We’ll learn February 26th, 2017, who gets this year’s Academy Award for Best Actor, and, of course, who gets one for lots of things. But, acting is what I’m discussing here.
What does it take to be a good actor?
I am no expert on the subject, but I have done some amateur acting. My first role was Santa Claus in a play I wrote in 1942 in the 7th grade at Eleventh Street School in downtown Columbus. We performed it for the 6th and 7th grades. You can read about it and a lot more in my memoir The Newsman: a Memoir. I also did a part in a play in 1943 at Columbus Junior High School, then one at Teen Tavern in Columbus when I was a teenager. I played Petruchio in Taming of the Shrew for Columbus Little Theater, which was morphed into the Springer Opera House after that, and I acted in a number of plays for the Springer and for Theater Atlanta in the late fifties and sixties. Theater Atlanta exited the stage before the Alliance Theater came into being.
Considering all that, maybe I can say what it takes to a be good actor with a thimble of expertise. First of all, learn your lines. The drama professor at Agnes Scott said she was so happy that I would act in some of the school plays because she knew I would learn my lines. Just that accounted for a lot she said. She said nothing about the quality of my acting that I can remember. Some of the male teachers at Agnes Scott, a women’s college, would help her from time to time, but she had to go outside the school had to ask male amateur actors to participate in school plays. I think I did minor parts in two plays for her.
Second suggestion: concentrate. The Springer’s first director Charles Jones emphasized that a lot. He said it’s really important in everything you do. I agree.
Third suggestion: learn how to ad- lib when other people forget their lines and you have to reply to the lines they made up. Often when the other actor forgets his lines, the audience thinks you are the one who forgot his lines because there is a pause while you are waiting for your cue which is never delivered. That happened to me more than once. Once when that happened, Charles complimented me on my improvising a line when the lead forgot his and ad-libbed something that didn’t make much sense. He said, “Thanks for bringing him back into the play.”
O.K., now here’s what some experts reportedly said about acting.
“Talk low, talk slow, and don’t talk too much. ” — John Wayne
“Never get caught acting.” – Lillian Gish
“Without wonder and insight, acting is just a trade. With it, it becomes a creation.” – Bette Davis
“With any part you play, there is a certain amount of yourself in it. There has to be, otherwise it’s just hat you ust not acting. It’s lying.” – Johnny Depp
“Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature.” – WIlliam Shakespeare, Hamlet
And Orson Welles said, “The essential is to excite the spectators. If that means playing Hamlet on a trapeze or in an aquarium, you do it.”
Now, if we really want to get serious about this we could discuss the different schools of acting, things like method acting, naturalism, non-naturalism., realism, and romanticism. I don’t want to get that serious.