25 May 2006
28 August 2002
From: Rebecca Barlow
Q: I was wondering if you had any advice to us young actors out there about how to get started. I love acting and was wondering how to get started. I am only 12!! And know I have a long way to go but i thought that being such a great actor you might have some good advice for me !!
A: About ten letters a day ask the same, so although I've replied to a similar one before, it's obviously worth my having another go!
I was like you at 12, very keen on acting. Do you know why you enjoy it? Is it that you like the attention of others? you don't need to be a professional actor for that. Do you like telling stories? there are other ways of doing that too. Do you like escaping out of yourself into another person? mmmmm that sounds like me at 12 (and 62 for that matter!)
Are you any good at acting? Who says so? Your family, your mates, your teachers, yourself? Trust your own judgment rather than the rest. But then tell yourself you are considering a job where most workers are out of work and are underpaid and give up even after years of expensive training. It can't be stressed how unrewarding a job it is for most, so that you can measure your determination against the probability of disappointment.
Act whenever you can at school and with drama groups or start a company of friends to read scripts out loud together. Go to the movies and plays as often as you can, so you can begin to look at how other people act watch the same video over and over and study the acting. You can learn from performances you don't think are good, as well as those you admire.
Don't neglect your general education. Get a life before you decide on a living.
And dear Rebecca all the luck in the world, because that's what actors need more than anything else.
From: David Jaques-Watson firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: The other day I searched the Internet for information about Bob Peck. I was very sorry to hear that he passed away in 1998, from cancer. I still enjoy watching my copy of "Edge of Darkness", and have fond memories of "An Ungentlemanly Act", as well. One interesting 'Net entry said that you considered him to have been "the one actor you learned the most from". I was wondering if you could confirm this quote, and (if true) tell us some of your thoughts about Bob Peck and his work.
A: Bob and I met at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1976 and worked together over two seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Macbeth (I was the King and Bob was Macduff); The Winter's Tale (Leontes and Camillo); and The Days of the Commune (Langevin and Papa).
Although his mentor was Alan Ayckbourn, who gave him an early job in one of his near-farces, Bob's pre-eminence was in speaking a classic text as if he was improvising it. This could involve a lot of pauses (particularly in rehearsal) while Bob convinced himself that he was ready to speak the lines as if they had never been spoken before. This amused and/or irritated some actors who liked to get a move on. But goodness Bob's delivery was always worth waiting for.
I once saw him in a new solo play in which he entered and said to the audience "I've been a teacher for 15 years now" I thought "I didn't realise Bob was a teacher in his spare time" of course he wasn't but then as so often the seam between Bob and the character he was playing was undetectable.
Q: I'm a young actor, graduated from LAMDA, having done a stint at the Warwick Arts Centre and am now seeking representation in London. Things aren't going well, but we all know that starting out will be a long haul. Agents invite me to interview, and that's where the process ends for me, despite good critical appraisal and a new show I'm in next month. I understand you'd be loathe to respond as an actors' agony aunt, but any advice? How much ambition does one need to show? I just want to act.
A: On the few occasions I have attended auditions and interviews as a prospective employer, I have noted the actors' self-confidence as much as their talent. Of course no-one wants to employ too cocky an actor but equally not one too diffident. Try and give the impression in fact say it if you are given the chance "this is the sort of part I can play well/ would like to play/which is a challenge." And also, without fawning, say that working with the director in question would be a pleasure.
From: Clare F email@example.com
Q: As an 'aspiring' (i.e. will probably be spending the rest of my life doing something else!) actress, I would like to know how you personally tell the point at which you feel you have achieved a character. Do you actually have a specific moment when you feel 'yes, that's him', or do you continue to 'work' on a portrayal throughout the performance? P.S. Any decent jobs on offer for a 'quirky' young looking 28 year-old?
A: Yes there is often as not some moment, short or sustained, when the rehearsal room walls seem to fall away and I feel that I am the character in his own space rather than in mine. This occurs usually during a run-through of the play in part or whole, certainly after I have learnt the words so I can be thinking less about the mechanics of acting and more about the character's inner life and feelings. When filming, this sort of moment of discovery needs to happen as the camera is turning, possibly because the takes are short and concentration the more intense.
P.S. Not being a producer nor a director, I am afraid I am a lousy source for jobs.
From: Colleen Hannon
Q: When you are reading a script or a play and considering doing it, what do you look for that would make you choose one over the other?
A: Primarily I want it to be well-written and not one of those all-too-frequent scripts that will get fixed on the set or in rehearsal. This comes before all other legitimate considerations such as the importance of the part to the story, type of character, classic or new work.