How to Know What Acting Advice To Take

How can an actor be realistic about their career while still holding onto their big dream?

Acting, in all its beautiful subjective glory, attracts an endless array of perspectives and philosophies. Between professors, instructors, coaches, directors and other industry professionals, it can be hard to know what advice to take. Especially when said advice is conflicting, which will invariably occur. Below is a guide to help you sort through the influx of tips and tricks. (And yes, I am aware that I am now giving advice on how to take advice…which is mildly Inception-y. Use your best judgment—especially if your judgment is inclined in the favor of wildly talented, near-genius acting bloggers).

  1. Consider the Source. Remember that everyone brings their own set of experiences to the table along with their particular brand of advice. So it’s up to you, as a lifelong student of acting, to apply the appropriate filter. It’s OK to exercise some personal judgment as well—consider what you know about the person espousing wisdom. Do they favor certain practices exclusively above all else? Are they jaded and bitter toward the business? Are they your competition? Career alcoholics? A grain of salt is a healthy addition to any advice you absorb. This works in a positive light as well—the greater the talent and experience, likely the more weight the advice might carry.
  2. Put it in Context. Think about where you are. Goals and techniques must be adjusted from class to audition to rehearsal to performance. Figure out what you are trying to accomplish and then think: Is the advice coming from an instructor? Remember that direction given might be geared toward your education in a broader sense, and not necessarily appropriate to every individual audition. Is it coming from a director? The advice is probably catered to the project at hand. It absolutely pays to glean wisdom and pick up new tools along the way, just remember to put them in the right loop of your tool belt.
  3. Does it Feel Right? There’s nothing to be lost from experimenting with new techniques, so absolutely give it the old college try. Come at new advice with an open heart and committed spirit. And then assess. Did it feel right for you? Is it the most effective tactic in each specific situation? Do parts of it work? You’re already in a business that prizes your intuition and instincts, so use them. You are a valid judge of what technique will help you most. Keep what works for you, and either chuck the rest or file it under potential tools for the future.
  4. Does it Serve the Project? Even great advice is not applicable one hundred percent of the time. Conversely, advice you have deemed generally unhelpful may serve you in the right circumstances. Be willing to try techniques that are not necessarily always helpful to you, because they might be right for a specific project.
  5. Maintain Perspective. It’s easy to assume that directors or instructors are always right. When someone is older, more experienced, more commercially accomplished, why wouldn’t you take their word as gospel? In many cases, professionals give excellent, useful advice. But remember we are all of us human. Directors make mistakes. Coaches and even agents might not know you and your work as well as you think they do. Experts give the advice that works best for I’m not saying reject all direction. I’m just saying sprinkle some critical thinking over each new cupcake of acting theory.

The good and the bad of it is that this will never end. As long as you are in the industry you will always have to sift through a million schools of thought to figure out what works for you. But the more you do it, the better student you will become. Make a study of your own style of learning. The better you know yourself, the more specifically you can design your ongoing acting education.

 

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Rachel Rachel Frawley is an actor living in Atlanta. She holds a B.F.A. in Theatre from Michigan State University (with cognates in Music and Professional Writing) and is an Apprentice Company graduate from the Atlanta Shakespeare Co. She also works as an education artist for local theatres, which have included the Shakespeare Tavern and Aurora Theatre. For more information, visit her website at www.rachelfrawley.com

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