Saturday, October 31, 2009

How to understand Shakespeare

In my book, I suggest that all aspiring actors have three monologues ready to go at all times. One of these is to be classic which is usually Shakespeare. But I get lots of questions about how to understand and play the Bard's plays, so I thought it a good time to discuss just that.

There are some plays which are much easier to understand than others. As You Like It, Twelfth Night, and MidsummerNight's Dream are pretty straight forward though the last is pretty complex with all its sub plots. So the first thing to do is to pick a play that is pretty easy to understand. Then you will need an annotated script of the play that has plenty of footnotes or marginal notes to explain archaic words and expressions and contemporary references. Also keep a dictionary at hand just in care there are some words you don't understand that are not explained in the notes.

Now the real key to reading Shakespeare is the punctuation. If you are having a problem understanding the meaning of the speech, I suggest you approach it sentence by sentence. Periods, question marks and exclamation points indicate the ends of sentences. We never endstop reading verse because that interrupts the flow of ideas. (Unless, of course, there is a period, question mark or exclamation point at the end of the line.) Once you have the sentences separated, follow the commas, semicolons and colons to learn the meaning and to speak the line naturally. Commas indicate pauses and denote items in a series or set off a parathetical expression. Semi colons indicate that a related idea or further explanation follows, also giving the reader pause. And colons indicate that explanation follows which could be a series or a restatement of the idea at hand. Colons indicate pauses longer than commas and semicolons and shorter than end of sentence punctuation. Sometimes just reading the line following the punctuation will make it understandable.

Finally, after figuring out what it all means, you have to act the speech. Remember like all speeches, a monologue (or long speech) contains the emotional and physical reaction of the character to what has just caused him to say it. And, as it is a long speech, often what the character himself says will be the stimulus for what he says next. Suit the action to the word, the word to the action and you are performing Shakespeare like a pro!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I am begining to think they really do not want to be actors

There are so many who say they want to be actors and most have wanted to "all my life" (average 8 years). A good half have never done any acting at all. Many only want to be film actors and don't want to do theatre. None of them know what to do about it. Oh, they have picked up the wrong ideas from somewhere, but they really don't know how to go about it.

It seems to me if someone really wants to be an actor, that they would have been and would be acting--somewhere. In school, church or the community. And a few, to their credit are doing that. But except for having heard that acting is hard to get into, they have no idea of what the business of acting is or how professional acting is different from amateur acting.

I think most are like I was, they want to get into acting because it doesn't seem to involve any hard labor. And for the most part they are right. I am living proof that a complete sloth can become a professinal actor. Oh, I have done a few hours of manual labor in my lifetime, but I was always the weakling and inept when it came to physical things. But film and tv actors don't seem, for the most part and excepting action films for which they use doubles unless the principle actor insists on doing his own stunts. to do anything much physically. That's pretty cool considereing what film acting wages are rumored to be.

But film and tv acting is not what we see on the screen. What we see is illusion. Optical tricks created by editing and special effects, lighting and music. Somewhere back a few posts, I go into more detail on this, but here my point is that about 90 percent or more of the people who think they would like to be actors, would not really like it, even if they were suited for it, which 90 percent of them are not. It is just too hard to get a job and too boring to put up with.

I advise many of them to become accountants where they can really make some money without physical exertion.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How do I get started as an actor?

Here's a question that comes up a lot. People take it into their heads that they want to be actors. Of course they know nothing of acting, amateur or profesional. They just think it looks like an easy way to make money. This question is realted to another that comes up a lot "Are there any legit agents in NYC?" I mean really! The answer to both questions is: if you have to ask the question, you are not suited to become an actor. Actors are people who act, therefore to get started I guess you should start acting somewhere. And as for legit agents anywhere, I guesss you have to be old enough to read the yellow pages and smart enough to separate the good from the bad. It you are none of these things, give up acting and go look for work.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Adult Aspiriants with no Experience

