If you’re curious to know more about the world of stage acting, here’s your chance. While there’s some definite crossover between performing on stage and on camera, there are some fundamental differences between the two forms of acting too. Actress Jully Lee has experience in both and taps into her unique perspective to tell us what it’s like to live a day in the life of a stage actor, including specific ways it differs from the working life of an on-camera actor.
What does a typical day look like for you?
“As an actor, you plan out your days or your weeks, and as soon as an audition hits, you kind of have to scrap your entire day to prepare for that. So if I have an audition, I’m going to be spending my time preparing for it by figuring out the shape of the scene and my function in it, which will inform the choices I make for my character. It’s the same kind of work I’d be doing to prepare for a film or TV audition. The difference is that for a stage audition, I focus on really owning the space. You almost never want to audition for a theatrical role just standing there, which is the complete opposite of auditioning for film and TV. For on-camera auditions, you have to hit your mark and really be aware of your eyelines. So I think that, without those things limiting you in stage auditions, you don’t have to close yourself off so much.”
Once you’ve won the role, what are you doing?
“You of course always want to read the entire script first to understand the story, as well as your role in the play. I’m in rehearsals right now at Boston Court Pasadena for a play by Kit Steinkellner called ‘Ladies.’ It’s based on The Blue Stocking Society, which was a group of feminists that began in London in the eighteenth century before the term ‘feminist’ even existed. I play a character called ‘Fanny Burney,’ and even though it’s a fictionalized version of her, I have to understand who the real person was before finding where the fiction, that imaginative creativity behind her character, is drawn from. So a lot of what I’m doing in preparing for a role is research. From there, a big part of the rehearsal process is getting off book. And then it’s weeks of blocking and staging. You’re using more of your body and voice for theater, so it’s important that while I’m rehearsing I keep up my ability to project by doing various vocal exercises.”
When you’ve made it to the performance stage, what’s life like then?
“To be honest, during the performance phase of a show, it’s really easy-breezy because you’ve done all the work. You’re obviously off book and comfortable with the lines, so then you get to just be present and respond to the presence of a live audience. When they’re with you, you can really feel their energy, and it’s such a thrilling ride to be able to perform in the same space as people who are emotionally traveling with you throughout that journey. It’s a beautiful experience that you don’t get to have on camera.”
As Lee tells us, there’s a significant overlap between stage and on-camera acting. The work involved in analyzing scenes and characters is very similar in both forms of acting. But when it comes to physicalizing the performance and connecting to the audience, stage acting gives actors a wholly different experience. So if you’re an on-camera actor and find yourself envying aspects of theater work, you might consider expanding your talents to the stage.