Actor’s Etiquette: The Actor’s Job

18th-Edition-Cover-WO-428x487It’s all on your shoulders.

The quality of your performance is determined by three things:

  • How much talent you possess (This is a fixed element.  Training can bring out hidden talent; it can’t create it.)
  • How much time you put into the work, especially outside of formal rehearsals
  • How effectively you know how to use your personal and formal rehearsal time

There is no substitute for time.  There are no real short-cuts in acting.  Yes, good technique speeds things along and allows you to accomplish more as a result, which leads to better performances.  But good acting still takes plenty of time, it’s just that now you know how to use that time to maximum effect.

Being a good actor is, as with most things, a matter of taking responsibility for your own stuff and not expecting someone to hold your hand through the process.  If you’re reading this blog, you’re either an adult or you’re going to become one.  That means determining what kind of actor you want to be and making sure that you do whatever you need to do to achieve that.

I’ve been doing this a long time.  When an actor shows up at rehearsal or to class, I can tell whether he’s done any work on the play since I last saw him.  I can tell whether it was work done earlier in the week or hastily done this afternoon.  I can tell what kind of work he’s done – whether he’s just been saying his lines or if he’s dug into the character, and if the latter, what kind of digging he’s done.

Whether I’m directing or teaching, there is a limit to what even I can do with you if you aren’t bringing something to the table.  THAT’S what you’re responsible for, as an actor.  Like me in that play I talked about in the last Etiquette post (when I was playing adjectives, by the way – that much I can recognize in hindsight!), you are only going to be as good as you can be at this particular moment, and that is PERFECTLY ALL RIGHT.  It’s where you are right now.  It’s the best you can do.

But it’s ONLY the best you can do if you are really putting in the time and effort and doing everything you know how to do at this moment.  That’s something the director simply can’t do for you.  We might be able to nudge you in the right direction now and then.  But we can’t do the work for you.



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