Actually, there is a different approach to becoming a professional actor if one happens to be 18 or older without any acting experience. Of course the best thing is for that person to get some acting expereince in community theatre or by going to community college and participating in the plays there. It is not necessary to major in theater, just choose a school that will let you tryout for the plays even if you are not a theater student. You can major in food serivce or accounting or public realations, something that will get you employed when you finish school and want to pursue acting. The principles for becoming an actor remain the same at any age: 1.get business cards and post cards and network all the time, 2 build a great resume, 3. take a couple of clases, 4. get great head shots, 5, try to get an agent while continuing to network and to build your resume via community theatre, indie films, extra work, etc. Remember, it is not who you know , but who knows you that counts. Do everything you can to become recogniszed as a member of the acting community where you live, and by networking become recognized as a terrific member of the acting community where you live. Use a mentor. I am available an at your serivce at

Saturday, October 24, 2009

No easy way. You have to work years for it.

I suppose it is inevitable that youngsters in their preteens and teens and even a few adults will always think there is a quick and easy way to become a professional actor. "All I need is an agent." Well, no. You need superior talent, personality and looks-if not beautiful, then interesting. "Where's a good web site for casting?" They are all schemes to get your money. Until you are well expereinced and mature enough to choose the right ones, stay off the web. No preteen or teen is going to become a professional unless their parents make it happen for them. "Where are auditions in Podunk, Arkansas?" There are none. If you are going to be an actor you are going to have to live where theatre and film is produced. That means in or near a large city. Sorry, if you live in the boonies with no way of getting to the city to take advatage of things, you are screwed. Maybe you can go to the state college and major in theatre. Neither is an inexperienced adult is going to become a professional until he or she has paid the dues of performing in many amateur theatre productions, taken a professional class and worked the years needed to build a strong resume, and they need interesting looks, superior ability and personality as well. Our 'me' generation which expects everything handed to them just for the asking is going to run into a brick wall of reality when they try to become actors without puting in the time and effort needed. Slow down, take it easy. Make sure you are an actor before trying to become a professional one.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Theatre Career without being a Professional?

Let's start by defining our terms. 1. Theatre career--a lifetime of work in one or more areas of the dramatic arts. 2 Professional--in the dramatic arts, the only professionals are union members working for union wages. The rest are either semi-professionals who make some money at it, but not at union levels;` or amateurs who do theatre because they love it, rather than for money. OK? Swell. Using these definintions, of course it is possible to have a theatre career without being a professional. In some ways it may even be prefereable. It has more flexibility. You can work in many areas. And you can often do what you want to do rather than what others want you to do. I spent thirty seven years in educational theatre as a teacher, playwright,producer, director, designer and actor. I spent another ten years as a playwright, producer, and director of my own theatre companies, and squeezed into all of this I also owned and operated and wrote and directed for a dinner theatre, acted in semi pro dinner theatre, and spent ten years acting in professional films as a SAG member. I also had founded and operated and acted and directed for a theatre while I was in grad school. And since I stopped producing and directing theatre, I have continued to teach acting and I have written a book on preparing for professional acting. But, I know, and I think it is obvious from this brief run down of my experience, that I have had one heck of a career in the theatre even without any of the professional work.
It has been the best career I could have had, even though my employers rarely kept their promises and I had to make do as best I could for all the years of my career. It was a creative challenge that I enjoyed and look back on fondly. Best of all, and one reason, no doubt, why my employers sometimes did not support me, was that I did it MY WAY. I even eschewed the possibility of changing jobs to "better schools" because I cherised being my own creative boss. I loved it and I recommend it heartily as a career to those who also love the theatre.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Look before you leap

