Performing is an art that is overrated for the wrong reasons. Yes, there is nothing like the thrill of feeling both outrageously excited and nauseous as bright lights come up onto your make-up caked face. But what most people do not realise is the amount of hard work that goes into preparing to be an actor.

The beginning of all acting careers begin with auditions, which are desperately nerve-racking as this is where you have to make sure you leave an impression on the production teams or drama school panels which you are auditioning for. My advice for any acting auditionee is too take a deep breath, appear enthusiastic and to not over-think things. Also, never be too upset if you don’t get the part, you just never know who else has auditioned and it’s not that the chosen actor is any better than you, it’s just they were a better fit for the part. (This is something I have had to console myself with several times.)

I always find that the scariest part of being in any production is learning lines, I was once in a show where the majority of my lines were just ‘My cat!’ and I still managed to get this wrong. Having been in a Shakespearean play last spring, I have found that I find lines easier to learn if there is a pattern in the syntax or rhythm… Arthur Miller is my enemy when it comes to this!

“In the grand scheme of things actors are towards the bottom of the hierarchy”

Also, I cannot go into any performance without a good warm up. Vocal exercises are essential for me. After being in a couple of shows where I have unnecessarily strained my voice, I understand the need to take care of my vocal chords and health during the intense periods of production runs. In the past I have had to shut myself away to prevent myself from talking to anyone. I also think movement and playing silly games is the best way to get energised and focused, as well as feeling comfortable in the performance space.

I always find that rehearsals can be one of the most enjoyable parts of being an actor because you are given the opportunity to express yourself and experiment with a part in a constructive atmosphere. However, the late nights and spending a lot of time with equally dramatic people can also mean that the rehearsal stage can be the most intense.

“It is exhilarating to shrug off any inhibitions and become someone else for the entertainment of others”

Having been a part of several productions as an actor now, I think it is fair to debunk the myth that the actors are the stars of the shows. In the grand scheme of things actors are towards the bottom of the hierarchy – think of them as front of house staff at a restaurant. The actors are the waitresses and waiters, fundamental but it’s the chef who brings the whole experience together. The chefs in theatre are the set designers, the lighting technicians, the stage managers and the list goes on. Performers can only strut their stuff on stage with the necessary help of the backstage team.

Obviously, the most enjoyable part of acting is being able to immerse yourself into a play and assume the personality of your character. It is exhilarating to shrug off any inhibitions and become someone else for the entertainment of others. I like to think I might have made people laugh or cry in my own experiences, but simply to have contributed to someone having an enjoyable afternoon or evening watching a performance that I have helped create is truly rewarding.

Lou Knapp

Image Copyright: Original image by John Robb via Flikr. (Text added by Jessica Millott)

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