There are basic fundamentals an actor must have when acting in theater. Follow these five basic fundamentals when you are acting in theater:
It is essential that you properly project your voice when you are acting on stage. There usually aren’t microphones to amplify your voice (except some musical theater), so you must use your voice as in instrument in order to be heard. To achieve this, take deep breathes and use your diaphragm (the muscle under your lungs) to push the air out of your body. Make sure the sound resonates through the front part of your sinuses as you speak. A good way to warm up your voice is to lay flat on your back with your hands on your stomach. Take deep breaths and feel your stomach expand out. As you breathe out, buzz the air through your relaxed lips. The next time you exhale, let the air out in a “haaaa”. Do this several times. This exercise will warm up your diaphragm and help guide your breathing technique on stage.
A stage actor also must have good diction in order for the audience to understand her or him. Good diction is effectively pronouncing words in order to make your speech clear. Even plays with ordinary speech require excellent diction. What’s the point of telling the story if your audience can’t understand what you are saying? Articulation and good diction require you to utilize particular muscles in your face: your tongue, lips, and jaw muscles. Try this exercise: over-pronounce your lines and greatly exaggerate the movements of your mouth. Put extra emphasis on the consonants at the beginning and ends of each word. Use this exercise to find a medium between your regular speech and exaggerated pronunciation that still sounds natural. Another good exercise is practicing tongue twisters like “toy boat” and “red leather, yellow leather”.
Make sure the audience can see you in the scene. Open your body out. Let the audience catch all of your reactions. You won’t be able to do this if your body is closed off. Be aware of the key moments of the scene and make them visible to the audience. If the focus needs to be on your scene partner at a particular moment, make sure you aren’t blocking him or her from the audience. Engage your scene partner to keep the scene realistic, but you can always cheat your body out in order reveal your character’s thoughts. The audience wants to see your face!
It is your job to be aware of the lighting when you are acting on stage. It is vital that you find your light during the scene, especially during the key moments. The audience will tune out of the scene if your face is in the dark and they can’t see your reactions. The lighting designer puts a great deal of work into lighting each moment of the play. Don’t let that work go to waste.
One of the fun aspects of theater acting is the freedom to act “big”. Theater gives you the ability to exaggerate your gestures and speech in order to be seen/heard by the audience. Have fun with this. Play your character as big as you can during rehearsal. You can always tone it down later in order to be realistic. Playing your character big during rehearsal allows you to find certain characteristics and moments that you may not have if you didn’t play the scene big. You’ll be amazed at what you discover.