If you want to become a film actor, you go to LA, right? Not necessarily. LA is wall to wall unemployed actors, and right now (Oct 09) the rest of LA is mostly unemployed as well. Yeah, they are still making movies, but not necessarily in LA. There are films being made all over the place, with the US Southeast being one of the most popular places, along with Texas (because the economy is not too bad there), and Vancouver and on and on. I think it is much better to become established as an actor somewhere other than LA and not to go there until you are signed to do work there. LA is also the most difficult place to get an agent. A big city such as Dallas or Atlanta is probably a good choice, because there will be lots of stage opportunity there as well as film production. Other problems with LA are the cost of living (which I heard about a year ago was five thousand dollars a month), and the enormous distances to places. You cannot go without a place to live and a job. So think about it. Look before you leap. Remember the song,"Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" which talks about all the would be stars are parking cars?!!
Don't get in a hurry, acting is a lifetime endeavor.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Oops! Seems I have been short changing the acting profession. Let me take this opportunity to correct misinformation in previous posts. The average earnings of a SAG member in 1997-09 was $5000 a year, not $1000 as I have been saying. In 1997-98, the average Equity member made $15,000 a year. Sorry about the mixup. Doc

Thursday, October 15, 2009

How not to succeed as an actor

This will be brief, but I had an experience with a couple of people today asking for help with monologues. If you have read this blog, you know how I feel about that. But I try to be helpful.
First of all most people wanting help with monologues or auditions never give enough information. They should always include what the audition is for (specifics, name of agency or show and producer, etc.). It could be my uncle Fred or it could be a terrible scam. They should always include their vitals, age, height, weight, eye color, hair color.
Today a young 'lady' asked for such help. Didn't include anything but female, and age. I asked for the other info and she gave me part of it. I informed her she was not thorough following instructions but went ahead and gave her great advice. She answered haughtily that she always followed instructions well, but forgot the item I mentioned. I told her why I wanted it. She replied more haughtily that there was no reason for my concern. I know a couple of things about her from her correspondence. I know she is not going to be an actress, because she has a bad attitude, for example. Now a younger fellow asked me for the same help, gave me everything I needed but I didn't check his name for gender, so he had to correct me, but he did so off hand and with out attitude, so I know something about him as well. He has a better chance of success than the other person. This is the kind of stuff that I have to put up with. LOL>

Should an aspiring actor do extra work?

Now here's a topic that there is a difference of opinion about. Some say that someone wanting to be an actor should never do extra work because they don't want to get known as an extra player. I disagree and think it can be very advantageous to be an extra. First of all, it familiarizes you with the film making process. Three or four extra jobs can beef up a resume. I know of two people that got their first extra jobs bumped up to day player and qualified for SAG. And I heard of another who went from extra on a soap to a recurring role. Nowadays a person can qualify for SAG by doing three extra jobs on SAG films and collecting the vouchers that they did the jobs. Extra work pays pretty well these days, about ten times what it paid when I started professional acting thirty years ago. $150 a day is not too shabby. Barely living wages, but not bad. So let's not be snobbish about being an extra. Subscribe to Something may turn up nearby that you can be an extra in.
Extra work pays well in Canada, too. You can earn ACTRA membership if you collect 24 vouchers for being an extra on ACTRA films and commercials in one calendar year. ACTRA extras are paid far more than non union extras.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Networking for Success

