One of the more frustrating things about being an actor is that because it’s a collaborative art form, you only get to do the actual work when you’re cast in something. When you book the job. Outside of a scene study or other class, you spend more time looking for work than doing the work you love.
This is where having an anchor play can help.
Pick something you want to work on for at least a year or longer. Something that challenges you. That inspires you. That scares the crap out of you. A part you’d kill to do. (For me right now, that’s “Astrov” in Uncle Vanya. Prior to this it was “Eddie” in Fool For Love which then led to me playing “Austin” in our Vs. production of True West.)
Once you have your anchor play, ask yourself how much work can you do on your own. How far can you take it solo?
A thought experiment/exercise…Pretend that in one year from now, you will show up to the first day of rehearsals. The director will expect the following from you:
-You will be off book.
-You will be in costume.
-You will have fully investigated the text. You will know the facts of the play, what your character says about him/her self, what your character says about others, and what others say about you.
-You will have broken the play down into beats. You will have strong actions for your character in each beat.
-You will have written your backstory.
-You will have fully explored behavior.
-You will have pushed the limits of your imagination and senses within the given circumstances of the play.
-You will know your character’s spirit animal.
-You will know how your character walks and talks. Where their center is.
-You will have read other plays by the same playwright. As well as biographies and articles including theatre criticism about the playwright and the play(s).
-You will have watched various films that might inspire your character.
-You will have created a soundtrack to listen to that helps get you into character.
-You will have observed people and nature. You will have found some things that inspire your character.
The above are just some various ideas and approaches to doing the work. There’s plenty more and different things one can do. Point being, this should keep you busy for at least the next year or two. You can do it in the margins. And you don’t need anyone else to make it happen. You’re solo.
If you commit to this anchor play, process and mindset, not only will you grow as an actor, but you will have fun and be empowered. And you never know…it just might lead to you doing the play and part someday. The universe is weird like that. Just think how ready you’ll be on the first day of rehearsal!