Three Things Every Actor Should Have

Green and purple theater masks

This article is mainly centered on newbies but it includes advice for trained and experienced actors as well. I say that because I’m often surprised at how many seasoned actors don’t know about the stuff actors should have in their repertoire. No one’s perfect. But for this month’s article, I wanna talk about a variety of things that an actor should possess. I often get asked by people outside of theater, how does one become an actor, what’s the life of an actor like… and some people seem to think it’s easy and doesn’t involve a lot of work. I’m not saying that to sound condescending, because if you’re outside of theater, how would you know? But I am saying it to make a point that theater is hard work and it deserves respect. And if you’re interested in participating in it, or keeping up good habits, here are some things that every actor should have.

An assortment of monologues–memorized and ready to perform

Silhouette of girl reading a book

Throughout your career as an actor, you will notice that things often move insanely fast. One of the biggest examples of this is hearing about auditions here and there–even with little notice. You never know when you’ll hear by word of mouth about an audition that’s coming up tomorrow, and you may have little prep time. And auditions often require actors to perform two contrasting monologues: one comedic and one dramatic. But it doesn’t stop there. You’ll need monologues that are contemporary and classical to really survive as an actor. This will not only give you versatility, but will also prepare you for a number of roles. After all, it’s never a good idea to perform a monologue from the show you’re auditioning for, but if you have monologues similar to the role you want, it’ll get a director’s attention. You should have at least 5 dramatic and 5 comedic monologues from both classical and contemporary theater memorized and you need to work on them regularly! Also… I’m astounded that this has to be said–but you have to actually read the play. It’s sad that many people tend to skip this step, but like I said, acting is work. So don’t slack off. 🙂 Another good attribute this will give you is familiarity with a variety of different plays and playwrights, and hence, knowledge of your craft.


Much like how the audition is never over, neither is your training. I’ve been acting for over 20 years. I have two college degrees in theater, but I’m still taking classes or workshops whenever I can afford it. Acting classes–if they’re led by a good teacher–are safe spaces where one can grow as an artist or a person. There’s always a new technique or improv exercise to try, there’s always someone who’s a seasoned professional in a part of theater you’re dying to explore who’s looking for students, there’s always people to network with in a class–the person sitting next to you could be your next collaborator. But a class isn’t just about learning new skills. It’s equally important to practice the ones you already have! Like any skill, if you don’t keep up with your practicing, your skill level will drop. And it’s not just acting where you need to keep your training up either! There’s music, dancing, stage combat, directing and so much more. No matter how talented and experienced you are, if you don’t keep up your practice, you’ll become stale and it will show in your auditions. Also, at the risk of sounding sappy… it just feels good to be in a class. To be with your fellow artists. To let the experience wash over you. To leave the chaos of your life behind for a couple hours and just be with your fellow artists. Don’t ever underestimate the value of training! And don’t ever think you’re above it either!



When a director looks at your resume and sees you can do an accent, or several, it’s a huge gold star. They may want you to do one for a part and if you already know how to do it, they don’t have to wait for you to learn. It also shows that you can take initiative. But listen up! Learning an accent is not as easy as it sounds! It is way more than simply listening to someone talk and imitating them! Every accent as a certain point of resonance in the mouth. And you never know when a word is pronounced completely different, even if you’re used to listening for it. For example, one of my favorite YouTube cooking channels is The Happy Pear, run by two Irish guys. And it took me a while to figure out what the hell “bah-zil” and “ore-eh-gah-no” were. (Basil and oregano.) It also took me a while to realize that the Clash was singing about a garage band in this classic! LOL! Furthermore, there are several misconceptions are accents. For example… Irish and Scottish do NOT sound the same! And there are regional accents within a country.

Basically, learning an accent and really perfecting it takes time! It can pretty much feel like learning a new language. And don’t think experts won’t notice accents, even faint ones! When I was a starry eyed fresh-outta-high-school student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts my voice teacher looked at me and said “you’re from Illinois, right?” I didn’t even grow up in Illinois! I only lived there till I was seven! My accent was light but he still noticed it! If an expert can notice that, they’ll definitely notice if you’re doing an accent wrong! And if you slack off, it’s also a slap in the face to the people who are from that country, or if nothing else, it’ll amuse them. And ya don’t wanna do that… you’re telling their story after all. So roll your sleeves up and do the work to learn the accent. Here and here are good places to start.

Street sign that says "dream big, work hard"

These are of course, just a few examples. If you’re just dipping your toe into acting, or thinking of doing so, you can read about couple other things I’ve written for newbies here and here.

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