Stage Acting: Basics Of Acting On Stage

14th October 2021

Stage Acting: Basics Of Acting On Stage
Maria Hanlon

Maria Hanlon

So, you’d like to find out more about the basics of acting on stage? Perfect! We’ve put together a helpful guide that covers everything you need to know about stage acting including, the major differences between stage and screen acting and our top tips for acting on stage for beginners. Let’s begin!

Stage vs Film Acting

There are some distinct differences between acting for the stage and screen, which is why it can be challenging to master both. However, once you understand the differences and practice then you’ll be able to do both brilliantly!

Here are the three main differences:

film camera

Facial Expressions And Body Language

The biggest difference between stage and screen acting is the location of the audience. In a theatre, the audience is usually set back from the stage which means that actors must exaggerate their facial expressions and body language so even the back row can follow the action. On screen, the camera has the capability to capture different angles and come up close to the actor, so their facial expressions and movements can be more natural.

Preparation And Performance

During live performances, actors have one chance to get it right. Similarly, in musicals, performers must get their notes and lyrics spot on as they won’t be able to re-do them whilst on stage. For screen performances, actors often have several ‘takes’ or ‘bloopers’ before they nail the scene.

Expect The Unexpected

No matter how much you prepare, some things are out of your control, so as an actor you need to be quick on your feet and able to adapt. For example, a missed cue, forgotten prop or wardrobe malfunction are all common on stage but ‘The show must go on’ after all! It’s the same on film sets, things can go wrong but you will often be able to do a retake if needed, unlike on stage.

lady on stage

Our Top Tips For Acting On Stage For Beginners

We have put together 10 top tips for acting on stage for beginners:

1) Don’t Worry About Embarrassing Yourself 

Be brave! Acting is about playing a character, not yourself so make sure to let your guard down and fully immerse yourself in the role.

2) Learn Your Lines

Learn your lines so well that you never have to worry about them and can relax and enjoy the performance.

3) Study Your Character

Read the script several times and dissect your character. The more you know about your character, the better your performance will be. Ask yourself, where do they live? Where do they work? What’s their favourite food? What do they do in their spare time? Create a deep connection with your character.

4) Go To The Theatre

Becoming an audience member will be helpful, whether it’s a play in your local theatre or a musical in the West-End. Pull apart the performance and work out why it’s successful.

5) Always Remain Present

When you’re performing on stage, never switch off. Always be present and listen to the other actors, even when you’re not talking or if you’re in the background of a scene. Acting often requires teamwork, so work together to deliver the best possible performance.

6) Deal With Mistakes

If something goes wrong, for example, if someone drops something, don’t ignore it. Instead, deal with it whilst in character and then move on. An extreme example of this is when Leonardo DiCaprio famously cut his hand whilst filming Django Unchained and carried on performing. Director Quentin Tarantino kept the scene in and for the rest of the film DiCaprio wore a bandage over his hand.

7) Warm Up

Before every rehearsal or performance, warm up your body and voice. Get used to the size of the theatre and work out how loudly you’ll need to project your voice so that even the people in the back row can hear you clearly.

8) People-Watch

Observe people around you and watch how they behave. Great places to do this include cafes, the tube or sitting on a park bench. If you’re playing a particular character, for example, someone working a 9-5pm job, perhaps get the tube at rush hour and observe the mannerisms of these types of people.

9) Make Notes

It’s a good idea to make notes about the play, your character, and rehearsals so you can keep up to date with what else you need to do when rehearsing alone.

10) Enjoy Yourself!

Acting is about giving yourself the freedom to explore new characters and worlds. Have fun, as this will also make you a better actor!

actors on stage

How To Portray Different Emotions On Stage

How To Act Crazy On Stage

Watch films and plays with similar characters and study what they do. Go to improvisation classes for inspiration and try out playing different characters during the class. Watch a recorded play on YouTube and note what these types of characters do and how they communicate. Be realistic, work out how far to take it without becoming too over the top and unbelievable

3 actors on stage

How To Act In Love On Stage

Find something about the other person you can relate to and connect with. Research your on-stage love interest, find out about their acting history and meet up with them before the performance.

Fill in the gaps in the script together – where did you meet? When was your first kiss? When did you know you were in love? The more you both know about your relationship, the more the audience will believe you’re in love.

How To Act Drunk On Stage

Be consistent, one of the main obstacles to playing a realistic drunk is that you need to remain consistent. Relax, alcohol depresses the nervous system so imagine you’ve been given a heavy tranquilizer and become as stress-free as possible.

Try not to be drunk, often when people are drunk, they try to pretend they’re sober, but it is obvious they are not. Think about this when speaking and moving.

Concentrate too much on an easy task for example, putting your coat on. Using excessive concentration will give the illusion you’re drunk. Slur your words, this is one of the most distinctive qualities of someone who is drunk.

Keep trying to find your balance, imagine the room is spinning or that you’re on a boat that’s swaying.

actress on stage

Now You Know The Basics Of Acting On Stage

Bring down the curtain! We hope you’ve learned lots from our stage acting guide and that our 10 top tips were hugely helpful. Have fun applying this and hopefully you’ll be a stage star in no time!

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