Sunday, 12 February 2012

Why you should try acting (and some tips to get you started)

All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. 

One of my favourite hobbies is amateur theatre and in two weeks time I'm going to be starting rehearsal for a production of Titus Andronicus: The Comedy.

I believe that every person, at some point in their life, should do a theatre production - especially amateur dramatics, and here's why:

1. Self confidence
Putting yourself out there on stage is always difficult. If you're going to do it, theatre is great when you have people around you who can smooth over any mistakes you make. As you ease into it, and get more familiar with the role you also get more confident with the role and that leads to confidence in yourself.

A process I've seen happen with several people is that they join our society, shy, but willing to give it a go. Although they may find the role difficult at first, rehearsals get them more and more familiar with the role, until they can do it easily, confidently. They soon find that they are familiar enough to just slip at will into this character they've been given and will start to do socially when they want to be more confident. "It's fine," they say, "it's not me, it's this character." And they typically find people like this confident character they're playing.

Over time, this process becomes more and more natural, and character traits and mannerisms that work for the character get incorporated into their "real" personality, and vice versa. As time goes on, people realise that there isn't actually a difference between the "real" them and a character they play in social settings, or where they need to be confident - the difference is entirely a construct they created to allow them to do this, where the truth is that they've just learnt to be confident.

It's not always as bald as this. Some people, through their involvement, are taught the mannerisms of someone confident so they can replicate them onstage. They then more purposefully fake confidence, until they've gained enough experience faking confidence that the real thing has overtaken it.

2. Getting used to an audience
At the top of the page, I quote William Shakespeare's As You Like It (Jaques, in act II, scene vii if you need to look it up). Throughout life we often find ourselves in front of an audience. This can be anything as simple as telling a joke around a water cooler to explaining why you should be first in line for promotion at your annual review. By doing theatre you learn how to play to the audience, how to play with the audience, how to make the point you want to make. You learn how to prepare for it and how not to overstay your welcome. How to accentuate your strengths, and how to mask your weaknesses. These are not just useful for entertaining an audience at £4 per ticket, these are life skills.

3. The people you meet
We are a diverse bunch of people. Our interests outside theatre cover almost everything under the sun, some of us are shy and others need the spotlight. We have people with disabilities, people covering the entire LGBT spectrum, all thrown together and... it works. It's very difficult to join us - even for one show - and not make fast friends. And who doesn't like friends?

Have I convinced you?
If I have, look up your nearest Light Entertainment Society, or amateur dramatics group and just show up. Several may even be able to cast you into a minor role partway through rehearsals (though, obviously, not all). When you go to audition, here's some tips:

  • When playing a character, really overdo it. Anyone can read the lines, but by taking the character to the point of parody is how you get the role, as directors prefer to mould what's already there, then to get it out of somebody.
  • Learn your lines early. It makes getting the character in your head far easier.
  • Don't expect major roles - there's always more actors than major roles, but you can make the minor roles memorable.


  1. Good post. I particularly liked the bit about confidence. Fake it till you make it, indeed.
    Of course, your more serious forms of acting may not necessarily do this for you. I'd say it's the comedic style we do in particular, that relies on reading audience reaction and appropriate amounts of improvisation, that impacts on a person's confidence more than anything else.

  2. I just read this out to Sebastian. He say's your right on the mark. There's more of course (as you know), but it's a great start. Will you write his funding applications?, he asks.