What Does “Too Theatrical” Even Mean??

My mission is to help strong, well-trained actors make the transition from theater to film/TV/commercials, while still respecting and cherishing their work on the stage.  A well-rounded actor is Golden.

Now, more than ever, the only way for an actor to make a living at acting is to have the agility to  work  in TV, film, commercials, new media, and theatre.   In order to give up your day job and make your income solely on acting,  you have to be good at auditioning for all media.  In order to feed your soul,  you have to be able to do plays. Performing in plays affords an actor the opportunity to collaborate on an artistic endeavor that is stimulating, intellectual, emotional, and physical.”  

In some circles, there is a bias against theatre and theatre training.  When I taught “Acting and Directing for the Camera” at University of Colorado, Boulder, where we brought together twenty filmmakers from the film studies department and twenty actors from the theatre department, I could feel the initial unspoken tension between the theatre and film students. Not with all the students but enough to make it uncomfortable.  The actors didn’t think the filmmakers knew how to talk to actors and the filmmakers thought the actors were “too theatrical.”  All too often, people get lumped into stereotyped categories, and for some odd reason, those who love and study theatre experience the worst of it.

Describing an actor as being “too theatrical” means that the actor is not authentic, and any actor, whether they do plays or have never stepped foot on a stage, can be inauthentic.  I hate that the theatre stigma is bandied about so broadly and applied blindly to all theatre trained actors.

Actors have to find their own calibration for camera work, whether they’re theatre actors or not. On-camera work, especially with dramatic film and TV shows, is all about the eyes. All the energy you might put into your whole body on stage now must all be focused in your eyes. It is through the eyes that we see into you. Seeing your thoughts moves us.

A common misconception younger theatre actors have, however,  confuses being more natural with doing nothing. Some tone down so much that they literally have nothing going on in their eyes and can appear robotic. Doing too much and doing too little are equally ineffective.  Each actor has to find the perfect balance where he or she is natural, real, and showing the full range of human emotion reflected in the eyes. If you follow the precepts of charisma discussed earlier – being relaxed, showing vulnerability, showing your true self, being a good listener, revealing your natural sexiness, etc. – then you will find your on-camera self. You will be wonderful, we will fall in love with you, and you will book jobs.