Are you exercising enough? You might think I am referring to going to the gym, but I assure you, there’s no treadmill, weights, or rowing machine here! The regimen of which I speak has more to do with exercising your acting skills than anything else. For many actors, creating characters, going to improv classes, reading copy, and auditioning is all part of a healthy, consistent workout. Here are things you can do to make rehearsing and honing your skills a regular part of your life and professional development.
1. Make it consistent. How do you become a better actor than you were the day before? A lot of it comes down to time and commitment, which for many of us means forming a new habit. Practicing needs to be habitual. Any actor working today knows that dedication is a primary ingredient for a habit to take root. In order to succeed here, you’ll need to find a set time each day when you can invest in your professional development. Consider doing vocal exercises during your daily commute, or if you’re a night owl, train when everyone else in your home has gone to bed. Whatever you do, find a time that works consistently and stick to it. Something else that will help you is to practice in the same location each time. To give you an example, when trying to form a daily reading habit, I picked a time and place where I would read regularly to help make what was once a sporadic activity a more consistent and eventually regular activity.
2. Make it diverse. One of the great joys of being an actor is that you are only limited by your imagination. There are so many different ways in which you can explore your instrument, interpret a script, or develop a character. To go back to our exercising metaphor, if you only focus on one aspect of your frame, you’ll never strengthen the other parts of your body. Find ways to challenge yourself. This might mean taking a class or learning a new skill. You could explore different genres of work, immerse yourself in content from a different setting or time period, or try on a new accent for size. Broadening your scope of work might also be of interest to you. Experimenting with copy—even if you don’t plan to audition for a job—can still provide you with unique opportunities to discover your range as an actor and introduce you to forms of work you wouldn’t have considered otherwise.
3. Make it fun. Though it might be easier to practice on your own, doing so can also be boring at times. Just think back to taking private music lessons and how dull it was to rehearse alone. Fear not, I’ve got some good news for you: Practicing doesn’t need to occur in isolation. As with most creative people, actors thrive on collaboration and are able to express themselves with greater vivacity when surrounded by others doing the same thing. If you were to look around, I’m confident you’ll find any number of improv groups or voiceover workout groups for actors. They might be offered at a local college or theater. There are even groups that meet virtually via Skype. Backstage is a great resource for connecting with other actors. Be sure to ask a friend if they know of anything you might be able to join.
4. Make it count. If you’re anything like me, you may need some motivation to see you through. For some people, that could be a small reward for practicing like having a cup of tea or spending some time on social media. For others, it could be the sheer satisfaction of striking an item off of their to-do list. Tracking your practice is key, as this will inspire you to keep going and also show you how far you’ve come. One recommendation is to have a buddy who can hold you accountable. Another actor who has similar goals might be the ideal candidate for you on this journey. You’ll both have someone to push and encourage you, to share ideas, and provide feedback.
Procrastination is usually at the core of why people don’t practice. They say they will do it and generally have good intentions. However, if practicing to improve our art does not become habitual, it may not be as important to us as we’d like to think. With time management, prioritization, passion, and dedication, you’ll rise head and shoulders above the crowd to go from being a good actor to a great one.
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