Today we’re going to address one of those unspoken challenges that lurks in the minds of many an aspiring actor:
I’m worried about what people will say if I pursue my dream to study acting.
There’s a wonderful show streaming on Stan right now called Rise, which is about a high school theatre director who’s staging a student production of the musical, Spring Awakenings.
In his team of actors is a leading football player who comes under no end of criticism for being a part of the show.
There’s also a young man whose parents don’t want him to be in a production with questionable values.
There’s a young woman whose single mum is just scraping by and in order to help the family, she is asked to miss rehearsals in order to work to help pay the rent.
There are numerous other characters whose participation in the show is also challenged by others.
Although it’s just a fictional story, if you want to become an actor, you’ll find there are people out there who don’t think as highly of the profession as you do.
People who think you should have other priorities and who think you are making a very big mistake.
Some people will think you’re silly for wanting to become an actor.
Some will even say it to your face.
Some people will tell you to “go get a proper job” or do something that’s more worthwhile with your life.
Some people will tell you you’ll never make it, and it’s all a fantasy.
So you’ll need a comeback.
But what do you say to the people who criticise you?
Here are a few tips:
So as you embark on your journey to become an actor make sure you also have friends who do “get it”, who do understand what it’s all about, and can offer you support and encouragement when others can’t or won’t.
In time, you may find that some of the naysayers are won over - once they see you perform on stage, or see a film you’re in, and they find themselves inclined to admit... you’ve been on the right track all along!
Our Managing Director, Elizabeth Avery Scott, gives some advice to prospective students who are thinking about professional actor training.
Graduate of our Advanced Diploma of Performance, Brendan Kelly, talks about our school and what he's been up to since graduation.
Honest Puck, Perform Australia's sister theatre company, and Limbo Theatre, are pleased to announce an upcoming co-production for an August season of the satirical classic, Accidental Death of An Anarchist, by Dario Fo.
The play is based on the 1969 incident in Milan, where a suspected anarchist - who is accused of terrorist attacks - falls to his death from a fourth-story window during a police interrogation.
Sounds serious, but in actual fact, the play promises to leave audiences in stitches, while questioning the integrity of authorities around the globe.
According to new theatre ensemble, Limbo Theatre Company, Accidental Death of An Anarchist is the perfect fit for their debut show.
“We pride ourselves on being seriously silly,” said Limbo ensemble member, Nick Steain.
“You’ll definitely get that in this show.”
Limbo Theatre Company was born from a group of Perform Australia graduates who were ready to take centre stage and create their own artistic opportunities.
“We’ve established Limbo Theatre Company to bridge the gap between our training and getting work in the industry,” Mr Steain said.
“Starting our own company has propelled us to upgrade our skill-set and think outside the ‘acting’ box.”
Honest Puck producer, and managing director of Perform Australia, Elizabeth Avery Scott, says it’s great to be supporting up-and-coming artists.
“We’ve been able to provide Limbo with rehearsal and performance space, as well as advice around starting a theatre co-op, so we’re thrilled to see them hit the boards,” she said.
The play is directed by Canberra-based actor/director Clare Moss.
Tickets: $30 Adult, $15 Concession
Tickets on sale at https://stagecenta.com/showid/4912/ShowdetailsC.aspx
Theatre: Perform Australia Theatre, 11 Whyalla St, Fyshwick ACT
Season: 7.30pm, August 1-4, 2018
Performed by arrangement with Origin Theatrical, on behalf of Samuel French Ltd.
There are a number of things that can kill your acting career before it even gets off the ground. Not nice to think about… but it’s important you understand what is expected of you as an actor working in a professional setting. Have these in hand - and your career is on a better footing from the start.
MISTAKE NUMBER 1: Turn up late. It’s a strong industry expectation that you turn up on time for your shoot or rehearsal or performance. "Time is money" in the entertainment industry - and a film crew can’t wait around for an actor, especially if they’re all being paid by the hour. If you’re due on stage and you fail to arrive for your call time (which is usually at least 1-2 hours before the performance, depending on what is required of you), you will have a worried stage manager or first assistant director trying to contact you urgently. But if you’re punctual and reliable, you’ll be seen as trustworthy - and that will increase your chances of being employed by the same people again.
