Roger Allamhas worked with the RSC, the National, Shakespeare's Globe and in the West End. TV and film includes The Thick of It, Tamara Drewe and Parade's End. Here's what he says:
Miriam Margolyes has worked at the RSC and in the West End; she has been touring her one-woman show about Charles Dickens and his female characters since 1989. Films include The Age of Innocence and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
She doesn't see any difference between amateurs and professionals – so she would give her tips, such as they are, to anybody. The aim of any actor is the same: to tell the truth in such a way that people will be entertained, uplifted and surprised.
Listen before anything else. Read the text over and over again, and make sure you know the lines. Go and see other performances, and be critical about them: work out whether you'd have smiled in that place, or turned your head at that moment.
Never show off. You can sometimes come to a particular point in a show and think, "I'm really good in this bit." Never, ever think that. Never read reviews. She hasn’t read hers since she was in rep.
Never know more than your character knows. She isn't talking about research; she means that when you are performing, you must stay inside the truth of your character. Don't signpost to an audience what they should be thinking.
And the most important thing is to breathe. If you stop breathing properly, you get a sore throat. And if you stop breathing, you die.
Let’s be honest: performing a monologue is terrifying. We’re actors and we love to be in relationship with another actor on stage. We love scenes, we love conflict, we love drama. Usually you are only ever performing monologues for auditions. They are actually quite rare in plays. And whether that is for a theatre production or a drama school there will typically be a similar set up: empty room, chair and a panel of one or more people.
Always think of any audition as an opportunity to act. It is a chance to do what you love. We put so much pressure on auditions that we often forget that we are doing something we enjoy. When you start to think about auditions as simply acting it takes some of the pressure off the audition.
Be confident as you walk into the audition room and be genuine with the people you are auditioning for. Go up and introduce yourself with a hand shake and feel self-assured in knowing that they wanted to see you!
Theatre, unlike film and TV, has a long and intimate rehearsal process Creating a positive and supportive atmosphere in the rehearsal room is a theatre director chief aim. At an audition, the director wants to see that you are open and great to work with. Showing passion for the project, offering unique ideas and sharing opinions about the play are great ways to show this.
The best way to perform a monologue is to make a bold choice and commit to it. Show that you want to put your stamp on the character. The director will inevitably give you direction, so don’t worry about making the “wrong decision”. There is no right way to play a character and directors will always be impressed by strong choices. You will almost certainly be asked to do the monologue a second time with some new direction. I recommend preparing your monologue a number of ways before you come into the audition to prepare for this. Never fight with the director, be open and always try to take on their direction as best you can. If you don’t understand something get them to clarify.
In some circumstances it can really work to be very physical, but for most monologues you are better off keeping movement to a minimum. If you can stand (or sit) still and deliver a monologue that is very powerful and impressive.
Finally, ss a general rule I recommend placing your eye line just above their heads at about eye level. This is a classic rule. It makes the people you are auditioning for feel uncomfortable and it can also make you uncomfortable and throw your performance.
And give it your best!
It is entirely natural to feel nervous before making a presentation. Many seasoned teachers, lecturers and other presenters feel nervous beforehand despite having given hundreds of presentations. The same is true of actors and actresses, celebrities, politicians, preachers and other people working in the media or in the public eye.
Being nervous is not a problem or a weakness, you just need to channel your nervous energy wisely. On the other hand, being over-confident and not nervous could be a weakness! The symptoms of nerves can include "butterflies" or a queasy feeling in your stomach, sweaty palms, a dry throat and the panic that your mind has gone blank about your opening lines.
Fortunately, there are some tried and tested strategies and techniques to manage your nerves so that you can concentrate on delivering an effective and engaging presentation.
These techniques will not get rid of your nerves; instead they will help you to use your nervous to your advantage. When you are in a heightened state from the adrenaline that is being pumped around your body, you can use that energy to communicate enthusiastically, convincingly, and passionately.
Practise deep breathing. Adrenalin causes your breathing to shallow. By deliberately breathing deeply your brain will get the oxygen it needs and the slower pace will trick your body into believing you are calmer. This also helps with voice quivers, which can occur when your breathing is shallow and irregular.
Smile. Smiling is a natural relaxant that sends positive chemical messages through your body. Smiling and maintaining eye contact also help you build rapport with your audience. Drink Water. Adrenalin can cause a dry mouth, which in turn leads to getting tongue-tied. Have a glass or bottle of water handy and take sips occasionally, especially when you wish to pause or emphasize a point.
Use visualisation technique. Imagine that you are delivering your presentation to an audience that is interested, enthused, smiling, and reacting positively. Cement this positive image in your mind and recall it just before you are ready to start. And finally, stop thinking about yourself Remember that the audience is there to get some information and that it is your job to put that information across to them. try to put your nerves aside and think about communicating your message as effectively as possible.
“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts.” — William Shakespeare, As You Like It
Taking an acting class will teach you a lot about how we put ourselves on display and the preparation it takes to highly perform on stage and in life. It can be nerve-wracking but the key is to appear natural, be it job interviews, conversations with friends and significant others or even ourselves. Here are a few ways to act out in real situations.
The stronger the visualization, the better the performance. People generally don’t want to see the exercise being done — they want to see the results. Steer the focus away from the “I.” Stress the verb part of the sentence. You can scream “I love you” or “I LOVE you” to vocalize the action.
Go into a room with a goal in mind and don’t leave the stage without trying to get something, stir a reaction from the other person. Pretend you know the outcome of the situation. It will make you play out the process in a different way. For example, if you think someone is going to react poorly, you might act more desperately and ruin your chances. Positive thinking can’t hurt.
