How to Practice Acting

Three Methods:Practicing IndependentlyLearning the Craft with OthersPerfecting a Specific Role

A high-quality actor must work hard in any role in order to appear natural. Such a professional reads scripts, practice monologues, and takes creative risks in acting classes. It takes a lot of hard work to come off as an effortless performance. Here are some key steps in become a true thespian:

Method 1
Practicing Independently

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    Record yourself reading monologues and short scenes. You can purchase a book of monologues online or through the internet, giving you hours of potential roles to inhabit. Pick one and practice it 2-3 times, then record yourself giving the speech. When you rewatch it, take notes on where you want to improve, what lines sounded great, and ideas you have to make it better. Then re-do the speech, recording again until you're happy with the results.
    • Choose a variety of monologues, not just the ones you're most comfortable with. This is practice time, so challenge yourself.[1]
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    Study the actors you admire. Watch and rewatch your favorite scenes. What are the actor's movements like? What words do they emphasize in each line? What are they doing when they aren't speaking? Don't just watch great actors, study them to learn how they became so great.
    • Would you read the same lines differently? If so, how?
    • Look up several different actors playing the same role on YouTube, which is common with Shakespearean plays or movies. How does each actor make the role unique and memorable with the exact same lines?[2]
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    Focus on your diction, or your manner of speaking. All actors need to be clear and confident in their readings. This is another place where recording will come in handy since you can hear back your voice and detect any unclear phrases. Focus on speaking clearly in a variety of volumes and speeds, so that every word comes out with power and conviction.
    • Read a monologue or article out loud, but without acting it out. Focus on clear, well-articulated words and phrases and an even pace. Speak as if you were giving a lecture.
    • Stand up straight, with your shoulders back and chin up, when reading. This allows clear, uninhibited airflow.[3]
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    Practice running one line through a range of emotions. Acting requires you show off the full range of human experiences, so practice those experiences with a short game of emotional stretching. Take a simple but versatile line, like "I love you" or "I forgot all about that," and practice saying it as many ways as you can -- happy, loving, angry, hurt, hopeful, shy, etc. Do it in front of a mirror. Or, record yourself so that you can see your facial expressions as well as hear your tone of voice.[4]
    • Make a list of emotions to run through each time. Are there some that you need to practice more often than others?
    • Up the challenge by trying to flow from one emotion naturally to the other. What is it like, for example, when a happy person suddenly hears devastating news?
    • For a masterclass in emotional range, with purely facial expressions, check out Patton Oswald in this short film with David Byrne.
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    Practice "cold readings". A cold reading is when you are given lines and asked to perform them without any practice--this is especially common for auditions. While this seems intimidating, it is a great way to improve your skills and become comfortable with improvisational acting, which in turn makes you an even more confident actor.
    • Focus on reading the line, quickly rehearse it in your mind, then give eye contact to your audience, and deliver the line.
    • Dramatic pauses are your friend. It is typically wiser to go slower than too fast.
    • Grab a newspaper or magazine, or pick a short story, and deliver it as a speech.
    • Look up short scenes or monologues online and launch right into them without preparing.
    • Record yourself and play it back to get feedback.
    • This is also a good warm-up exercise, helping you prepare you mind and body for acting.[5]
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    Expose yourself to a wide variety of characters, roles, and people. The best actors are chameleons-- disappearing and blending into each and every role. To do that, however, you need to have a wide variety of experiences. While you should watch movies and plays, reading and writing will expose you to new viewpoints and voices that will inform your acting. This is especially important if you're going for a specific role. Go a little deeper, doing research to fully inhabit your characters.[6]
    • Read plays and scripts, at least one a day. When done, watch the movie and note how the actors portray the text.
    • Study famous characters and monologues. How do they develop and change? What makes them so good? Highlight, annotate, and look up any words you don't know to get closer to the text.[7]

