Beginning actors are bound to make mistakes, it's perfectly natural. Here are a few of the most common beginning acting mistakes, things to keep an eye out for, and how to fix them if you find yourself falling prey to these errors.
Don't forget the audience. The lights are bright, there is a vast black space in front of you, and you can't see anyone. But they can see you! Just because you're not saying lines doesn't mean the audience can't see you. Remember to speak not only to your scene partner but to the audience, cheat out (hold your body posture at angles where both scene partners and audience members can see your face clearly), and stay in character the entire time you're onstage.
Act with your body, not just your voice. Beginning actors worry so much about their lines and blocking that they forget to incorporate the physical world into their experience. The audience connects with you by seeing you - how you move, how you hold yourself, how your character takes up space. A good way to practice this principle is to practice removing your lines from a scene. Practice alone, or with scene partners, running through your scene and "saying" your lines by only using your body language. See if you can get your point across.
Expand your acting beyond your own personality. While it's OK to play characters that closely resemble your personality, you will often be cast as people who are wildly different than you. Don't get in a rut of speaking, moving and reacting how you normally would in real life. Define the differences between you and your character, and try to play those differences up.
Project your voice with diction, articulation and volume. These are the technical aspects of getting your message across to an audience - they must be able to hear and understand you. The way you speak in real life is not going to cut it for the stage. Practice speaking in your performance space and ask a partner to sit in the audience and make sure they can hear you. Once you've found the correct level, memorize how it feels in your body (muscle memory) so you can practice it elsewhere. Practice tongue twisters, speed drills and over-enunciating your lines.
Deal with stage fright. Beginning actors haven't been on the stage much, so it's only natural that they will experience excessive anxiety about forgetting lines, missing high notes, tripping over dance steps, or any variety of other things. While they seem catastrophic in your head, remember that these items are small and most of the time, the only person who notices them is you. This site has a ton of other information about performance anxiety and an eBook dedicated entirely to the topic.
Don't lose your focus or break character. Again, as stated above, if you make a mistake, the audience probably didn't see it, so giggling about it, apologizing for it, or freezing up will only draw attention and make matters worse. Simply let it go, and move on quickly. Your job is to stay in character no matter what. A great way to prepare for this is to ask a partner to purposely distract you while you practice your lines, and practice your laser-like focus!
Want more acting tips? Pick up our eBook chalk full of beginning acting exercises, Sensational Scenes and Songs.
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