Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I want to be an actor but.....

Listen up. Professional acting is tough. Tougher than you can even imagine. So anyone who has any excuse for not being able to pursue it should forget it. You just can't be a professional actor if you can think of any reason why you shouldn't be one. You have to have great self confidence, not ego, but assuredness that you can do it. You can't be shy. Actors have to be dynamic and charming, not shy and unsure of themselves. You can't be too poor. Acting is a business and takes financial investment. So go earn some money. You can't be disliked by your school play director. If you have messed up that relationship,you are a big time loser! It is very important that an actor make no enemies, ever, anywhere. It only takes one enemy passing on bad reports about you as an actor to tank the whole operation. You have to care whether people like you. You have to be liked to be successful. What actors do you admire and look forward to seeing again? Why do you admire them and want to see their work? BECAUSE YOU LIKE THEM. Which actors do you think are no talents? Why do you think that? Because you don't like them.
Professional acting is very very very tough. It demands a great personality and a great talent. You want to act? Then act. Find a way to do it. You are not going to succeed at it is you give yourself any excuse not to succeed at it.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

An actor writes about the Business of being an actor

I am pleased to present here some ideas about what an actor must do to succeed that were sent to me by a former student of mine who has been an actor in NYC for over 35 years.

" The overwhelming majority of actors here in NYC will miss the point that this is a business. The business requires extensive marketing by the actor. The onus falls upon the shoulders of the actor himself. He learns his craft and makes every attempt to bring this to the attention of anyone who is in the position to help his career. He sends postcards. He sends his 8x10 photograph to anyone and everyone who might help his career. He tries to appear in as many plays as possible. When he is cast in a play, he invites agents to his performances. He is oblivious to the admonitions that he should not contact these people except by specific invitation. He gets on the phone. He tries his best to sell himself. He will have to compromise his obligations to his straight job. He may have to leave the office to attend an audition which has come up at the last moment. Or he may have to appear on set on a weekday that he is not technically authorized to take off. He has to take big chances. Acting is his first priority, and this is more significant than his parent's opinions or his girlfriend or anything else. He has bet his life, as Gene Frankel would say. Your students must be dead set in these regards or they may as well forget an acting profession, to begin with. Believe me. When you have selected this profession you have agreed to become a snowball in hell and you had better be extreemly determined. There are no ifs ands or buts. You are either committed to these ideas or you are not. General desire for success will not work by itself. Everybody in the world has the general desire to become movie stars but everyone of these people or most of them will not supply the requisites that I have listed above. I do not care about what their innate God given talent may be or where they have studied or who they know. Take it from a veteran. I know whereof I speak."

This actor continues his quest for roles in the most difficult of all careers. It takes the kind of life-time devotion and adherence to ones love for the work that he embodies. As he says, if you are not ready to take on this lifestyle, forget about becoming an actor.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

College and Acting

Most young people who want to become actors attend college because their parents insist on it. I am sure the parents are hoping they will find something else to be interested in besides the uncertain and unsavory field of acting. The young people go ahead and do this because they are too immature to strike out on their own and try to become actors. I wil always admire a former student of mine who, after a year and a half of college, dropped out and went to NYC where, for the past thirty five years or so he has pursued being an actor. That takes guts. Becoming an actor takes guts. I only recommend college for the aspiring actor who is weak on experience or maturity. If you are well experienced and mature enough to support yourself, why waste the best four years of your youth on college? College will always be there. You can go to college when you are sixty years old. There is no rush. But your youth fades quickly. It will not always be there. So the sooner you can get at acting, the better. That's why I generally do not recommend college for the aspiring actor. Of course someone can become an actor at any age as well, but most young people want to play leading roles which are often for their age group. Then there are the aspirants who have been brainwashed to believe that they need to have 'something to fall back on.' The problem is that if you have something to fall back on, that is exactly what you will do--fall back on it. And that is because acting is so terribly difficult to make a living at. My former student in his over thirty-five years of pursing acting in NYC has never earned a living at it. The aspiring actor always needs a 'day job.' But the day job doens't need to be a career. It needs to be something flexible that will allow the aspirant to go to audiions and take time off to go to filming for a couple of days as needed. That is why so many aspirants are waitstaff or bartenders, or do other things that have shift work that they can trade time slots with other employees. Also it is why many actors are also self employed in their own businesses. In my book, The Tao of Acting, I explain about going to college and acting.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I often see questions about stagefright and here's my take on that. It is natural to be a bit nervous because you want to do well, but it is not natural to be so frightened that you cannot perform. An actor enjoys performing, looks forward to it and jumps at any chance he has to do it. He or she usually does this performing without being nervous about it. Although Geraldine Page, a noted actress of the past century, was said to be so nervous before each performance that she vomited. I still have to say that freedom from stagefright is part of someone's inborn talent. Yes, I have been in situations that my stagefright affected my performance, therefore in spite of my being a very good actor, I do not have the inborn talent to be really successful as an actor. What I am missing is the personality to put myself forwand and to always be composed in every performance situation. I never experienced stagefright in any of the professional work that I did. My most noteable experiences with stagefright were in class finals or in auditions in which I was asked to do something without a script. I still do not like improvisation and do not recommend it as acting training. Experience has pretty much cured me of any stagefright regarding acting, and experience will end many people's stagefight. Sound preparation also combats fear. In severe cases, I have recommended hypotism, but most everyone who has severe stagefright will not be successful at acting.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Where can I find auditions?

