From Page to Stage: The Life of An Amateur Actor

The Ella Morris Blog

Ella Morris | Tuesday, November 17, 2015

From Page to Stage: The Life of An Amateur Actor written by Ella Morris for Downstage Centre, published on Tuesday, November 17, 2015The life of an amateur actor is never dull, as Ella Morris explains... (Photo by Sally Evans)

I act at The Little Theatre in Leicester. It’s quite unique in the fact that it is an amateur theatre, yet it functions exactly like a professional one.


We perform at least twelve plays a year so we are pretty much like a repertory theatre, the only difference is the actors usually have a full-time day job and don’t get paid.


How do we do it?


One play requires six weeks of rehearsal, four times a week for an average of 2 and a half hours rehearsal a night.

Then there is the week of technical and dress rehearsals on the stage, followed by the week long run. You gotta love it…




This is when the cast get together for the first time to read the play. It’s an opportunity to get familiar with the team that you are working with, see how the other actors take on their character and to get some more ideas on your character.




This is where the works starts! Blocking is usually a week of getting familiar with your acting space and mapping out the skeleton of the play. It also involves a lot of pencilling in your script to jot down where things and people are, what your characters motivations are and the basics of your character movement such as entrances and exits.undefined


The next couple of weeks, still with script in hand, involve building on the blocking foundations and to start building those actor-director relationships. Trying out props (such as using a broom or making tea), experimenting, trying new things, talking with fellow actors and getting feedback from the director as to how to improve your performance, are all key. This is also the time where costumes are tried on and the prompt comes to rehearsals. And there is a lot of line learning to be done out of rehearsals!


Books Down


This involves a few iffy, awkward days of trying to muddle through the play without your script. It can be excruciatingly painful but it’s a well-needed exercise. The prompt can get a good idea of where you need the extra help, you start to understand what you do know and what you don’t! More importantly, you start to make that transition from reading a script to telling a story and relating your words to your actions. Once the lines are ‘down’, pace, energy and the emotion of the story can start to be fine-tuned.


Tech Week!


Saying au revoir to four nights a week and bonjour to seven night stints and later nights. Tech week is where the play moves to the stage.

It’s a week of working with the audience, discovering new things and working super hard with your fellow actors to cope with the unexpected

The backstage teams can mark out light, sound and other important cues that require bringing this show to life. The actors can get used to the stage space in full costume and deal with any voice projection issues. The dressers start get to grips with each actors costume and change requirements during the show (especially the super quick ones!). This is where the real team work begins. The only thing left now is the audience (and final notes from the director).


Show Week!


One bubble of a rollercoaster of a week. This is where I take the week off work, get plenty of sleep and conserve all of my energy for the performances. undefinedBefore heading to the theatre I’ll have a carb filled tea and a vocal warm-up. Everybody has their rituals. I like to get to the theatre in plenty of time, well before the ‘half’ (actors are required to be at the theatre half an hour before curtain up). I like to get a nice mug of lemon, honey and hot water, have a quick chat with all the crew and cast, slowly get into costume and maybe have a quick swot over my lines.


First night is pure adrenaline. The show never goes as you expect. It’s a week of working with the audience, discovering new things and working super hard with your fellow actors to cope with the unexpected (forgotten lines, a missing prop, or mistimed sound or lighting cue or a wardrobe malfunction!), but that’s half the fun! A bloody good time had by all and usually a new set of friends to walk away with.


An actor’s life indeed……


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