How to do Sight Readings for Acting young professionals


Sight reading is a most valuable skill. It needs daily practice. The actor, who can lift words off the page, sometimes at very short notice, has improved his chances of getting work. The important medium of radio drama (fifty years ago one of the greatest acting media in Britain) requires that the actor can rehearse and then record – that is, with the smallest amount of rehearsal, consign a fine accurate performance to tape. A major play is often rehearsed and recorded in three to four days, and a week’s installments of a long-running radio series recorded in one day. Yet this is not superficial or shallow acting; the actors are superb practitioners of sight reading and vocal acting, lightning fast to apprehend the meanings and nuances of a text, and freed from all the other concerns of acting such as learning moves, wearing costume and make-up, learning lines, coping with an audience. Yet it needs an especial skill, great vocal subtlety, interest, variety and control, and often produces great acting. Laidman Browne and Gladys Young of the 1940s and 1950s were major actors by virtue of their versatility, vocal authority and capacity as story tellers. Chris Gittins, Walter Gabriel of The Archers (not my favorite radio soap), created a character which became folklore over the years. His performance, like Warren Mitchell’s Alf Garnett, was great acting.

Acting young professionals

When asked to read, the actor must have time to read the script and prepare a short strategy, time to make an intelligent guess at the meaning of the text, the import of the character. If you are asked to read straight off the cuff, they’re not worth working for and it will be misery. A reading should aim to be an intelligent and witty exploration of the lines of dialogue on the page; look for humor, look for narrative, look for character. If it’s comedy, make an intelligent guess about the tempo and particular points of timing, pauses for example. Don’t overact, emote or get worked up with a script in your hand; it’s wise to underplay passages of strong emotion if they occur, and perhaps to ask a question or two of the director about the character’s temperament and motivation.

Good sight reading has never been more important than in this age of the commercial, the voice-over, and the dubbed film. Actors and actresses of great distinction are happy to voice television and radio commercials because it’s very good money for minimal work. What the advertiser is paying for is a lifetime of acting experience, and a familiar or admired voice. Many documentary films are narrated, not by experts in their subject matter, but by actors, who give fluency and color to the spoken material. Great accuracy is called for and a perfect sense of timing when the actor has to ‘lip-synch’, that is, speak dialogue exactly synchronized to the movements of another actors’ lips on the screen.

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About the Author: Cody Riffel is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo. She likes to write on variety of topics, whatever interests her. She also likes to share what she learns over the Internet and her day-to-day life.

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