MISTAKE NUMBER 2: Fail to do your prep work. Most of an actor’s work gets done before they turn up to rehearsal or their shoot. You have to have the self-discipline to sit down and learn your lines, research your character, and come up with ideas about how you’ll play it - before you even step into the work room. Then, once you’re there, it’s about getting on with the job. Fail to do it, and you’re unprepared - consequently, you might not be employed again...
MISTAKE NUMBER 3: Fail to report injury or illness. If you have become ill, or injured yourself (at work or otherwise), and you don’t let your team know, they could be putting you in more danger. Actors have to run, jump, stand for long periods of time, swim, yell, tumble, hit, carry things, dance, faint, die and many other physical actions, depending on their role. If others don't know these are a problem for you, they may just proceed as planned. You need to take responsibility for your own safety and not exacerbate any problems you have by keeping them to yourself. Likewise, if a doctor has given you specific advice, you need to pass that on to the person in your project who needs to know (e.g. director, assistant director, stage manager, work health and safety officer, etc. - whoever is your main point of contact.) There is nothing to be gained by not following doctor’s orders; in fact, by withholding crucial information, or downplaying your condition, you could do more damage to yourself which may potentially end your career as an actor. Just as one horrid foot injury can kill a dancer’s career, actors need to be equally careful of their voice and body; together these are your ‘instrument’ and they need to be in tune to play well. Make sure your colleagues and collaborators are perfectly clear on what you need, so they can find solutions to working around the problem. There is always the ethos that “the show must go on” - but it can still go on safely… or with an understudy! In some cases, an illness or injury may mean you have to withdraw from a project - but better that, than permanent repercussions.
MISTAKE NUMBER 4: Fail to get your ‘kit’ together. Every actor needs some key sales tools: some great headshots, a performance CV, a showreel, a website, and social media pages, to start with. Once you get an IMDB record - even better. Some actors go through drama school and never get these together, so are not ready to work on graduation. In addition to this you’ll likely need an ABN - an Australian Business Number - so you can be employed as a freelancer. With your kit you can approach an agent or apply directly to auditions.
MISTAKE NUMBER 5: Fail to source your own auditions. If you sit at home waiting for someone to ring and say, “I’ve got a gig for you”, it’s not going to happen. You need to get out there and find your own opportunities. Watch the industry. Keep an ear out for new projects. Look for audition opportunities and get out there and do them.
MISTAKE NUMBER 6: Fail to fill your creative tank. Succeeding as an actor is not just about putting yourself out there - you also need to nurture your soul. The reality is that not every acting job you get will be creatively rewarding (think TV commercial for hamburgers: smile, open mouth, bite hamburger, chew). Every actor craves a creative project that will stretch them, that will allow them to use (and show off) all their talents. But if you can’t launch that special project yourself, or it’s a long time coming, what are you going to do in the meantime? Without exercising our creativity, we can dry up emotionally and spiritually. We can lose our passion for the craft, get depressed and let it fall away. The good news is there are all kinds of things you can do to fill your creative tank. Go see a show. Take another acting class. Watch a film you wouldn’t normally watch. Gather a group of actor friends in the lounge room and do a playreading. You need input like this to continue your journey as an actor successfully. Without input, you can lose your zeal for the craft of acting and may give up. So when you’re not working as an actor, or when you’re not getting your ideal acting jobs, make an effort to keep your creative spirit alive.
MISTAKE NUMBER 7: Fail to overcome a crisis of confidence. From time to time an actor will have a crisis of confidence. There’s a bad review. Or one day you just have crippling stage fright which means you can’t go on. Or lines get dropped in a performance and it doesn’t go well. Or it’s been a long time since you’ve succeeded at an audition. Or you’ve got through to the third or fourth callback and you still didn’t get the gig. There are many things that might throw an actor’s confidence - and that could mean the end of your career… depending on how you handle it. To succeed in this business you need good strategies to manage your mental health - to manage things like anxiety and disappointment. Resilience is a bit of a buzz word these days, but resilience for the actor is essential. If you ever have a crisis of confidence, you need ways and means to bounce back afterwards. Counselling can be useful, as can mindfulness, talking with friends, and practising healthy eating and exercise.
When planning your career as an actor, it helps to equip yourself not only for the task of the actor - the acting - but for the lifestyle and its ups and downs. A great way to learn is by doing actor training in an artistic community - one that will support you during that training and encourage you long after you've finished. That's what we aim to do at Perform Australia. So check out what we have on offer - look around at www.perform.edu.au
Sometimes acting is a tough gig. Auditions. Rejections. Wondering if you’ll ever make it.
