Acting is not an easy job and just about any actor, no matter what their level of training and accomplishment may be, has insecurities that can undermine their success. One of the things that a director can do is instill confidence in their performers. In doing so, they can help actors reach new levels of performance that can turn a play or musical into a truly special production.
Work Hard, Make It Fun
Two aspects of rehearsal that are important to creating confidence is making sure that you are working and focused on the play at all times, and through your hard work, creating a positive example for your cast and others. At the same time, if everyone is working hard, it doesn’t mean that the rehearsal process can’t be fun. In fact, if people are having fun, they usually have more energy and are more relaxed and creative. Be a great example for others in both of these areas.
Offer Positives in Your Criticism
Of course, you have to help actors find their way, and one way you do that is by providing notes, often said to actors while they are rehearsing, and working and adjusting scenes, moments, movement, etc. Try to always give an actor something positive with which they can work. This may be commenting on something they did that was taking them in the right direction or it may be a new idea that will help them adjust what they are doing in order to put your critique to good use.
Respect Each Individual
Treat your actors as individuals and respect them. They are creative artists and each is unique and interesting. If you give each performer individualized attention you’ll build their confidence, and, at the same time, be able to communicate with them in an effective, efficient manner.
Set High Standards
It’s important to set high standards in various ways. First of all, set the mark high for professional behavior, which means everyone being on time and ready to start when called, everyone focused when working, and each actor doing their homework outside of rehearsal. Also, set high standards regarding what you expect of yourself, and from others involved in the show. As people step up and hit benchmarks, make sure you recognize their accomplishments, as this will instill confidence and help them strive for and reach the next benchmark.
Finally, make sure you provide your actors with perspective on the process. During production people get tired, confused, and frustrated. At some point, or at numerous times, they can get lost. These things can really undermine confidence.
The director, who should always be able to step back and see the bigger picture, is in a unique position to give actors perspective as to what they have accomplished, where they are in the process, and how they will make it to opening night.
Making it their Own
Once all is said and done, when you get to opening night, the show belongs to the actors and those who are supporting them and the production. The director’s job is done. As a director, overall, you want to ensure your actors have the confidence in themselves, your vision, and the entire production process to give the best performances of which they are capable.