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Seek a Challenge

By • Jun 15th, 2011 • Category: An Actor's Advice

Not all roles and productions are created equal for the actor. There are times when there just isn’t much extra work or effort required to be in a production. Maybe the script is extra short and simple. Maybe you have played the same role every year for a few years. Perhaps the audience will consist only of those in your family, or congregation, or some other demographic that will love what you do, no matter how it turns out.

When we find ourselves in a production with little to no challenge involved, it is up to us, as actors to find one.

Challenge is what creates a bit of tension within us as actors. An automatic response that leads us to work harder, pay closer attention, and strive for more than we are capable of at the start of rehearsals. Having a specific goal on stage that can only be achieved through hard work creates an energy, a drive that propels us towards our own excellence. We can be good, and get the job done when everything about a show is easy, but there will never be that extra spark to what we are doing, for ourselves or those around us.

So, seek out a challenge in a performance where none seems to exist.

Please note that this is not the same as handicapping yourself. Don’t manufacture an obstacle just for the sake of getting around it, or worse yet, for the sake of increasing your pain and frustration during the play. But in just about any play there are those extras you can seek out which many others would not bother to pursue. 

One example is accent. In most cases we American stage actors can get away with “Generic British.” But as with the United States, there are many different accents just within the United Kingdom. You may be appearing in your community’s annual production of A Christmas Carol for the tenth time. But what if this time you researched what an English accent for your character would really sound like? What if you listened to people with that accent speak online? What if you watched videos of television shows with similar characters from similar places in the UK? And with that exposure you practiced each day making your own accent sound like the authentic one? You would then be adding an executable challenge to your role which, even if you don’t accomplish completely, has given you a source of resistance that makes your acting muscles stronger for the show. Most of the people you have done A Christmas Carol with for the last ten years won’t bother to work on such things. But you will, because you are a cut above the other actors with whom you work. You are dedicated to challenging yourself and improving your acting ability.

Not every show will require your greatness. It is just a fact of theatre. But if you are creative you can seek out things within any show that can be made great through your determination and labor.

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is a Maryland native and has been acting for nine years, having studied it at Marietta College in Ohio. He has been schooled in Shakespeare, improvisation, public speaking and voice articulation throughout his career. His credits to date include over 30 plays and readings as well as 2 films. You can also read his blogs offbook.blogspot.com (for theatre related thoughts) and tooxyz.blogspot.com (for thoughts on personal success from an outcast). Follow him on Twitter @TyUnglebower.

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