So it's time to encourage yourself!
Here are some inspirational lessons from actors with successful careers to remind you that you are not alone, and that what you do is worth it.
LESSON 1: BE AWARE OF THE POWER OF THE ACTOR. Actors are not just “pretending”. You actually have a significant role to play in society. When you choose to tell stories that matter, you can actually affect the course of people’s lives - and even the course of history. Stories can challenge perceptions, raise social issues, and even sway votes.
As Alan Rickman (Snape in the Harry Potter franchise) said,
"Actors are agents of change. A film, a piece of theatre, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world."
Alan RickmanActors are agents of change. A film, a piece of theatre, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world."
LESSON 2: REMEMBER THE PRIVILEGE OF THE ACTOR. Feeling emotional today? Good. You need to be able to access your emotions as an actor if you're going to create authentic characters. Acting is about finding that emotion in your voice, body, and face, and bringing it to life on stage and screen. Hugh Jackman (The Greatest Showman) said,
"Acting is the greatest privilege. You get to inhabit lives and you get to touch real emotions. That’s the job and at the end of the day, you’re calm like you played a great game of rugby. And then at the same time you’re going, 'OK we’re going to climb that mountain again tomorrow'."
You take the audience on a journey up that mountain, too. They'll experience what you have to give. And then - your job is to let it go. It’s the character living those feelings, not you.
LESSON 3: KEEP PERSPECTIVE. Are people telling you to give up this acting thing? Well, you’re not the first to experience this. Even some of the world’s most successful actors have been forced to face this issue - Tom Hiddleston (Infinity Wars) is one of them:
"My father and I used to tussle about me becoming an actor. He's from strong, Presbyterian Scottish working-class stock, and he used to sit me down and say, 'You know, 99 per cent of actors are out of work. You've been educated, so why do you want to spend your life pretending to be someone else when you could be your own man?' "
If this sounds familiar, don’t give up. Tom Hiddleston’s net worth is now $22 million. He’s doing ok from this acting thing.
Likewise, Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) wasn’t sure how it was going to go, either. She reflects on her early years as an actor:
"Acting had become like this terrible addiction. I felt I needed to give it five years and see where it took me.”
So give yourself a reasonable time frame to get started and established, and don’t expect too much too soon.
In five years, Cate was on her way and winning some wonderful roles.
LESSON 4: LEARN TO LIVE THE ACTOR’S LIFE. Emma Stone (Easy A) originally began acting to deal with her anxiety, but quickly grew to love it and wanted to make it a career. When you’re starting out professionally, the actor’s life is full of uncertainty - admittedly not a great situation for anxiety sufferers:
"All I wanted to do was sit in my bedroom and worry, but instead, acting threw me into situations where you just have to go with it. And it was good for me. Like the shy kid on the debate team."
Learning to ‘go with it’, to be in the moment, to work with whatever happens, is a big part of training to become an actor. And it has huge application in general life for all of us.
LESSON 5: FIND YOUR OWN SENSE OF SELF. You need this to sustain you as an actor - as you do in any creative field. Sometimes people are drawn to acting because they can pretend to be other people, but never face up to their own internal issues. Judy Garland (The Wizard of Oz) said:
"Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else."
Acting is about living truthfully in given circumstances. Rather than becoming somebody else, acting is about finding more of yourself to bring to a role.
LESSON 6: OBSERVE THE HUMAN CONDITION. As Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr Strange) says:
"See lots, read lots, hear lots. Experience life as well and just keep observing, really observing, not just looking.”
A good actor is constantly absorbing material to enrich their capacity as an actor. You’re always learning; your next role might call for something quite outside your normal experience. So expand your horizons. Go to the theatre. See a film you might not ordinarily see. Go to an art gallery and stare into the eyes of a portrait. Read widely. When you go to a café for a sit-down, watch the people go by. The whole world can be your inspiration when you’re an actor. And if you’re not working as an actor right now, you can still keep your observation skills going till the next job comes along.
So there you have it - six great lessons for the actor. You don’t know the future. We can only ever live in the present. So stick at it. Train hard. Master your craft. Put your best self forward. See what happens.
