Stage acting or film, are they equal?

Stage acting is very different to acting on television or film and requires a different set of skills. Although there are many similarities between the two styles, act on stage is generally far more expressive and physical, whereas subtleties tend to reign on television and film. To act on stage is exaggerated, with natural gestures and movements being over-played, as opposed to the subtle, natural nuances of film acting. The reason for this is that actors on stage must 'play to the back of the house', meaning that the audience sat at the back of the theatre must be able to see the actor's movements and pick up on the inflection of their voice.

For this, actors must be able to project their voice . This does not mean you need to yell or scream – it's all about controlling your breathing and the movement of your diaphragm to put depth and power behind your voice. Again, film actors have the added benefit of microphones and post-production editing which means they often do not have to acquire this skill, which is required in stage acting . As well as projecting your voice, as a stage actor you must be able to control your voice. This consists of having complete control over inflection and the subtleties of the words which communicate feelings and emotions with the audience.

What's more, when acting on stage you need to ensure that you give a fresh, energetic and vibrant performance every time. This can be particularly difficult when you've been performing the play once or twice a day for the past couple of months, but is absolutely vital to your success as a stage actor. Stamina and dedication are absolutely essential and you need to ensure that your performance is fresh and consistent. There are no second takes when you are on stage, whereas television and film is far more relaxed in this sense. Live theatre is an immediate experience and, as a stage actor, you must appreciate that.

You will need to know specific terms and vocabulary associated with stage acting. For example, do you know the difference between upstage right and downstage left? How about the fourth wall ? What is the apron? Understanding specialised theatre jargon is essential to being able to communicate with your director and behind-the-scenes staff as well as showing that you have done your research and understand the craft which you are practising.

Acting exercises and acting games are particularly useful for actors that choose for working on stage as they will help to develop character traits, improvisational skills, stage movement and voice projection, plus many more skills which will be very useful to you in your career. Take part in these exercises and games on a regular basis to ensure that you keep your skills fresh and renewed and that you're able to improvise lines with ease. Memorising lines is also vital for any actor on stage as there are no second takes. You need to ensure you are comfortable with learning, memorising, and improvising lines – just in case you do forget!

Quotes and tips

"I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being."

Oscar Wilde


Acting tip

Always be on time. Whether it is an audition or a rehearsal, an appointment with your agent or acting-coach, if you are on time it shows your commitment. It will be noticed. Of course you do not come to an audition TO early. We can not give you a specific amount of minutes that is right, but why making yourself nervous by waiting an hour and maybe annoying others that are waiting. And of course you do not want to rush in when they are actually waiting already. Make sure you never need to find an excuse for being to early or to late, by being on time.

The empty space

Peter Brooks guide to stage acting, we highly recommend this book.