Breathe, relax and resonate before speaking up. Start small, then go big or go home. Change the beat when you’re making a longer speech. Being monotone is boring. The more changes, the more rich it sounds.
Don’t always attack to win an argument. People get frightened to flight or fight mode when you provoke selfishly. You could gain favor with a different type of energy. Get your audience sympathetic to your cause. They’re more likely to listen if you show vulnerability and root for you to win.
Actors appear magnetic and charismatic because they can demonstrate immense interest in another person. Project your full attention outwards, and the room will be drawn to your enthusiasm instead.
‘The man on a bus stop’ is an exercise aimed to develop your imagination. Developing imagination is one of the most important components of actor’s success. In order for the audience to believe your acting, it’s you who has to believe first that the life of your character is real. And to do that, you need to be able to build a small world of your character’s life in your mind.
Even just for one scene, you have to come up with answers of why you are doing, what you are doing, why is it that way, etc. That’s exactly what your imagination is for. You should work on developing your imagination as often as possible. It is useful for mastering acting skills, but also it is so much fun to live having a good imagination!
This exercise can be done both individually and in a group. If you are doing it on your own, then you just need to go outside and look at passers-by, people in the queue, on a bus stop, etc. and start to make assumptions about them: profession, hobbies, marital status and anything else. Don’t try to guess, just fantasize! If you are doing it in a group, then just take turns and do the same thing, – make assumptions about your partners.
‘What were they wearing’ is a game aimed at developing attention. Attention is very important for an actor as well, as you have to pay attention to every detail of other people. Also, it is very difficult for a beginner to play an emotion or a state that he/she has never experienced. But if your attention is well developed, you can always recall the observations about the people who have experienced the desired state or emotion.
This exercise can also be done both individually and in a group. In a group, people sit in a circle and they are given 5 minutes to remember who was wearing what. It’s important to remember all the details of clothing, accessories, hairstyle, etc. After 5 minutes, they turn, and the host of the game begins to ask questing like these: “Anna, tell me, please, what was Helen wearing?”, “John, what was the color of Anna’s shoes?”, etc. At the end, everyone turns back and checks the answers. If you are doing it individually, then just do it with your family members or strangers. Just close your eyes and try to remember every detail.
Ever wondered how the world’s greatest actors cry real tears on camera? Getting actual water to fall from your eyes while being pressured to give a compelling, honest performance on film or even in the audition room may sound daunting. But turning on the waterworks isn’t as difficult as it may seem.
First, there is one basic component to crying that also doubles as a handy trick: stay hydrated. Without enough fluid in your system, your body will be unable to activate its tear ducts. Drink up!
Don’t force it. At the Studio, which focuses on breaking down actors’ fears and limitations, Calcaterra encourages students to accept whatever emotions emerge during a scene. “If I’m working with a very specific moment with the actor where that emotion needs to be there, I work on getting to a place where the body is relaxed, breathing, and the focus is on what is at hand. The second the actor goes to, ‘I have to cry here,’ you’re focused on a result and you’re not telling the emotional truth of the moment.”
Borrow from your personal experience. Some people are more emotionally available, some people cry once a week, once a day, that’s just who they are. You should know your triggers. In your life when you find yourself becoming emotional, you should remember what it was that made you emotional. And you can draw back on those things later.
Or borrow from your imagination. The process is simple: Put yourself in an imaginary scenario that might stir in you intensely sad emotions. The best part: it’s solely yours to own. It could be something that has nothing to do with the scene, and that’s your secret. No one has to know what you’re over there bawling about.
Focus on the character’s circumstances and stakes. Don’t forget that your material provides everything you need to navigate any emotions that may come up, organically or artificially, in a scene. While prepping your character and filling in the basic questions (Who? What? When? Where? Why?), identify what in the character’s personality might lead to tears.
In fact, vulnerability is more important than the actual production of tears. How often have you responded emotionally to a film or TV scene you’re watching when no actor in the scene has cried? Those actors’ vulnerability is so acutely honest, they can engender emotion in others even without tears.
Off The Text Workshops provide a diverse range of performing arts workshops to support the delivery of the curriculum and your own professional development. Based in East Sussex, they offer competitively priced programmes of diverse drama workshops throughout the academic year in the Autumn and Spring terms. Their workshops take place on Saturdays, thereby avoiding expensive cover and the complications of leaving exam classes. Each full day workshop led by expert practitioners supports a different aspect of the curriculum that will enhance your teaching.
Their programme for the coming year includes: Meyerhold's Biomechanics Workshop with Stephen Hudson (Saturday 13 January). Biomechanics, created by Russian director Vsevolod Meyerhold (1874-1940), is a rigorous physical training based on the premise that in order to be imaginatively free the actor must by physically free. It trains the actor’s physical dexterity, elasticity and responsiveness. Meyerhold, a renowned actor and director with the Moscow Art Theatre, regarded movement, gesture, space and rhythm, as the primary elements of the language of theatre. He dreamed of creating a theatre that would give its audience truthful images of life but that wouldn’t seek to imitate or copy life, a theatre capable of revealing inner dialogue by means of the music of plastic movement.
Stage Combat Workshop: Storytelling through staged violence with Peter Basham (Saturday 3 February). This workshop will explore some of the principles of directing stage combat. Including practical session learning a selection of moves commonly used by fight directors. We will then look at how these principles are applied to text. Using extracts from modern and classical plays we will work out how to best tell the story and show the world of the play through stage combat. It will be a physical workshop that will give teachers the confidence to safely and convincingly portray stage violence with their students.
For all information and more https://www.offthetextworkshops.com/home