Thanks to Hollywood and the unprecedented popularity of the mini-series on platforms like Showmax and Netflix, the performing arts seem like the most glamorous and well-paid of all careers. While much of this is true, it is also true that celebrity status actually comes with a lot of hard work.

If you are wondering how to become an actor, there are some key moves you could make to ensure that the highly competitive world of acting takes you seriously.

If you would like to act, or if you have been wondering how to become an actress or actor, did you know that there are many courses that could lead you into an acting career? You could study drama at many of South Africa’s universities and embark on a career in the performing arts – either part-time or full-time.

Whether you decide to formalise your desire to act through education or not, it’s important to note that the more skills and techniques you acquire the easier it will be to land roles at auditions. Taking your desire to act seriously is one of the most important steps you can take when considering how to become an actor or actress.

Of course, even though the foundations of acting remain the same, courses within the performing arts can be both varied and specialised. And if for example, you see yourself as the lead in a series of action movies, you could even find a one-on-one coach. The same could be said for those people who want to act in musicals, for instance.

Acting Technique Classes

If you’re looking for advice on how to become an actress, the most important tip you will receive is regarding the issue of technique! This is because even though acting might seem easy on the surface, in reality, it is a combination of both skill and talent. To truly act means delivering a performance that is so convincing and believable that it wins over the audience. Achieving this requires so much more than simply reading a script!

How to Become an Actor or Actress

As mentioned you could obtain a BA in Drama and Performance Arts, which is a three-year degree offered by many universities. Alternatively, you could enrol for private acting classes that are specifically designed to assist actors with technique. Acting technique classes can be found with one-on-one tutors, like those found on the Superprof website or in drama schools that cover the A-Z of how to become an actor.

In South Africa, it is even possible to find high schools where you could take drama as a matric subject. And if you know that you are destined for the world of action movies these are all possible routes you could take.

students and drama teacher
There are many acting techniques you can learn in a drama class. | Source: Superprof

Some of the acting techniques that you are likely to come across on your journey to learn to act include:

  • The Meisner Technique
  • Method Acting
  • The Stanislavsky Method
  • The Chekhov Technique

Once you have a general knowledge of all of these techniques, you could choose to learn one particular technique in-depth and work on performances that incorporate this style exclusively. This is how people so expertly learn to act for comedy, drama, fantasy, romance, thriller, or action movies!

Every big decision in life should be accompanied by a significant amount of research and this is certainly the case if you are considering a career in performing arts.

Find out which tertiary institutions near you offer Drama and Performing Arts courses and compare those offerings to private drama schools or even private tutors. If you have an ultimate goal and know from the outset that you are destined for the world of action movies for instance, then you might decide to enrol with a specialist tutor who could teach you how to act, but also teach you stunt work.

The great thing about performing arts is that there are classes and tutors available to match every level of ability and acting genre.

Audition Technique Classes

If you have decided that you want to act, then you will need to master several audition techniques because auditions are an important aspect of every actor or actress’s life. The process of auditions can be rigorous and can in many ways be like a job interview – while you might be excellent at the job you are applying for; you might not be confident during application.

Therefore, it makes sense that audition technique classes should make up an important modality for everyone who is wondering how to become an actress or actor. These techniques could improve your success rate at auditions and leave lasting impressions with casting directors.

palm trees and Hollywood sign
It takes a lot of hard work to become a successful actor or actress. | Source: Unsplash

Audition technique classes can vary in content, but generally, you could expect to find the following topics included:

  • The different types of auditions: for example, TV commercial auditions are different compared to film role auditions, or stunts for action movies.
  • Confidence building: this includes techniques to build self-confidence on the day as well as tips on how to make your performance stand out from the crowd.
  • Feedback: this includes tips on how to ask for (and implement) constructive feedback from casting directors so that you can improve on future performances.

Audition technique classes are very popular across a wide range of professional actors, drama students, and beginners. Remember that it doesn’t matter how experienced you are, there is always something new to learn, so whether you are just starting your performing arts journey, or whether you are an industry veteran, there is a class or private tutor suited to you.

It is very likely that you will be requested to prepare one or two pieces of work for critique at your audition technique classes, so factor the timing of this into your schedule. As we have mentioned, while it takes considerable talent to act, it also takes a lot of hard work, practice, and effort too.

Scene Study Classes

One of the best ways to practise how to act is to take a scene study class. This is essentially a step up from an acting technique class and requires that all participants bring their knowledge, techniques, and talents together for a performance that allows subsequent feedback from the instructor. It is an excellent way to learn how to become an actor as everyone in the group is able to learn from each other. Scene Study classes are known for fast-tracking improvement and building confidence for anyone who wants to learn how to become an actor or actress.

