Basic Tips for Young Actors

Below are some important tips based on what I’ve learned from 25 years of directing kids. I hope it is useful to the next generation of young actors and youth theatre directors.

During both rehearsals and performances, an actor needs to focus in on the scene and staying in character. Every actor has to commit to learning their craft. It isn’t automatic. Actors work hard to learn and constantly improve.

Reacting to everything that is said and happens while you are on stage is as important as how you say your lines. Never “step out of the scene”, meaning don’t forget to be involved in the scene as your character would be and to react as he or she would.

 You can tell by facial expression that this is a sad scene.

Before saying your line, take a deep breath and speak as loudly and clearly as possible. Always face the audience, either at an angle (called “cheating out”) or straight out. If you must turn your back for some reason, you will have to speak extremely loudly to be heard. Never look at the floor! Look at the other actors when they say their lines.

You must say every word clearly and slowly. The audience won’t understand you if you mumble or speak quickly. Pay special attention to consonants (b, d, t, k, etc.). Remember to pause between sentences.

What emotion is in your lines? Anger? Fear? Love? Nervousness? Jealousy? Joy? Disappointment? Curiosity? Satisfaction? How can you express that emotion when saying the line? As you study your lines to memorize them, also think about how you should say that line.

Use large facial expressions both for your lines and for your reaction to other actors’ lines. This is especially important in comedy. Stage actors use larger facial and body expressions than film actors do because the audience is further away than a movie camera would be.

Use a lot of gestures on stage. Gestures need to be larger than normal so they can be seen by the entire audience. The gestures you make will help the audience know how your character feels about what’s happening.

Write in your script for each line where you will stand and when you will move while on the stage. Always bring a pencil to rehearsals. Learn: SR (stage right), SL (stage left), CS (center stage), down stage, up stage, main curtain, mid-curtain, wings, proscenium (the area directly in front of the curtain) and 
apron (the area extending out past the curtain).

Read through the scene you are in. Then have a friend or parent read the lines leading up to your line. If you don’t remember your line, they should read the first few words as a clue. If you still don’t remember, they should read the entire line, then you should repeat the line. Knowing the lines before your line (your cues) is as important as knowing your lines. You need to know when to say the line!

Don’t worry about “embarrassing yourself.” Actors need to be willing to pretend to be different from who they really are. That’s what the audience expects you to do. And, most important, enjoy yourself on stage. If you’re having fun, then the audience is, too.