Andrew Wood, MFA, Yale School of Drama • Call Today To Schedule a Free Informational Session With Andrew Wood! (323) 836-2176

free things you can do for your acting

Everybody goes through times when there isn’t a lot of broccoli in the crisper, for whatever reason.  But that’s no reason to stop doing work to develop yourself as an actor.  Here are some terrific things you can do to feed your creative soul or hone your craft while you’re waiting for the financial picture to change.

  1. Read.  Acting is about bringing the word to pulsing, transfixing life.  So getting to know said written word better is never a bad idea.  Read books about acting, read biographies of actors. read great novels, read pulp novels, read poetry, read the newspaper.  There are plenty of options.  But in our media-saturated world, spending some time reading is never a bad idea, and if helps you develop your sensitivity to the extraordinary expressive power of language, that’s even better.
  2. Study the Alexander Technique.  Wait, what?  I thought you said this was a list of free stuff?  The Alexander Technique is pricey high-end body-mind integration training.  How do I get it for free?  Well, it happens that there is an Alexander Technique Training Institute in Los Angeles, where people train to become teachers of the Alexander Technique.  And such institutes often need people to serve as subjects for the teachers-in-training to practice on.  So give them a call, and offer them the use of your body for their pedagogical purposes.  There’s a good chance you’ll learn invaluable things about said body, for a song.
  3. Meditate.  Practice the fine art of paying attention.  There are all kinds of places to learn to meditate in Los Angeles.  Here is one of my favorites, but there are many others.
  4. Study Pilates.  What does Pilates have to do with my acting? Well, acting as I teach it involves what Pilates people call core awareness. The actor’s awareness should rest in the abdominal core, in order to achieve true visceral activation and the radiance that comes with it.  Pilates is a great way to work on that, because Pilates is about learning to use your abdominal core muscles in everything you do.  Literally: everything.  There are lots of how-to videos on Youtube, such as this one.
  5. Journal.  “It’s so funny, you go to acting school thinking you’re going to learn how to be other people, but really it taught me how to be myself. Because it’s in understanding yourself deeply that you can lend yourself to another person’s circumstances and another person’s experience.”–Lupita Nyong’o
    So get going!  Writing a journal is a great way to develop intimacy with yourself, an invaluable asset for an actor.
  6. Read aloud.  Pick up some Shakespeare.  Pick up some poetry that speaks to you.  Read it aloud.  Read it to yourself.  Read it to your dog.  Read it to your roommate.  Read it to anyone who will listen.  Savor the sounds of the words and the rhythm of the sentences.
  7.  Improv.  Look on Meetup for an Improv group near you, and join in the fun.
  8. Make a game out of being rejected.  Like this guy.  There will never be any shortage of people to reject you.  If you have the nerve to do this one, your future as an actor looks bright.
  9. Go to the zoo.  Ok, this one isn’t quite free.  But if you can scrape together $20, there are worse ways to spend it.  Studying and learning to imitate animals is a hallowed form of actor training, and is wonderful for shedding inhibitions and exploring physical possibilities.

I’m sure there are others, and I’ll add them as I think of them.  But there should be some things here to get you started.

“Film acting is small.” Oh really?

Just a couple of counter-examples. Feel free to suggest more in the comments.

The notion that “film acting is small and theater acting is big” is a cliche. Great acting is bold and truthful, regardless of the medium. An underwhelming, trivial performance will vanish down the memory hole faster than you can say Amy Adams or Anne Hathaway. An overly “large performance” may live on in infamy, but if you regard “film acting is small” as a deep and powerful insight about acting, you may have a long career of cautious, eminently forgettable performances ahead of you. Sadly, many young people aspiring to be actors regard this kind of soundbyte-y, easily-graspable, facile pseudo-insight as exactly the kind of thing that will help them feel more comfortable walking into an audition.

Deep vs. shallow is a much more useful distinction than big vs. small. Have you studied a script carefully, thought long and hard about the situations of the characters and the worlds in which their stories play out? Their dreams for the future, and their fears? Their past setbacks and triumphs, particularly in the realm of forming and sustaining relationships? Have you considered corresponding relationships in your own life? Have you found a way to look at the scene as an opportunity to form or repair a significant connection, rather than a situation in which annoyance or injustice much be squelched? Have you found a way to light yourself on fire? If so, you will likely shine, in front of the camera or on stage, especially with the help of a discerning outside eye. If not, well, at least you won’t be too big. Never mind that in order to make sure you’re not too big, you’ll be watching yourself, monitoring yourself, measuring the “size” of your acting, cutting yourself down to size, where necessary. That might make you, I don’t know, a little self-conscious, but down’t worry about that. Whatever you do, don’t take a risk, don’t dare greatly, don’t expose anything raw. Because you know, if you do, they’re all gonna laugh at you. Just keep it small. Safe and small.

“There are no small parts. Only small actors.”

Yale School of Drama at the Oscars

It was great to hear the Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actress, Lupita Nyong’o, thank the Yale Drama School in her Oscar acceptance speech.

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I think it’s not uncommon for successful Hollywood actors to want to de-emphasize that they were trained; they want to seem to have been endowed with something innate and mysterious, not to be the possessor of a skill for which they sweated. So it’s gratifying when actors receiving awards acknowledge that their training was important. Lupita seems to have that kind of appreciative spirit and wisdom. Best of luck to her! I am sure this is only the beginning of a spectacular career.

Patricia Clarkson Paul Giamatti Frances McDormand Lupita Nyong’o

Meryl Streep Angela Bassett Sigourney Weaver John Turturro Liev Schreiber Tony Shalhoub Jane Kaczmarek David Hyde Pearce Chris Noth Henry Winkler Joan Van Ark Charles Dutton Ken Howard Stacy Keach Courtney B. Vance Sanaa Lathan Kathryn Hahn Kate Burton Christopher Lloyd Ron Rifkin Malcolm Getz Julie Harris Lupita Nyong’o

What do they have in common?

They all went to theater school. To study the art of acting. Three years of theater school. At the Yale School of Drama. And they went on to have some of the most interesting Hollywood careers. Ever.

Any questions?

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