In short, scene study classes do not provide new techniques, but rather provide the stage to act out and practise learned techniques.

three actors behind red stage curtain
Working with different scripts and characters will provide you with invaluable experience. | Source: Unsplash

Other reasons why scene study classes are such a high priority when learning how to become an actress or actor include:

  • They provide artists with the opportunity to work with different scripts and characters ranging from period pieces to contemporary plays;
  • They provide artists with the opportunity to receive invaluable feedback;
  • They allow the artist the opportunity to gain the experience of working alongside other actors and actresses;
  • They provide the actor with critical experience in how to receive instruction from a director – an invaluable tool when it comes to how to become an actor or actress.

It is quite common for directors of the performing arts to record scene studies. This is another valuable tool for those who want to know how to become an actress or actor because by reviewing the footage, both artists and directors can critique the performance.

As you embark on your journey into the performing arts you will find that scene study classes will differ depending on where you choose to study as well as the background of the course instructor. Before you book into scene study classes, find out what kind of scenes will be used. There’s no point in studying Gone with the Wind scenes when you have your heart set on becoming an action movies hero.

Improvisation Classes

If you are learning how to act through drama studies or a tutor, you will most certainly cover improvisation, one of the key skills to acquire in learning how to become an actress or actor.

Once you know how to improvise, not only will it help you to make your character more believable, but it will also help you to create more fluid performances.

In fact, there are many improvisation lines that have created iconic moments in famous films. An example of one of these is the line “you’re gonna need a bigger boat,” which was so expertly delivered in the film, Jaws.

As you learn how to become an actor you will find out why improvisation works so well especially in comedy. However, it’s not just the comedian who benefits from being able to improvise, not only is this a technique that could help you enormously during the audition process, but it will also boost your overall confidence when you act.

Actually, improvisation skills are so beneficial that they are even used in areas outside of acting by business professionals and high school children.

How to Get Improvisation Skills

There’s no doubt that actually practising improvisation is the best way to hone this skill. If you are enrolled in drama studies of any kind, this technique will most certainly be included in your curriculum. Also, if you are in the performing arts scene, it would not be difficult to find an improvisation workshop from time to time. Here are some other ways to practise improvisation:

  • Play improvisation games with family, friends and fellow actors;
  • Find an improvisation tutor (check out the Superprof website for a variety of performing arts tutors);
  • Find improvisation performances to inspire you and supplement your studies.
actress in black and white mime costume
Improvisation is a key skill for any actress or actor. | Source: Unsplash

It should go without saying that by supporting your local live comedy, you will be exposed to a great deal of improv.  You could also seek out actors who are well known for their outstanding improv skills. Next time you are on Netflix search for a Robin Williams movie, which is bound to have great improv examples.

Sight Reading Classes

As you learn how to become an actor or actress you will come across a technique called sight reading, also known as cold reading. This critical skill ensures that the person who is trying to learn how to act develops the ability to bring an unseen script to life as they read it for the first time.

Just imagine how outstanding sight reading skills could benefit your performance at an audition?

Sight reading is also useful for a scriptwriter or playwright who wants to hear how their words on a page actually sound when spoken by actors in character.

Depending on the journey that you are taking to learn to act, sight reading may or may not be included in your practice. If not, remember that you can find a private tutor to help supplement your studies and hone your craft.

The benefit of using a Superprof tutor is that not only does the platform allow you to find someone located near to you, but many of the tutors actually offer their lesson for free. This is an excellent way to find out if your tutor is aligned with your goals and to find out a bit more about each other’s backgrounds.

Of course, there are so many other benefits to having a private tutor, especially when it comes to studying anything in the performing arts. If you want to learn how to become an actor or actress, a tutor could help you with the following:

  • Assist you to confidently prepare for auditions.
  • Hone in on acting techniques that could help you to specialise as a romantic comedy or action movies actor, for instance.
  • A tutor could also provide additional information on acting theory.

When it comes to finding a tutor, you also have the choice of meeting up face-to-face or online via Skype, Zoom, or Google Meet. If you are serious about learning how to act, whether in the classical sense or as a stunt man on the sets of action movies, it could be one of the most rewarding journeys of your life -  the options are endless!

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Niki is a content writer from Cape Town, South Africa, who is passionate about words, strategic communication and using words to help create and maintain brand personas. Niki has a PR and marketing background, but her happiest place is when she is bringing a story to life on a page.