Here is another overly common question. Lately the auditions being sought are for the Twilight series of films or for Disney. First of all everyone needs to know that they are not going to be cast in a major film or TV show without vast experience and training. Then they need to know that there is hardly any work for anyone under 18. Producers do not like working with minors as they can ony work half a day compared to adults,so they often cast youthful looking adults to play teens. Then everyone needs to know that you have to live near where the auditions are being held. You are more likely to win the Powerball lottery than to be selected bcause of your head shot and resume by some casting director to be in their film. It just does not happen. And suppose you live in Indiana and the auditions are in LA or Oregon. How do you think you are going to get there? In these hard economic times, do you really think one of your parents is going to drop everything and take you to the auditions, and then the call backs and then the shoot, if it came to that? NO WAY. I actually have had more than one starry-eyed young girl tell me that her parents would move to LA if she got a role. Yeah, right! They probably told her that to shut her up about it because they knew full well it would never happen. Let's stay firmly grounded ont he matter of becoming a professional actor. Read the rest of the posts in this blog. It just does not happen to enough people who try to make it a probable outcome.
God bless, Doc
PS Those Disney and Nick audtions you hear being advertised on the radio are bogus come-ons by swindlers after your money. Just like the casting web sites. Stay away from those.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Acting for Fun and Profit

It was Aristotole who first said that acting (imitation) is fun. The fun is why we act in the first place. I haven't heard of a single person who has said that he or she wants to become an actor because it is hard work. No, everyone agrees that acting is fun. Of course becoming a professional actor is hard work and doing an outstanding job of acting is hard work. But hard work that has a positive result is also fun.

Whenever an actor says he or she is nervous about auditions or has stage fright, one of the things I point out to them is that they are doing this because it is fun, so concentrate on that and the nerves and fear will subside. I tell them to use this mantra: "Acting is playing and playing is fun, whenever I act I am going to have fun."

Now, we mustn't concentrate so hard on having fun that we do not seriously approach any acting that we do. It isn't just a lark, It is a way to help make the production as good as it can be. Being fun does not mean that it is not important. Of course it is important. We always insist that anyone doing any acting work hard to do it well.

An advisee pointed out to me that the fun of acting should be part of the aspiring actor's motivation for continuing to attempt to be an actor, even in the face of the negative odds of succeeding because he or she can always act just for fun, even if acting for profit fails. This is related to ideas in my book, The Tao of Acting, in which I point out that an actor acts. It does not matter if the acting is professional or amateur. It only matters that the actor is acting in something. The fun of acting supercedes all other motives. It is something that you can do your whole life.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Don't just sit there, do something

I have lost my temper with a couple of people recently because they keep telling me all the things that they do and are doing and are planning to do and yet they do nothing at all. These are the classic dreamers, the people who have no chance of ever becoming anything. They write to ask me how to get started,and when I tell them, they don't do it or they explain why they can't do it. That is the right path for failure all right. Someone who wants to be an actor, really wants it, is already acting in everything they can find to act in. Likewise, someone who really wants to be a writer is writing, not just dreaming about it. I have had a few advisees who have made the mistake of reading about acting instead of going out an acting. They will never be actors, because it is just something interesting to them. Those that succeed are reading a little about acting, but they are acting without anyone having to tell them to do it. So. You wanna be an actor? Then get acting, anywhere, school, church, community amateur theatre. Put on your own shows in your livingroom or basement or garage or whereever. Noone had to tell Heath Ledger to hop in his car at 16 and drive across Australia to become a movie actor. He knew he had to do it and he did it. So don't tell me what you are planning to do or thinking about doing. Just go do something and then tell me about that, Or if I send you my free book or tell you to read this blog, you will find lots of things that you need to do to become an actor. Go do some of them.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


First, I must express my irritation and bewilderment at high school directors who ask for monologues for tryouts. What a huge waste of time! Especially when a competent director at all levels from school to Broadway and Hollywood, has people in mind for the roles of a show when it is selected. There is no point in planning a show you don't have the resources to do.

