aDULT ACTING & SPEECH

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"Although there is a level of consensus about the training elements that a modern actor should be exposed to, there is less agreement about the form the training should take."


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"Actors need no formal qualifications. The qualities that matter most are generally considered to be a good, empathetic imagination; a retentive memory; a sharp brain; a clear, resonant voice, and control over breath, body and gestures. Actors must also develop their sense of truth, a faculty that means different things in different schools, styles, countries and systems." John Freeman

"Professional training is essential – the performer needs discipline and stamina; they need to understand and to be able to interpret text; they need to be able to use their body and voice effectively; they need imagination and intellect and they need to understand how to promote themselves in a professional manner." Federation of Drama Schools

"The first two years are training years. During this period you will concentrate on acquiring the skills you need as professional actors. The time is divided between classwork and rehearsal projects. During the first two terms you will spend most of your time in classes, with more time on projects as the course progresses. Both classwork and rehearsal projects focus on developing and integrating four main areas of study: acting, voice, movement and play-texts." Guildhall School of Music & Drama

Here are some short - but key - ideas that should serve as an indication of my approach to actor training."

Mind:

A written play or script deals with characters and their lives usually within a story that involves a range of conflicts & emotions that are communicated through action and dialogue. An actor needs to know how a dramatic composition works before attempting to place him or herself into that work. Asking why the playwright has chosen to write the play and how a chosen character serves the playwright's writing mission are just two questions that should serve to jump start the actor's journey towards understanding the play and playing a character successfully.

Studying the basics of both Constantin Stanislavsky & Sanford Meisner early on in training will allow you to develop a logical, systematic approach to the psychological aspects of developing a role. There is certainly enough common sense AND inspired thinking in both to keep most actors fascinated. You should have an ongoing relationship with both Stanislavsky & Meisner - but as to whether you ultimately become a fervant practitioner of either, or just 'visit' with them on occasion when you need additional clarity or more involved guidance will vary from actor to actor.

Body:

Actors need to convey much information through movement and gesture and must possess a developed understanding of the importance that every curve and angle within their movement takes on. However, movement and gesture can be considered in a number of ways.

Here are examples:

  • An actor should understand movement and gesture as a form of emphasis - a way of promoting the importance of an idea - and be able to classify and use movement and gesture creatively and correctly in performance.
  • An actor should have a particularly developed appreciation of 'autistic' gesture - the unconscious movements and postures by which attitudes and feelings are 'betrayed' and thus communicated.
  • An actor should also be able to use movement and gesture to suggest character and period.
  • What is most important, however, is that the actor strives to develop relaxed, controlled, expressive movement. Using the principles of The Alexander Technique it is possible to teach an actor to move in this way. Further training progresses from simple Alexander based exercises towards free (improvised) expressive movement sessions - that should increasingly allow the actor's thoughts to shine through (connect with) his or her use of movement and gesture.

Voice:

An actor’s voice needs to be versatile as it must communicate a range of emotions and thoughts. For the purposes of training an actor, the study of the voice is divided into voice production & speech training - but what exactly is the difference between voice and speech?

'When a newborn baby cries, his or her voice is heard. It takes up to three years before the child starts to speak."

Voice Production: Breath is the motivating power of voice, therefore an actor must first learn to breathe effectively. Learning to control the voice is a precursor to learning how to be creative with the voice. A course of training might start with simple 'ear training' exercises, then work towards a fuller understanding of how the voice is produced. Study would include practical work on the following topics: 'importance of posture', 'open passage of the breath', 'forward placing of the voice', 'balanced and selective resonance (tone colour)', 'correct use of pitch & inflection (intonation)' and 'the power of the voice'.

Speech Training: A professional actor should to be able to speak a relatively complex piece of verse effectively - not because he or she is very likely to make a living from verse speaking - but because such study is an excellent way of developing vocal variety. Pause, pitch (the height or depth of the voice), pace (the rate at which we speak), power, inflection & tone colour make up the palette from which the actor makes his or her vocal choices.

Craft & PROFESSIONALISM:

Making an entrance. Making an exit. What is blocking? What is timing? Is there a right or wrong way to work with props? What might be expected of the actor in a range of professional circumstances? How does the actor play to the front and to the back of an auditorium at the same time without the performance seeming either too big or too small? How should a performance differ between stage, screen & microphone acting?

There are so many questions - and answers - that don't fall fully within the headings of Mind, Body & Voice. An actor's craft is something slightly apart from the art of the actor, but it still needs to be an integral part of the actor's training.