Being a professional actor is a difficult journey requiring luck, skill, talent, and hard work. However, there are many things young actors can do to set themselves apart and succeed artistically as well as professionally.
Onstage, it’s important to “cheat out” so the audience can see you. Face the audience at a perfect perpendicular angle and stay absolutely still. Pick one person in the crowd and direct the entire performance towards them. Make them afraid for their life.
Being an actor is an academic practice as well, and there are many classic acting texts that you should be sure to buy, stick Post-Its in randomly, rough up a bit, and feature prominently on your bookshelf.
Think of your body as a physical instrument. Polish it with lacquer oils. Check it in a hard case at airports.
Do tongue twisters in the morning as a quick and easy vocal warm up. Do tongue twisters in the afternoon when you’re on the bus. Do tongue twisters when a friend confronts you about not paying back the money you owe them. Do tongue twisters in order to find out if a darkened room is occupied. Do a tongue twister at your sister’s wedding reception to roars of applause. Do a tongue twister as a litany against fear before your council with the Great Xuradossa. Do a tongue twister or else.
Memorizing lines is always easier if you run them with a partner! Make this partner your spouse. Then you will have the attention you’ve been craving the whole time.
Make a playlist of songs you think your character would listen to or identify with. Populate this playlist only with Pinkerton B-Sides, in the chronological order in which they were released. Force your character to conform to the emotional arc of this playlist.
Sometimes, becoming a better actor is as easy as observing older, more experienced actors and seeing how they work. Kill them with a moon dagger and suck their manna from the open wound in order to gain both their abilities and their memories.
If you don’t find you’re getting the opportunities you want, make some for yourself! Write the play Barefoot in the Park by Neil Simon and perform it on Broadway at the Biltmore Theatre with your friends.
Make sure you know your “type.” Most actors are a leading man, leading lady, ingénue, character actor, villain, femme fatale, animal actor, young person who plays old people, old person who plays admirals, fatso uncle, Christ figure, Mr. Glenberry from next door, the virtuous whore, the middle-of-the-road whore, the Scottish whore, the non-whore, Beatle, cryptid or John Hawkes. Once you’ve found your type, stick with it for ten years and then play against it for awards season. (Awards Hint: Mr. Glenberry is the opposite of all the other types.)
Being an actor is all about having a wide range of skills and life experiences to draw on. Take a stats class at school! Take another. Enroll in undergrad as a general studies major but switch to statistics sophomore year. Graduate in the middle of your class but with great connections. Intern at an analytics firm before joining a high-powered office supplies company. Work your way up the ladder while earning your graduate degree, then your PhD. Marry your co-worker Celia and have two beautiful children. Move to Piscataway, New Jersey to teach at Rutgers. Publish the occasional paper. See King Crimson in concert like two or three times. Take up woodworking in your garage. Have a brief affair with an adjunct professor that you never admit to and will regret for the rest of your life. God, Sarah, this will ruin us. Watch your Johnny win first place at the boy’s regional track and field meet. Die at age 72 loved by your family and respected by your colleagues.
Before a performance, go find a dark, quiet space where you can relax, be alone with your thoughts and focus. Never come out. Don’t go onstage. Never volunteer yourself for public humiliation ever again.