It is a common misconception that acting is an easy profession that people pursue when they do not want to do work, when in reality acting can be an extremely difficult and grueling job. It is one of the most competitive professions, and requires extreme dedication and lots of hard work. Many actors will go through countless auditions, and not make the cut, no matter how much time or preparation went into it. When an actor is eventually cast in a new role, the work does not stop there.
Upon committing to a role, an actor has also committed to hours and hours of memorization, character development, and movement and table work. There is no easy way to fulfill a new role, it is just part of the profession; it is part of the art. “It’s stressful,” said Zoe Cygan, a Keene State College sophomore and theatre major. “There’s a lot of work that goes into it but once you figure it out, and once you feel like you fit into that role, it’s so worth it.”
The process of beginning in a new role is not only difficult because of all of the work that has to be done, but also because of the fact that it is something new, and there is always something an actor may not be prepared for.
“Starting is the hardest part,” said Jaden Rogers, a KSC first year double majoring in theatre and psychology. “It’s like when you’re starting to write an essay and there’s nothing there. The terrifying and blank paper─it’s just the worst feeling. Especially if you feel like you can’t do it, or if you’re doubting yourself,” said Rogers.
There are many steps an actor must take before they are ready for a performance, which can be very time consuming. Memorization is typically the first thing an actor focuses on after accepting a new role. It can sometimes be a tedious process depending on the play, and character.
Some actors have their own methods of memorization such as highlighting and repeating, writing each line multiple times, or even working with a fellow castmate. “I break it off into sections, and then I just constantly read and repeat them─that’s what works best for me.” said Patrick Mullen, a KSC Sophomore and Theatre major.
Along with memorization comes the process of character development. Character development is important and necessary for “finding” the character, and figuring out a characters desires and fears, or weaknesses, are only just the beginning of it; depending on the role, there can be a lot of research that goes into it. “Character development is important. I think that a good way to work on character development is by doing table work and thinking of your vocal inflection, and the relationship with one another in the scene,” said Cygan.
“It’s interesting because you have to approach it differently every time.” said Rogers. “When
I approach roles I try very hard to just think as the character. So I’ll look at the script and ask myself, what’s the subtext of the things they’re saying; what’s the meaning behind it, and what are they thinking about what they’re saying. By doing that you’re kind of getting to know the character, and you become one with that character,” added Rogers.
Students who were cast in the first mainstage show of the year, The Butterfly’s Evil Spell, are currently working on character portfolios, which will ultimately help them develop ideas, and organize all gathered information on their characters. “It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of research. It’s hard, it’s not easy. But I think that it is worth it in the long-run, because it really gives you an idea of who your character is.” says Cygan.
“The character portfolio takes a while. There is a lot of information that goes into it. Such as information about characters, information about the play itself, including the playwright, and the history.” said Mullen. “If I were to add up all of the hours I put into it, I’d say ten to twelve total.” Theatre majors at KSC currently in the Beginning Acting class, are also working on character portfolios throughout the semester, to prepare for their Mid-Level review. It is important and beneficial to know how to do, especially if a substantial amount of research is required.
So, why do actors continue to take on new roles if it is so hard to do? It comes down to the love of creativity and art. Lots of actors find happiness on the stage, and cannot see themselves doing anything else. There is raw passion that is put into performances, so much time and hard work, and if it is loved enough by an actor, then there is no reason to do anything else.
Veronica Pamphile can be contacted at