I have no training or experience as an actor or in any area of the performing arts. Still, I can spot bad acting, and I’ll bet you can, too. What is it that those less-accomplished thespians are doing wrong? They can speak the words, but I’m just not buying what they say. According to Bruce Miller, an acting teaching at the University of Miami, it takes more than just spouting the lines to convince an audience that a character is true.
Aspiring actors should take note:
Many … think that good acting is simply a matter of being ‘believable’: If you memorize the lines and can say them like a real person would, everything else takes care of itself. This is simply false.
The Actor as Storyteller makes it clear that a great deal more than recitation is required of the actor.
Actors have a responsibility to the script as well as to the audience. In order to do justice to both, the actor must dig into the character, find the conflict, find the fundamental drama inherent in each scene, and relay the essence of both while keeping true to the foundation of the story. But isn’t the actor trapped by the script, confined by the words they must speak? Miller tells us that “…scenes and plays are not about dialogue.” Dialogue, he says, is just one tool in the actor’s kit.
Fortunately for those who dream of stardom, The Actor as Storyteller provides a thorough introduction to the craft. Intended for the serious beginning actor, this book lays the groundwork with an explanation of the differences between acting for the stage and acting for television or movies (“Actors trained for the stage are generally better able to work in both mediums.”); it explains script analysis, style, and the actor’s responsibility to the work as a whole; it even examines the personality traits of the successful performer.
Miller includes a multitude of exercises for use in the classroom that are intended to build skills in all areas—from interpreting dialogue to relating to other actors, from script analysis to blocking scenes. There are even valuable tips on how to prepare for auditions.
Anyone who thinks acting might be a nice way to make a living would be wise to read The Actor as Storyteller before heading off to Hollywood. Miller’s pull-no-punches book makes it clear that this isn’t the sort of job that anyone can handle. Acting—that is to say, good acting—requires a load of thought, effort, and dedication. If, on the other hand, that is truly where your passion leads you, The Actor as Storyteller is a valuable resource that should be studied carefully and its advice taken to heart.