find it too difficult then outsource the role to another actor and become a script supervisor for your piece

where can i learn to act? - rada and lamda aren't the only options

After a few years of being kicked about I decided to go to Uni. Now don’t get me wrong if you have enough life experience and the financial ability to get into RADA bloody do it! You will more than likely be a fantastic actor, but what I learned at university was how to be a collaborator.

During my three years at Exeter I took on as many productions as I could handle, and I found that by actually working with people and creating not only a strong performance but a solid piece of theatre would be so much more beneficial in the long run. I admit I could have implemented this philosophy much better at the time. But It was at this point where I learned to stop trying to focus on being and actor and learn to be a theatre maker. I would suggest this to any performer. Don’t just learn how to do, learn how to make. Being an actor your life is perpetually in the hands of agents, casting directors ect, but by learning to make theatre or film you have more control of your own little slice of the industry. You have more control when you can make your own work.

the creative process - finding your creative EDGE

Training to be an actor is not following a set of instructions from a particular practitioner but taking notice of the things that resonate with you and implementing them within your own process. Find what works for you and build from there, don’t shut yourself off to new things but also don’t force stuff that just wont click.

working with directors to create your vision

Working with directors is always a mixed bag, sometimes you just get each other and collaborate well and sometimes it can feel very clinical. I always try to remember that while you are being given instructions you must follow, that this should always be a conversation.

Early rehearsals should always be treated as experiments, it’s a testing ground. You don’t know how your fellow actors will throw you a line, therefore you don’t know how your character will react to it. Any good director will understand this and allow you to play until you find a delivery that feels right. Later once you have everything in place you need to make sure you know your blocking and lines like clockwork, otherwise you are unprepared.

Personally, I have always struggled with this part as I suffer from adult dyspraxia, which means my processing and sequencing can often be out of whack. The best way I have found of coping with this is drawing out the set on paper and tracking my blocking with a line.

tips for learning your lines

The way I learn lines is I pick keywords which will unlock a whole sentence, then I find a way to relate that keyword to the next keyword in the next sentence, and so on and so forth. This might be helpful or could just be my weird way of doing things. Try it for yourself. If you know what method helps you learn the best then you can pretty much learn any script within a short amount of time. If you are unsure how you learn try looking into these three learning types. You will identify with one of the three and then you can tailor your learning process towards your learning type.

  • Visual Learners: Students that understand and learn best when information is presented to them visually. Seeing information helps these students visualize concepts taught.
  • Auditory Learners: Students that understand and learn best when information is presented to them in an auditory manner. Hearing information helps these students internalize concepts taught.
  • Kinesthetic Learners: Students that understand and learn best when information is presented to them kinesthetically. Using their hands or bodies helps these students experience the concepts taught. This can involve writing down information in order to retain it

building your character - deciphering the script

Building a character has always been the most important part of my process, as should be with any actor, and of course the best way to find your character is in the script. One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received about script work for actors is to read the script three times. Why three times?...

1. To understand the play as a whole,

2. To take note of everything the character says about themselves

3. To take note of everything said about your character by others.

By doing this you get a well-rounded view of the character. You can make choices on wether your character actually believes what they say about themselves, or wether you know or care what others say. This will uncover the fundamental elements to mould your character and how it fits into the piece. Once you have found these, you can start to make choices about their objectives and motivations. What do they want and what drives them? Then you start to physicalise them, ( I love this part). Take the time to understand how a person with all these traits, feelings, desires, status ect, would move.

excercise tip - getting to know your character

I always use a really simple exercise I learned as a child; I start to walk around letting a certain area of my body lead me. If my character is confident or high status, I often lead with the chest, and use a wide gait and if it’s the opposite I invert that. I will play with these ideas until I start to feel I can switch comfortably into this physicality. Then I move on to the voice, the script will always help here, because from your first few reads you should have an idea of status and your characters place of origin.

how to interpret the script ( if using external material)

How you use the words you are given it pretty much up to you. Explore every avenue out loud and try to let the character change their tactics each time, but always keep the same intention. Remember make a note of which one feels right in your script. Trust that instinct until the director tells you its wrong, then smile and adapt it. As well as a performer I’m also an artist to I have always turned sketches to help me visualize my character, this helps me endlessly in the way I hold my body and face when i am performing. I can just let my mind find that silhouette, the expression and use them like a visual toolkit. “Which arm is the weak one?” “How do I make my face look as drained as I’ve drawn him?”

So these are a few little things that might just help you out. Few fundamental titbits that might just make something click into place. Something I always try to remember is that acting is a really weird job because you spend so little time actually doing it, being on stage or on a film set is your moment, literally your time to shine, so when it is actually happening really properly relish it. Try new things, see what happens, push the boundaries. Remember that feeling and let is push you forward. You’ve picked a bastard of an industry to get into, you might as well enjoy it.