Many aspiring actors give up because they believe that only the people with connections can succeed, that if you don't know the right people you cannot become an actor. Well, what I say is that it is not who you know; rather, it is who knows you. Becoming known in the business is how one really sets him or her self up for success. And an actor gets known by networking. Networking in acting is a little different than it is for other businesses, but not much. And it is much different than most aspiring actors think it is. Brian O'Neil, author of the industry standard, Acting as a Business, calls it infiltrating the business rather than networking. When you read Cohen's Acting Professionally, and learn how close knit and small the acting profession really is, you realize that the only way to succeed is to infiltrate that small group of people who actually make money at acting. Most of us call the process networking, and it is an on-going 24 hour a day job for all aspiring actors. Networking is getting yourself out there, so you will be seen and known. It involves a bit of chutzpah, bold nerve, as well as great organization and planning. You have to be able to go up to people, famous people, whom you have never met and introduce yourself, say something nice about their work and express your interest in working with them. You have to leave them your business card and get theirs if possible. Then you have to leave them alone. You never come on as though you are begging for a job. Just make contact, and get on with the rest of the room or event or day. Will they remember you? Maybe. Industry professionals are remarkable for remembering everyone they meet. If you are going to succeed in the industry, you, too, will have to become superb at remembering everyone you meet. Details on how to network are discussed in Rock and Riddle's How to Be a Magnet for Hollywood Success and in my book The Tao of Acting. Beginning actors have to spend much more time networking than acting to get ahead in the business. You have to be known if you are to succeed.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Ah, agents! You gotta have one to be a professional actor. But when do you get one? Most youngsters believe that if they can just get an agent, they will magically become the next lead in the Twilight series or on Disney. Not so of course. When preparing for an acting career, getting an agent is pretty far down the list. First you have to have lots of acting experience. Amateur plays are a great place to get that. And then a couple of indie films and/or extra jobs is a good idea. Then you need some training. I don't think a talented actor needs to do two or three or four years at a conservatory or a college, but it is a good idea to have a few acting classes on your resume, including at least one from a highly respected studio, But you still are not quite ready for an agent. You still need a great head shot. You can make your own, but it will have to be pretty darned good. Then you need business cards and personal post cards so you can start networking, because networking is one way to get an agent. Well, you are just about ready for the agent now. But go at it in a sensible way. You have to live withing an hour or two travel time from the agency so you can get there for auditions. Your agent should be SAG or AEA or AFTRA franchised and a member ot ATA (The Association of Talent Agents). Then,. following the advice of Brian O'Neil in Acting as a Business, you can start working on getting a talent agent.
This whole process probably will take a couple of years or so. But you don't want to get in a big hurry to be an actor, because that is how people get scammed. Acting is a tough business, you have to go about it corectly to even have a chance. Take your time. Get ready for an agent before you try to get one. Then when the agent gets you an audition there is a chance you may get the part.

Friday, October 9, 2009

You have to be prepared

I just read the story of an English actress, thirty years old, who quit acting and joined the Royal Navy! She had starred in a teen series in the UK and in the American version as well as several other UK series. But just after three years in LA, which she called "demoralizing" she decided the chuck it and do something else.

This story just emphasizes how terribly difficult it is to maintain a career as an actor. The problem, of course, is that we are so inundated by unemployed actors that even a seasoned, talented actor cannot find work.

What is an aspiring actor to do? First, I recommend making sure you are ready to pursue acting as a career. You have to underatand the business and how it works. And I recommend staying away from LA unless you have a contract to work there. There are plenty of other cities to pursue being an actor. Finally, the aspiring actor needs to understand that it is most likely that they will not ever make a living at acting. Acting will have to be a sideline and the actor will have to support him or her self by other means while pursuing acting jobs.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Play's the Thing

I am forever seeing questions by youngsters asking, "what part shall I tryout for?" or "do I have a chance for the lead?" Then others are asking, "how do I become a famous actor?" And even experienced actors are saying what role they want in the next audition they are attending. Finally, I get questions from actors in plays in which they want to know how to deal with personality clashes amongst the cast or how to deal with some cast member who is difficult or who is incompetent.

All of these questions are egocentric and should not be the concern of the person asking them. If a person is going to audition for a play, he or she should do so with the intent of helping the show be a success. It is the director's job to determine how that can be done. If you will be most helpful as the lead, swell. If you can do that by being in the chorus, great! be the best chorus member ever and make the show terrific. If all you are concerned about is being famous, you have no business trying to be an actor. Fame is not such a good deal anyway -- with papparazzi following you everywhere sticking cameras in your face, with people writing fake stories about your supposed abnormalities of taste and behavior, and generally your not haveing any sort of private life at all, having to hire body guards, etc. Can't be any fun.

