What Does It Take to Be a Theater Actor?

Theater acting is a challenging career that requires talent and hard work. It’s not for everyone, but if you have the qualities of an actor, then it could be just what you need to break into show business.

To be a theater actor, you need to have these characteristics:

1. Passion for Acting

A theater actor must love to act. Otherwise, it’s not fun. It will feel more like a chore, and you won’t enjoy it as much as you should. But how do you cultivate that passion? Here are some ideas:

  • Watch live theater. If you want to be an actor, then go out and watch the actors in action in a local community theater. You can learn a lot just by observing them onstage.
  • Read plays. Many great playwrights have written wonderful works that encourage different types of acting styles. Reading their plays will give you insight into what kind of acting style is required for each role.
  • Act. Practice acting whenever you can—in front of friends, family members, or even strangers. Try your hand at it wherever possible. Maybe you’ll enjoy it as much as rehearsing for a paid performance.

2. Skill at Acting

An actor needs to learn lines, move onstage, adlib if they need to (which is common), and portray emotions convincingly, all of which require immense skill to do well.

So what can you do to achieve this? There are many suggestions:

  • Perform with an acting troupe. Theater doesn’t always have to be serious, so if you enjoy more comedic works, then joining an acting troupe like a comedy club could give your career a great boost or try improvising classes. They’ll teach you how to act quickly and think on your feet when things don’t go as planned.
  • Take theater classes. As if learning lines weren’t hard enough, sometimes actors need to learn how to dance (when the play calls for it) or jump through hoops (literally). You can learn some of these skills by taking dance or circus arts classes.
  • Go to theater school. Many great actors have attended outstanding theater schools, such as the Julliard School or USC School of Dramatic Arts. Look into theater programs at local colleges and universities to see how you can fit in a career as an actor.

3. Charisma

Onstage, charisma is a desirable quality that can help actors keep audiences engrossed in the story. It’s especially crucial for those who play lead roles on stage. Without it, audiences might not feel the same connection to them with other characters in the play/movie/TV show.

Build your charisma with these:

  • Make sure you’re easy to work with. It can be hard to get along with everyone involved in theater productions, but it helps if you keep your cool and cooperate with others instead of finding fault or pointing fingers at them when things go wrong.
  • Be confident onstage. Audiences want actors who know what they’re doing and aren’t afraid to make mistakes or awe them with their talent. In other words, they want someone comfortable on the stage and willing to take risks. So make sure you remain confident while performing and never forget that what happens onstage reflects on all of theater.
  • Laugh it off if something goes wrong. The theater is all about taking risks, which means that things are likely to go wrong every once in a while. So laugh at yourself and think of how great it would be in a movie.

4. Game for the Challenge
actress clapping while being focused on many lights in a theatre box

A theater actor has one-of-a-kind challenges that many others don’t face when attempting to break into show business. For example, an actor may be called upon anytime with little warning, sometimes even last minute. This result is often unpredictable performance conditions, so being able to keep your cool even when you’re forced to act under pressure is one of the most critical theater actor characteristics.

Here are some ways to achieve this:

  • Act under time constraints. When auditioning for parts, theater actors are expected to memorize and prepare everything beforehand. The “wing it” method doesn’t work in acting because audiences can tell immediately if something isn’t right, which means that you need to know your lines inside out. If things don’t turn out as planned during a scene, stay calm and somehow recover without the audience noticing what went wrong.
  • Optimize your talents by updating your skills. If you’re an actor, you have to keep practicing your lines and stage presence because talents can fade away if not used. Sometimes the slightest change in script or blocking can throw even the most seasoned actor off, so make sure that you update your skills now and then to stay sharp.
  • Stay focused at auditions. Auditions are tiring for any actor, especially when way too many people are waiting to see you. Theater acting is all about staying focused no matter how long you have to wait your turn, but this doesn’t mean that you should stay cooped up in a corner for hours either. Staying active will help keep your nerves under control.

What does it take to be a theater actor? You have to know your lines, remain confident, and keep yourself sharp. Charisma is also essential when dealing with the audience. Theater actors must be ready to act at any moment, demanding that they update their skills yearly to stay sharp. Following these guidelines will help you become a great actor.

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