Method 2
Learning the Craft with Others

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    Practice short scenes with friends. You can write the scenes yourself or you can pull them from a book. You can even look up scripts online and re-act your favorite movies or shows. The best way to practice acting is to act, so grab a friend and work together to improve your skills.
    • YouTube has created a market for short, fun scenes or videos. Consider starting a short web series with a friend.
    • When possible, record your practice sessions, or have another friend watch and give advice on ways to improve.
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    Enroll in acting classes. If you want to be an actor, you need to study. Pay attention not just to the teacher but also other students. You can learn something from everyone, even if you don't agree with their acting decisions. Think about how you would play each role, and learn from your classmate's successes and shortcomings.
    • You may end up playing roles later on with your classmates, and you never know when someone will get their big break. Be kind and supportive to your classmates -- they will form your acting community as you grow.
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    Take improvisation classes to improve your reactions. Improvisation is a crucial skill, even if you never plan on doing improv comedy. This is because improv forces you to react to any situation, and stay in character. Acting is not just about delivering lines -- it is about inhabiting the character no matter what is happening on stage or on screen.[8]
    • If you don't want to pay for classes, you and several acting friends can look up improv games online. Use them to practice in your own home.
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    Step out of your comfort zone with different types of acting. Don't box yourself into one type of role or genre. Not only does this make it harder to get jobs, but it limits your skill set and prevents further development as an actor. Anything that puts you in front of an audience, from movies, commercials, plays, and even stand-up, can help your practice your acting skills.
    • Paul Rudd started life as a wedding DJ before getting acting jobs, but used the time to learn to interface with a crowd.
    • Stand-up comedy is basically a one-person show, and you need to write and act out your material by yourself. This makes it an incredible practice opportunity.
    • Even if you want to be a movie actor, try to perform in a play. The dedicated time in one role and need for consistency is invaluable for any actor.[9]
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    Get involved in any type of film or theater work you can find. Even if you're not acting, start making connections with people than can help you get on stage. Place yourself in jobs that connect you with directors, producers, and other actors, even if you start as a lowly PA. An old but true cliche is that "people hire people." It is not your resume or a faceless email that gets you the next big role. You need to be out in the world meeting people and getting your feet wet whenever you're not acting.[10]

Method 3
Perfecting a Specific Role

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    Read the script several times. You need to understand the entire story, not just your role, to be effective. Remember that your job is not to stand out, it is to a part of the larger story. You need to understand the story, both its themes and motifs as well as your own role, to get to that point.
    • Once you've got a grasp on the full story, turn to your parts and read them an extra 1-2 times. Now, focus on your character's role and lines.
    • If you had to sum up the movie in 1-2 sentences, what would it be? How about your role?
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    Fill in your character's basic backstory. To really get into your character, you need to know who they are. You don't need to write out a biography, but you should figure out their basic story and life. Sometimes you can discuss this with the director, and sometimes you just need to trust your gut. Don't worry about going too in-depth. Instead, just answer a few basic questions:
    • Who am I?
    • Where do I come from? Where do I want to go?
    • Why am I here?[11]
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    Determine what your character wants. All characters, in almost all stories, want something. All characters have a need or desire, even if it just a desire to be left alone, like The Dude in The Big Lebowski.' This desire is what drives your character throughout the entire plot. It is perhaps the most important factor of your role.
    • A character's desires can change, but you need to know when this happens in the script.
    • As an exercise, try and pick out the desires of your favorite characters/actors. In There Will Be Blood, for example, Daniel Plainview is completely driven by the need to get oil. Every action, look, and emotion springs from this unending, passionate greed.[12]
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    Practice your lines until you have them memorized. You want to know the lines so well you don't have to remember them. You just have to think about how you're going to say them. Get a friend to play the other roles so that all you have to do is play your part. You can then bounce back and forth like a real conversation.
    • Experiment with the lines. Try them multiple ways. How does this affect the scene?
    • Memorize the lines before perfecting them. If you keep trying to remember the words, you're never going to make them sound natural.
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    Talk with the director about their vision for the character. Remember that you are there to serve the story, not yourself. Chat with the director to figure out if there are any specific traits, emotions, or ideas they want in the character. That said, you should bring your own ideas to the role as well. Let the director know your own vision for the character, but be willing to include their ideas as well.
    • If you are going to an audition, pick a direction for the character and stick with it. You won't have time to ask advice and then change the character in the audition, so just trust your instincts.[13]
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    Relate your own personality and experiences to the role. The basics of human emotion are universal. You may have never saved the world from an alien invasion, but you have felt fear before. You've had to be courageous, and you've stepped up in times of trouble. Find the emotions and experiences that relate to your character if you're ever confused how to act. Great actors show people another side of themselves. They are relatable and human, even if the character is nothing like the actual actor.
    • Start by figuring out the basic emotion of the scene -- happiness, regret, sadness, etc. Then build from there.


  • Leave your actual emotions behind. Clear your mind and focus on your character.
  • Have a notepad with you while you are practicing. It helps you remember what you are doing wrong, or any ideas the director might have for improvement.

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