Why Acting Is and Needs to Be Fun

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It’s not like I can’t understand why so many of you out there are stressed out basket cases when it comes to acting. It’s challenging. But if you don’t operate from a place of fun, acting is going to feel like forcing a square peg into a round hole; it’s going to hurt and take chunks out of you.

Auditions are not tests that you need to ace. Looking at it that way makes your whole prep and rehearsal like cramming for a test, trying to find the “right” answers, trying to memorize them, and then praying you’ve prepared enough to deliver when it counts. Then, if you don’t book it, you feel as though you failed, didn’t work hard enough, or didn’t do it “right.” Where’s the fun in that?

And it’s likely that’s not even remotely true. Even if every actor came in and killed it, only one can book the job. There can be only one.

I’m a firm believer in that we do what we want to do. If auditioning and acting is a constant source of stress and anxiety, you’re not going to have as much motivation to do it. Eventually, you’ll stop giving it your all because your body doesn’t want to go through the stress of it all. It’ll fight you.

I’m sure many of you under prepare for that very reason: because you hate auditioning. You judge yourself and rip yourself apart. You hate the way you look or sound on camera. You think you’re missing the “right” answer—desperately trying to imagine the way to do the work that’ll book the job. Ah! Why can’t casting just send an instruction manual with the scene telling me what all the “right” ways are to play each beat!

Because that’s not their job. That’s your job: to create these living and breathing characters out of the skeleton outline that is the script. If you add up all the black on the page and all the white, you have a pretty close ratio of what is required of you and what you get to bring to the work.

Remember how much fun it was when we were kids to make up and tell a story? You can create whatever you want. In fact, in rehearsal, sometimes I play the scene in obviously unbookable ways just for the fun of it—just for me and my rehearsal partner to laugh at or be creeped out by or whatever. It’s fun. Someone has created a story world, and now I get to play in it for a while.

There is no “right” way to do any scene, only wonderful ways. The text tells you what is required of you and then you get to fill in the white space with your imagination and skill and creativity. You explore the storytelling to find the way you believe is the most compelling—that you think will make the best contribution to their story, respecting the genre, tone, and writing style of their project.

Then you simply go and present a well-rehearsed, organic, but still prepared performance that encapsulates those choices. If your work was thorough, even if you get a redirect, it’s probably a way you already played with and you simply swap out choices.

In fact, that’s a word that too many actors still don’t really understand, and where almost all of the fun in acting comes from: choices. If you believe that you have no choice and are simply to ace every test, you will not enjoy the professional acting process and will not want to keep doing it.

If, however, you look at each audition as an exciting invitation to show the project’s passionate directors, writers, and producers how you would contribute to their story, that is an inspired and fun way to work.

You train so that you get more skilled at understanding storytelling from an actor’s point of view, learn about all the different mediums and genres of the craft so you know how to adapt your acting to each one, and rehearse being able to deliver your favorite performances on cue, take after take.

That’s not so bad, is it? It just takes time and skill.

Be a professional consistently without the expectation of booking and you will book more than you ever expected.

And for Pete’s sake, enjoy yourself. Life is short. Play. Acting is fun.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.
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Shaan Sharma
Shaan Sharma is a session director, on-camera acting teacher, and author of “A Session Director’s Guide to Commercial Acting in L.A.”
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