Well, back to monologues. All monologues for auditions or class work should be speeches or edited scenes from plays. Original monologues should be discouraged and avoided in all instances. You teachers stop assigning your students to write monologues, they are not studying playwriting. A monologue,like any other part of the dialog of a play is a character's emotional (and physical) reaction to that moment in the play. Without a play to surround the monologue, it has no dramatic meaning. The dialog of a play moves the story along and thus since a monologue is part of the script, it moves the story along. We can judge the effectiveness of the presentation of a monologue only on the way the presentation moves the story along, delineating the character and the character's emotional response at that moment of the story.. Thus actors who do monologues must always read the entire play. Most monologues are long speeches from a play, but they can also be constructed from the dialog of a scene by omitting the other characters' lines and stringing one character's lines together into a solo speech. This takes some art so as not to make the solo speech awkward in any way. Now the selection of monologues is always a great problem, especially for beginners. Beginners have not read many plays and often do not realize what is required of their selection. Too often, I see inexperienced people ask for help in finding a monologue and they put all kinds of requirements on it. "I want it to be really dramatic, like someone going crazy," they will say. No, no. Bad idea. A monologue must fit the actor like a glove and be especially right for his or her age and type. No sense in the little sister type trying to do a speech by a prostitute and no sense in a 14 year old trying to do the lead in "Same Time Next Year." An actor must always pick a character that they could actually be cast as in a film so they have to be just exactly right for the role. It can take years for an actor to find the best monologues for him to do. All I can say is, anyone thinking about acting had better get reading all the plays they can get their hands on. Good selections of monologues are speeches from roles one has done in a play at school or somewhere. By and large it is too bad that beginners are asked by incompetent directors to audition with a monologue. Fortunately, all of Shakespeare's young women are teens, so his plays are mother lode of monologue material for the beginner as well as for the experienced actress. And there are various supernatural roles like faeries in Shakespeare's plays as well. So very young children can also use their speeches for monologues. Most of Shakespeare is male, so there is no problem for the actor to find a speech. I have addressed how to read Shakespeare earlier in this blog, so there I will stop for today.

Best wishes, and break a leg!

Saturday, December 5, 2009


I'm not going to repeat all the info about headshots here but another misunderstanding of the inexpereinced beginner is that they think if they have a head shot they can get professional work. Nay, nay. This is but another urban legend about acting. An actor needs a head shot. A kid dreaming about being an actor but not really pursuing a career (that is, his or her parents are not active pursuing a career for him or her) needs experience in school and community plays not a headshot. Then people always want to know how much they cost and where is a good, cheap photographer. The first thing to consider is that acting is a business and if you are not ready to invest a few thousand in getting prepared to compete, you probably are not going to compete very long. The second thing to consider is that until you are ready to really invest in your acting, you don't need to spend a lot of money on headshots. A beginners headshot can be home made, if care is taken to make it look as good as possible. I have guidelines for headshots, professional or home made at Finally, consider that once you are signed by an agent he is going to want you to get new headshots. Also you are going to have to have new headshots done every couple of years so they look like you. It is not something to go cheap on.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What about my weight?

Several aspiring actors have asked me lately about taking off some pounds before they began trying to break into actin. No all of these people were female. First of all, there are roles for Plus Sized Actresses and Actors. Drop Dead Diva on Lifetime was a great summer series with an overweight lead, now they have another series with an overweight lead. So if you are talented and have the personality and an interesting look, you can find a role even if you are over weight.
Second, if you wait until you lose weight, you are never going to try, because I know how hard it is to lose weight (I weigh 270). But I am also very tall,so I played villians in western films. There were lots of heavy actors auditioning. Third, you need to be comfortable with who you are and if being heavy is part of that, great. That's you. Love you and be happy with you. There are so many roles for plus sized actors and actresses that there may be one waiting for you.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Not only do a great many people actually believe that you need no experience to become a professional actor, just about as many believe they can write play even though they haven't any idea what a play is. I keep reading questions like, "I am writing a play for my class, can you help me?" Now this is a double problem. First the teacher has no idea what a play is or he or she would not have called the assignment a play. Most often such assigments are for skits or scenes And no real teacher in his or her right mind would assign the writing of a "play" without having given their students extensive instruction in playwriting. The problem is that very few people, few actors, directors, teachers, etc. truly undersatand what a play is. They have forgotten that plays are not written,but they are 'wrought'. The person who writes a play is a playwright, not a playwrite. Plays are fashioned, created. What a playwright writes is not conversation. A playwright tells a story by fashioning a plot, a series of actions that the characters commit that conludes with a resolution to a problem that has been set forth by something the main character does early on in the story. A play is a way of telling a story through action, not through conversation. Fashioning the plot, or series of events of the story, is what the playwright has to do first. Once the story is set as action, then the playwright can translate that action into what the characters say while they are doing those actions. The dialogue of the play is litereally the action of the play expressed as the emotional responses of the characters to the situations as they occur in the story. I wish teachers and students alike knew that. It really helps actors if they know that as well.