I write in my book, The Tao of Acting, about actors being the worst judge of what roles they can play. Take it to heart. It is only an ego thing to think you can be great as any role. The proof is in the doing, not in the thinking. It is the director's job to cast the show,not yours. It is also the director's job to prevent conflicts amongst cast members, to make sure that someone is not undermining the play with gossip and back biting, and to make sure that every actor in the show can give an effective performance. These things may worry you as an actor, and if they are not resolved by the director before the performance of the show, you might want to reconsider before working with the offending actor or the director again.

It all boils down to ego. We want to look good when we are in a show. We want to be seen as worthy and competent. We always will run into difficult situations and difficult people as we continue to work in the theatre and cinema. It comes with the territory. The best thing you can do is not be a difficult person and do your job well.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hints for aspiring actors

First you need to act. A lot.--as much as you can while you are in High School at school and in the community.

Do not get in a hurry, it takes a lifetime to become an actor.

Watch out for scams. The scammers prey on the over eager.

Learn about the business of acting. It is just like going into any other business; it takes money, experience and a good product which is you as an actor. It must be promoted properly to be a success.

What you see on the tv and film screen is not the acting, that is not what the actors do all day. Mostly they sit around and wait, Film acting is not that exciting. Everything is rehearsed and done over and over until it is right, then a small clip of it is edited into the film with sound and music to create the illusion that these things are happening to the characters.

Learn to be humble. The business does not like strong egos.

Experience is more important than training.

People who succeed are not necesarily the best actors, they may be the best self promoters, or the best personalities, but they must have enough talent to do the job or they wouldn't get it.

Don't try to do anything professional while in High School, plan to start working on being a professinal after you graduate, unless your parents make something happen for you.

Until you are 18 you cannot sign a contract or do anything professional without one of your parents being there. Your parent has to get you an agent if you are to have one before you are 18,

Read and study my free book. Reread it and study it some more. Learn all that is in it and put it to use.

To really succeed at acting takes LUCK more than any other thing.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Every budding actor faces the threat of being scammed. The scammers know that wannbe actors are so enthralled with the idea of being a professional that they are very easy to cheat. Therefore, the ocean is full of sharks. If it weren't for the fact that there are so many wannabes, the "acting business" would have more scams per possible sucker than any other area. If you look on the web, and I don't really advise doing so until you know what you are looking for, you will find perhaps hundreds of Casting Agents who for a small fee will get you in the movies! Except they really won't. Or they will send you notices of films you can audition for. Except they turn out to be in LA and you are in Kansas or somewhere. There are even places that say they will make you a star just by signing up and paying their fee. Never happens. The worst are those who say they are holding auditions for Disney and Nick, but really are just trying to sell suckers acting classes at exhorbitant prices. The best are the talent fair showcasese for actors, singers and models. For an enormous amout of money, they will put you in front of the leading talent agents and casting directors in the business. Well, they do that(sort of because the very top people often do not make up the panel of judges), but unless you are very very very talented and very very very photogenic and very very rich, AND unless you live in the city where the agents and casting directors are from, mostly LA or NYC, there really is not point. How are you to take advantage of an opportunity on the coast when you live inland a thousand miles? So be careful, for heaven's sake, and do not fall prey to these scams. To be sure, you can always ask me about something before you put any money down.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Read, read, read

So you wanna be an actor? Films only? No matter. Every aspiring actor needs three monologues and should have them prepared and ready to go at all time. Where do you find a monologue? Simple. In a published play. A monologue is a long speech. Shakespeare is full of them. So are lots of other plays, but you really need to read a lot of plays to find your monologues. You see, they must fit you exactly. Be your age and your type and something you could logically be cast as. There for it is pointless to ask on a site like Yahoo Answers what monologue should you do or where can you find one or does any one have one with these qualifications? You alone know, sort of, what age and type you are and only by reading lots and lots of plays will you ever find roles that are suited to you to a T. So start reading. Go to the library and get with it. If you are in a school that offers a dramatic literature class, take it. But go, get started. it's gonna take some time. If you are going to be a successful actor you are going to have to be a good self starter and a tireless worker. This is just an intermediate step.