Stage Acting Tips

James Cagney’s tip for actors: “Never relax, and mean what you say.”

Sir Ralph Richardson: Before you leave the dressing room, look in the mirror and ask yourself: “Is it human?”

These pieces of advice are among those cited in an article in The Guardian, How to act: stage stars share their acting tips, by five veteran actors from the U.K.

Each one gives at least half a dozen tips of their own. Here is a sampling of the most practical advice:

Keep a notebook about the play, the character, the period, your moves. It’ll help you remember what you have done so far – especially if you’re having to rehearse in your spare time rather than all day, every day ~ Roger Allam.

Read the play out loud at least three times… A lot of the blocking will come out of understanding what your characters want, and from whom~Niamh Cusack

See other performances, and be critical about them: work out whether you’d have smiled in that place, or turned your head at that moment~Miriam Margolyes

People-watch: it’s the best way to develop a character. {Do this when] walking down the street, or sitting on a bus, in a cafe…~Julie Graham

Acting Advice from Elsewhere:


How to Be A Better Stage Actor, from Wikihow, treats acting like a 12-step program, e.g.

Step 1: Relax

Step 3: Immerse yourself in the role completely

Step 6: Work on projecting (buy a cheap taperecorder and then practice speaking to it from 20 feet away)

Step 11: Learn from other actors

The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts offers a page of “industry tips” that range from the practical to the….mystical?  e.g.

Only drink water that is room temperature or warm. Cold water will constrict your vocal cords.

Do not say the name “Macbeth” under the roof of any theater. If you must refer to it, call it “The Scottish Play.”

What about advice from NYADA, the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts?

There is no such school. That’s a creation of the TV series Glee.

Stars on Acting

Marlon Brando: Acting in general, is something most people think they’re incapable of but they do it from morning to night. The subtlest acting I’ve ever seen is by ordinary people trying to show they feel something they don’t or trying to hide something. It’s something everyone learns at an early age.

John Gielgud: One mustn’t allow acting to be like stockbroker — you must not take it just as a means of earning a living, to go down every day to do a job of work. The big thing is to combine punctuality, efficiency, good nature, obedience, intelligence, and concentration with an unawareness of what is going to happen next, thus keeping yourself available for excitement.

Glenda Jackson: Acting is not about dressing up. Acting is about stripping bare. The whole essence of learning lines is to forget them so you can make them sound like you thought of them that instant.

Robert Redford: A lot of what acting is, is paying attention

( from Blackfish Arts Academy)

The Advice Nearly Everybody Seems To Give

Have Fun

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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