The audience of today is bred into a generation of one-minute videos, four-panel jokes, quick memes, and GIFs. Thus, more than ever, it has become necessary for an actor to possess stage presence long enough to keep the audience captivated through the whole performance. As an actor, how do you hold the stage whether you’re performing for a skit or an entire two-act play?
How to Improve Stage Presence as an Actor
Actors constantly make the mistake of avoiding too much energy in fear of overacting. But usually, they end up “under-acting” because of this. Remember: this is a theater. Energy is a crucial component in stage presence. How do you fill large theater halls when you’re the only character in the scene and you’re performing a monologue? Always be mindful of the paying audience sitting at the farthest corners of the house, and ensure that your energy reaches that specific row. Lack of energy can bore the audience, so avoid being a passive actor and uplift your character. Step onto the stage with the mindset that you will be so much bigger than your everyday demeanor. Fill your movements with zest!
Non-actors often assume that the amplification provided by microphones is enough to make their voices heard. On the other hand, professional actors, even ones who use microphones regularly, know that this is not the case. Even with a microphone working perfectly, swallowed or mumbled words will still be difficult to understand. In acting classes and workshops, theater actors are taught to project and modulate their voices so that even when speaking softly or tenderly, a resonance carries their words past the stage. Actors are taught to honor the playwright’s work of art by delivering lines clearly. Also be aware that there is a huge difference between yelling and projecting. Train your voice with these exercises.
Even with a loud, cackling voice to personify a character plagued with mental illness, a uniform delivery of your lines in this way from beginning till the end of the play will slowly diminish your audience’s reaction and will still be considered as monotonous. It might even annoy some of them. Variations of emotional expression also should match plot structure. For example, your emotional intensity in the exposition should not overpower that of the intensity in the climax, and so forth. Also falling under this category is your manner of emphasizing certain lines or words. Connect with your audience by making them listen to you and the message you intend to convey.
Humor does not necessarily mean belly-clutching laughter. It could be dark, satirical, or even subtle and indirect. The main thing is to find a funny bone in the character for the audience to enjoy. What if your character was written as a normally serious individual? Be creative and improvise short remarks without dropping your character! The humor is doubled when it is least expected. This takes skill and experience, but the payoff is game-changing. With perfect timing and wit, you will be recognized for your stage presence soon enough.
The beat is one of the most common words in the theatrical vernacular, unsurprisingly so, because it can mean so many different things. In theater, a beat is an added pause to a line or action—a brief break that changes the moment’s rhythm. Usually, it signals a shift in intention or emotion for the character, which can have major ripple effects. How do you connect with your audience through proper placement of beats?
Take Hamlet’s iconic “To be, or not to be” soliloquy. As Shakespeare instructed with his well-placed comma, there’s a beat after “to be,” as the depressive Dane considers the weighty contrasting issues of life in “to be” and death in “or not to be.” Imagine that line delivered in one rushed breath: “To be or not to be that is the question.” It doesn’t have the same import, does it? With a beat, you want the audience to read what you’re thinking and feel your humanness. With a beat, you keep them on the edge of their seats as they follow your character’s trail of thoughts closely through the timing of your delivery.
To be a truly great theater performer, an actor must have the magnetic power brought about by stage presence to ultimately hold a stage. Hope we helped. Good luck!Improving Your Stage Presence as an Actor by Minette