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Common Acting Mistakes - Robert Winsor Institute

Avoiding Common Acting Mistakes

Possibly the most notable of all common mistakes made by amateur actors when learning how to act, and one which should be addressed first and foremost, is something known as "playing the state". You may often hear of aspiring actors being warned "not to act", what this generally means is a warning not to play the state. Characters, and acting as a whole, is by its very nature centered around the experience of human emotion, however, learning how to act is not about learning to portray an emotion. Human beings are driven throughout their daily lives by one thing and one thing only, the drive to fulfill a "want", not the drive to sit around and experience what having that want makes them feel. All action on stage is driven by these wants, we experience who a character really is not by what the Actor shows us, but primarily by what the character does.

Preparation is key

Obviously the emotion that a character is experiencing is still vital to the action, so this is not to say that the actor should not explore the emotional state as part of how to act as a character, the difference is that character work is done in preparation and not during the performance itself. The difference is vital to really inhabiting a character and is key to Presentational (see approaches to acting on my site) Acting, whilst an actor will consciously pursue his want on stage, thinking about what that want is and how to act in order to achieve it, he will not be thinking about who his character is, or about how that character is feeling, this will have been done in the rehearsal stage and will instead be experienced by the actor, as if they were the character them self. Indeed, trying too hard to "act" often comes from a belief that an entirely fabricated human being must be formed with no apparent link to the actor in order to truly create a character, in reality an actor must be prepared to draw on all the relevant parts of himself and his own experiences in order to create a character.

This gives rise to a common mistake in itself, as the inexperienced attempts to cram everything he knows about how to act, and about the character he is portraying, consciously into his performance on stage/screen. The road to inhabiting a character is a long one and it's all down to preparation and rehearsal, real people don't have to think about who they are inside in order to maintain a persona, it's who they are inside that determines what they think and feel, and also what it is that they want, which, in turn, determines how they decide to act.

Wants and Actions

Now that we know that the character is focused on what he or she wants rather than their emotional state the next key thing to discover is what the character does instead of merely experiencing what they feel. As a general rule, all wants, and therefore all that happens on stage, plays out as one character performing an action on another. These "actions" are more formally known as transitive verbs, that is to say, something that another person can experience being done to them. i.e. I can experience the sensation of being threatened, pushed, teased etc. In their enthusiasm inexperienced actors often rush straight in to rehearsing a piece without taking the time to establish each characters wants (be aware that these can change as often as one line to the next") and what actions each character performs on another (or occasionally on themselves) in order to achieve each specific objective. Reading and learning lines with these thoughts in mind gives rise to a much more organic, presentational style of acting that trying to engineer the way a line is read in order to give the impression of the correct emotional state without it being felt.

Possibly the biggest mistake that any passionate young actor could make would be to give up too easily, yes the industry is a competitive one, but you don't have to be a Hollywood A-Lister in order to make a living working at what you love most! (Focus initially on aiming to get by as a jobbing professional actor.) Stays determined and keep up the good work; you're on the right track!

The Robert Winsor Institute Acting Classes can help expand the skills you will need to make your dream possible. Call for more details at (949) 679-3406. How to kick-start your acting career, get ahead in the world's most competitive industry. Learn how to act, how to audition and how to advance professionally, all in one place, The Robert Winsor Institute a one stop resource to guide you gently through learning how to act.
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