Acting is a Talent

by Ruth Kulerman

Corkboard with the word Talent

Acting is a talent you are born with it. It can be polished and you can be great. But talent doesn't promise success.

Acting is a born talent (of varying degrees) that can be polished. The amount of polishing needed varies from person to person. The desire to act is NOT necessarily in proportion to the talent to act. The reasons people desire to act vary, falling loosely into these categories: desire for fame, for money, for glamour, for fulfillment, for self-expression, a love for the ART of acting, or because acting is a necessity like food and water. But the bottom line is that if you are born with a talent for acting, YOU CANNOT LOSE THAT TALENT.

If the desire to act is based on a love for the art and if that desire is accompanied by a bit of talent, then yes that love will indeed greatly compensate for minimum talent. It is my consistent contention that talent is never (or almost never) the main reason for a casting decision. We have dozens of famous stars who have almost no ability to act whatsoever. They are stars because of looks, personality, drive, ego, whatever. But stars they are!

Why Talent Doesn't Promise Success
I have worked with greatly talented people who cannot focus, cannot polish, simply cannot work at being successful. They will not learn lines, they skip rehearsals, do not self-promote -- in other words, they are dedicated to failure, regardless of their talent.

Actors have innate talent, imagination, intelligence, passion for acting, drive, a good ear, the ability to mimic -- the list is endless. Actors do not have "acting muscles" that need to be kept in shape. The only muscles an actor has which might lose strength if unused involve stage combat, falls, the martial arts, dance, singing. You simply cannot lose the ability to act. Why not?

Let's look at what goes in to acting:

  1. The ability to recreate speech believably -- that is, to make memorized lines sound real. That has to do with hearing rhythm, pitch and recreating oral rhythm and pitch.
  2. Imagination -- the ability to create possibilities in a role.
  3. Intelligence -- the ability to understand the nuances of written language and apply that understanding to a script. The ability to memorize a script.
  4. Intuition -- that which one just "knows," without being taught or without having to figure it out.
  5. Presence -- an umbrella that covers poise, love of performing, desire to be seen, pride, confidence.
You can probably add a dozen more to my list. Not one of these is a muscle.

There are, of course, numerous personal reasons: illness, job requirements, family necessities, accidents, living where there are no opportunities, the need to work to make money to live or just plain "stuff happens" and that makes acting impossible.

Unless "life stuff" has happened which absolutely prevents your acting, then you might seriously examine why you are not out there in the auditioning pool.

Downtime Activities
If you really want to stay active, you might consider taking a class or forming a weekly play-reading group. You can also set a goal for yourself to read three plays a week and thus have a good working knowledge of your profession. Set a goal to read one Shakespeare play a week. Be sure to use a good edition with plenty of footnotes.

If possible, go to open calls. They require acting. Brush up weekly on your monologues. You never know when an instant opportunity will come knocking.

Read. It is my opinion that next to innate talent, the greatest asset for an actor is the ability to read and understand the nuances of what you read. Read reviews on the Internet of the plays you are reading. Read poetry. There are great poems that do not require a graduate degree in literature to understand and these same poems will change the way you see the world.

Everything I am suggesting aims to broaden your understanding of human beings and this world we inhabit. A greater understanding of human nature will make you a better actor. If you take your "downtime" and use it to read, that subsequent growth of your humanity will compensate for the loss of growth as an actor.

In the best of all possible worlds, all of us would act all the time, grow, and develop as human beings. In my Utopia, we would all read and look at art and nature and listen to great music and have compassion and understanding. Actors are born actors. But great actors must be nurtured and nourished.

The best person to do that nurturing and nourishing is you. Perhaps the words here will partly act as a guide to that self-nurturing.

PS: It is almost impossible to recommend monologues to actors without first having met them and seen a brief sample of their work. The actor who wrote the letter quoted above could be 18 or 78. Hamlet or Lear? Tennessee Williams or Noel Coward? In monologues being prepared for auditions it is best to go with your strengths and for someone who has neither seen nor heard an actor, the idea of suggesting specific monologues is more dangerous that a dart game with a three year old!
Ruth Kulerman is an actress and coach, known for "The Off Season," "A Walk in the Dark," and "Satan Hates You." Her series of articles for "Actor Tips" is copyright by Chad Gracia and, Inc. All rights reserved. For more articles on acting, as well as free monologues and acting supplies, visit
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