7 Habits of Highly Effective Young Actors

7 Habits of Highly Effective Young Actors

There are certain actors who directors LOVE working with… and then there are “THOSE” actors.  The ones who might be incredibly talented, but nobody wants to work with them, because they’re divas or lazy or just don’t seem to care.  Don’t be one of “THOSE” actors.  Here are 7 habits of highly effective young actors — the one directors LOVE working with, and will hire back again and again.

1.  They take auditions seriously.  They don’t take the easy route by simply choosing the first monologue they find on a Google search or singing “O Canada,” and they allow themselves enough time to prepare and practice so they are less nervous the day of the audition.

2.  They trust their director.  Even if they don’t get the part they want, they trust that the director has put them in the role that is best for them, and that the director will give them lots to do.  (And if the director doesn’t, they’re assertive and ask for more!)

3.  They set aside time to practice every day.  Even just five minutes a day helps!  There’s always something to practice — your lines, your harmonies, your choreography, your volume, your enunciation…

4.  They learn their lines as soon as they receive their part.  They also learn their lines accurately (paraphrasing is a no-no!), and note who says the line before theirs — their cue lines.

EDIT 11/10/15: I received some feedback regarding this suggestion: “In my experience actors who learn their lines as soon as they get them, learn them with the wrong thinking behind them so you have to try and undo it all before you can try and load the right thinking.” This is a great point. I do disagree with “right” and “wrong” thinking, as I think that acting/character work should develop throughout the rehearsal process — is there truly a “right” and “wrong” way to act or portray a character? However, I would like to amend my point to state that actors should learn their lines as soon as they are blocked and directed. The reason I like actors to get off book ASAP is because that way they aren’t fumbling with a script in hand and can work more thoroughly on their character and physicality. Thanks for the feedback!

5.  They’re effective time-managers.  Young actors need to balance rehearsals, school and homework, other commitments (swimming, Brownies, music lessons, whatever), time with friends and family, and oh, time for eating and sleeping and all that other life stuff.  Their day planner is colour-coded and Post-it tabbed.  They know that if they’ve got a rehearsal the night before a big test, they need to figure out when they’re going to study so they don’t miss rehearsal and let down their castmates.

6.  They use their rehearsal time effectively.  If they aren’t working directly with the director, they’re studying their lines or rehearsing their dance steps.  They are NOT being yappy or interrupting the artistic staff or bothering other cast members!

7.  They give 100%, every day.  They give their full effort at every rehearsal.  They don’t just “save it for the performance.”  Remember, you spend way more time rehearsing than you do performing, so why only give a half-effort for the majority of the time?  Practice the way you want to perform!  It’s much easier to give a huge effort and tone it back, then give a lesser effort and have to force it to be bigger.

What are your highly effective habits?  Share them in the comments!

Photo Credit: Malcolm Miller

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20 thoughts on “7 Habits of Highly Effective Young Actors

  1. They don’t reject a costume because they don’t like it. They let costume staff know how they need to be able to move, where they may need help with a quick change, they listen when we talk about what is right in hair & make up for their time period and character.

  2. Jessica

    Thank you! Our school is implementing The Leader in Me/7 Habits this year and this will be a wonderful addition to my classroom!

  3. Vijay

    Good post!

    About point 4, not all directors or schools of thought believe in *memorizing* lines as an effective way of preparing for the character/play, so that point, I’m afraid, might not be universally valid.

    Other than that, quite a succinct post for students.

    1. Hi Vijay, thanks for your comment. I’d be interested to learn more about these schools/directors and their philosophy regarding learning lines. I find that the sooner the actor is off-book, the easier it is for them to really work on developing their character and physicality — but of course, that’s just my opinion!

      As a follow-up, please check out my article about 7 MORE habits (https://kerryhishon.com/2012/12/15/7-more-habits-of-highly-effective-young-actors/) as I do note that acting does go beyond simply memorizing lines — that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

  4. M.B.

    Oh, girl. Half my life is #2 – begging people (mostly parents who don’t know how the audition process goes down) to trust me after I cast a show.

  5. Dale Osborn Rains

    In regard to learning the lines as quickly as possible, I would like to refer you to the Whelan Technique of recording beats and then acting those beats in tandem with the playback. With this method there is never–ever–a script on stage. And–the lines come quicker to the actor. It’s worked for me for years.

  6. I have a young daughter whose passion is acting and singing. She could memorize her lines very quickly. However, what I have noticed is that she had been so dependent on other people’s lines and cues that she can’t quite improvise when other actors mess up. I suppose this will come with experience. Too often,I feel, the scenes and moods are not quite explained to young actors and there’s more mimicking and memorizing than creativity in the acting. Are there any suggestions for my young thespian on how she can cope with other actors messing up on stage?

    1. That’s a tough one! It is very difficult and frustrating when your fellow actors are not sticking to the script (and this comes at any age!).

      It may help for your daughter and her cast-mates to run lines together as a group, to help gain camaraderie and really illustrate how necessary it is for everyone to pull their weight together as a cast.

      Perhaps it could also be useful to do some improv exercises as a cast; but have the kids stay in their characters. How would their character react if their friend were hurt? How would they bake a cake? What would they do in an emergency? How would they take a test? That could be useful to help work on improvisation skills as a group.

      I agree that young actors are often mimicking rather than actually acting. Perhaps the director should sit down with the actors and discuss what each scene means, and discuss what each character wants. What is the arc of each scene, and how does that come together to tell the full story of the play?

      I hope this helps! Best of luck to your young actress!

  7. rachel wilson

    1. they understand their character and don’t judge their character. they do development exercises and attempt to understand, if not relate to, their character.

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