What is acting?

I’m teaching an acting class for kids this fall, so I came up with nine, short acting “truths,” which I hope are easy to remember.

Acting is…

1. Getting over yourself.

In order to act well, you need to stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about your character, audience, and fellow actors. Do what’s best for them, not for you.

2. Being aware of your surroundings.

You need to know what you’re up against in terms of stage, set, actors, audience. You can’t retreat into a shell and act from there. Know your stage. Know your body. Know what’s around you.

3. Listening.

Great acting always starts with turning off your mouth and turning on your ears. If you listen well, you will never be at a loss. You will always be prepared.

4. Giving yourself to the audience.

Selfishness has no place in acting. You need to be able to give the audience everything, your heart, your mind, your emotions, your well-being. If the audience needs to hear you, you need to project. If they need to see you fall down, cry, yell, or act stupid, you should be prepared to do it.

5. Telling a story.

The characters in a play don’t think their problems are dumb or trite. The play is their world. You need to be able to see the play from the perspective of the character, and tell their story every step of the way.

6. Moving with purpose.

There is nothing more irritating on stage than a character without a purpose. If you’re on stage, you need to be doing something, even if that something is keeping still. But it’s doubly true if you are in motion.

7. Hard work.

You need to be able to put the hours in to learn your blocking, memorize your lines, understand your character. It’s a lot of work, but the payoff is worth it.

8. Telling the truth.

A good play is a true play. As an actor, you need to learn how to communicate that truth.

9. Playing.

Practices aren’t usually fun. Stress and nervousness aren’t fun. But the audience will only enjoy themselves if you are enjoying yourself. There’s a reason it’s called a play.