Photos courtesy of depositphotos.com.
Auditions are the main way actors get work. There are different types of auditions - in-person auditions where you perform live to an audition panel, screen tests which are filmed and then sent onto other decision-makers, and self-tests which you organise yourself and submit to a casting agent.
Not only is it necessary for actors to have good technique when they’re acting on stage or set - to get the role in the first place, they need to have some strong skills around auditioning.
Sometimes auditions may come to you at short notice. Your agent sends you a casting call and the audition is in two days’ time, or perhaps you’ve spotted one on social media and applications are just about to close.
So in this situation, you’ve only got a small amount of time to… literally… get your act together! That’s when it’s time to knuckle-down and do the work required.
Here are some tips to maximise your audition opportunities:
1. Read the script. Sometimes you may have a whole script to read, especially if it’s an audition for a play. Read it through, get a sense of what your character wants and needs. You’ll pick up clues on how to play the role. But sometimes, if it’s a screen project, your entire access to the script is a couple of lines and a character description. That’s not a whole lot to work with! But you can still give it some thought - think about each word, because the writer has made some very specific choices. Look for the adjectives (describing words) in your character description: what do they tell you about this character’s personality, or look, or goals and concerns? Then imagine where you might take it from there.
2. Learn your lines. There’s no excuse for an actor who doesn’t have their lines down for their audition when that’s required. You must put in the hard yards to do this, and there are no short cuts. Some actors take a long time to memorise material, while others seem to have photographic memories. Whichever you are, you’ll need to give this task the time it needs.
If you have to present a monologue, you need to master not only the lines, but the delivery of those lines in a compelling way. Remember, it’s never the lines that count - it’s what you do with them.
Sometimes you may only be required to read for an audition, perhaps opposite another actor, with script in hand. We recommend that even in this case, if you get the script ahead of time, do your best to memorise the lines anyway. Then you’ll be more confident in the room, you’ll be able to look up from your script and connect with the other actor, and you’ll be able to show more of what you can do in the short time you’re given to impress the casting director.
3. Research your character. Your casting call may be for a type of character you have never played before. A butcher, say. Or a baker. Or a candlestick maker. You may know nothing about how these characters typically move, or what their daily preoccupations are. It’s so easy to jump online and in a few minutes, get some ideas that you may be able to bring to your physicality or voice in your audition. Then you can move beyond the lines and bring your whole person, your actor’s instrument (voice and body) to communicate.
4. Look up the meanings and pronunciations of any words you are unfamiliar with. Never walk into an audition having to say words you don’t understand. It’s your job to look them up in a dictionary, whether that’s an online dictionary or the old Collins on the shelf at home. It will be obvious if you don’t know how to pronounce a word, or you are delivering a monologue and don’t understand what you’re talking about. You can always try www.howtopronounce.com to hear some suggested pronunciations. Likewise, if you have to use an accent, you’ll need to do some groundwork ahead of time. Access Youtube and other sites to hear native speakers use their accent.
5. Rehearse. Rehearsal is fundamental to the acting process whether you’re prepping for a stage or screen audition. You need to run your lines. You need to experiment with your delivery till you find an approach that gives you confidence. You need to rehearse a few different ways of doing it, because in the room, the director may ask you to try your piece with a different emotion or emphasis. During your own rehearsal you can practise playing against your instinct about the character as well - you can try playing an angry character with sadness, or an energetic character with laziness. You may discover some interesting nuances that you can bring into the room when you audition.
Even if you’re doing a self-test that you’re uploading to a website, your first take is not necessarily your best. Time permitting, you should be able to rehearse and present a test you are happy with.
6. Use an acting coach. If you have a lot riding on an audition - it’s for a big movie, a long-term TV role, a significant musical theatre contract, or a play that’s going to be your big break on Broadway - get some input from a professional. Many auditions are easy to prep alone. But sometimes you may feel more confident if you can work with a coach beforehand. Perform Australia has a number of actors on staff who coach you for auditions, and you can book them here. The initial investment in a coach is worth it if the audition might present a big financial win for you. Any money you spend at the outset will be paid back if you get the role. And if you don’t get the role, you have still invested in yourself for future auditions by spending an hour or two learning how to improve your technique with a professional.
So the key to success at auditions is - prepare, prepare, prepare. Preparation creates confidence. If you can walk into the audition room with confidence, that’s your first hurdle overcome. If you are well-prepared, you are not so worried when the audition panel asks you to be creative in your interpretation: the lines are already in your head and heart, the words come easily, and your physicality can be adapted to emotional state.
Good luck at your next audition!
If you want to be a serious musical theatre performer, it’s important that you see as much musical theatre as possible.
Sometimes aspiring performers come to us with significant gaps in their knowledge, having only ever seen a couple of live musicals themselves.
Everyone's familiar with the animated musicals of their childhood - The Lion King, for instance - but there is a rich tradition of musical theatre history which extends to all corners of the earth, and it's awesome fun to become better acquainted with it.
So if you want to be a performer, go see everything - there are live musical theatre productions locally - amateur ones, of course, but also touring professional shows; just check out your local theatre, and even grab a subscription where you may get a little discount on some of them.
And if you happen to be travelling interstate or overseas for any reason, always check ahead of time to see what’s on offer there to broaden your musical theatre horizons.
Plus, there are films of many musicals that you can find online, streaming, or on DVD.
But now - here are five musicals you should know about if you want to study musical theatre.
Why these? Because each one influenced the future direction of musical theatre in their own way. And as a performer it’s helpful to know where your current repertoire sits in the history of the art form.
There are, of course, many, many other significant works in the history of musical theatre in addition to these five. Take the time to watch, listen, and allow them to influence your own artistic taste and practice. Do this, and you'll be well-equipped to start a course like Perform Australia's Certificate IV in Musical Theatre.
Lots of young people coming out of Year 12 think of NIDA as “the dream” - the only place to go to become an actor.
For many, it’s the only drama school they’ve heard of (or rather, it’s the only drama school their school careers adviser has heard of and told them about).
Careers advisers are very important assets in our education system and have to be across many industries and options to cater to the wide variety of student interests in their school. But they won’t always know all the routes available to you to enter the entertainment industry.
Over the years, we at Perform Australia have had many wonderful conversations with careers advisers who are delighted to discover that our training facility exists and offers important courses to local students.
So as it happens, NIDA is not the only route. In fact, it's just one of several good drama schools in Australia - and there are actually a number to choose from.
You may have heard of ‘the big three’ - the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), and the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), offering Bachelor-level courses in acting and musical theatre.
But there is a way to access similar training and tap into the ethos of these schools without even stepping foot on their campuses.
There are numerous other drama schools in Australia, of which Perform Australia is one, offering actor training programs.
And if you look at the staff of these schools, you’ll find that graduates from the ‘big three’ are dotted throughout Australia’s acting studios.
Those staff, usually practising theatre and film professionals, who trained at the 'big three' institutions, bring their knowledge to schools like ours, right around the country.
That means that the important elements of classical training from these schools are passed on again and again in different ways.
So do you need to go to NIDA to become an actor?
No, you don’t. But when you’re looking at which school to apply for, why not check out its staff and see who’s on board to train you? You may be pleasantly surprised.
The truth is that there are many, many successful professional actors, musical theatre performers, directors, writers and producers who did not train at NIDA. Or WAAPA. Or VCA.
There are all kinds of people working in the industry from all different backgrounds, and who trained in all different countries.
In fact, if you want a more personal, individual approach to actor training, you’re better to go to a smaller school where you’ll get more attention.
Perform Australia is proud of the diversity of education represented by its staff, who have trained in a range of institutions in Australia and internationally.
All those flavours come together in our actor training programs, forming a wonderful feast for our students, exposing them to a joyous range of acting techniques and traditions to use in their careers.
But if you do want to get into one of the big schools, it pays to do a shorter course at Perform Australia, such as the Certificate IV In Acting for Stage and Screen or the Certificate IV in Musical Theatre.
Many people audition for NIDA without any prior training.
But if you do have prior training, straight away you're ahead of the pack.
Graduates of our courses have been well prepared to audition for NIDA, WAAPA and VCA, and we have former students who have been accepted into all of them, as well as other universities around Australia.
Even so, some of our graduates have gone straight to industry. Perform Australia graduates have won paid professional acting work in films, stage shows, voiceovers, corporate videos, modelling contracts, and many other opportunities here in Canberra, interstate and even internationally. Some of them have even won awards. Numerous graduates have agency representation.
So don’t overlook your local drama school. It may have something truly special to offer.