This blog serves to give acting ideas and advice to actors of all ages, especially young ones. This blogs author is J.T. Turner, actor, director, teacher and member of AEA, SAG and AFTRA. I hope you find the posts useful, and please pass along the blog address to anyone you think might benefit from it!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy New Year To The World!- Ebeneezer Scrooge

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world- The Beatles 

This time of year, many of us reflect on where our lives are and make decisions about what we want to change. The famous New Year Resolution usually lasts about 4 weeks, and then is lost. I am no exception to this rule, many of my goals fall by the wayside. But I do actually achieve more changes/goals than many people I know, so I thought I would wrap up 2009 with some advice on setting some new goals, and how to make them work.

First is mindset. I don't think of these things as  resolutions so much as a goal. Goal, not dream, although to me my goals and dreams are the same thing. My wishlist IS a To-Do list, I don't just have a vague fantasy about what I want to do, I actually implement plans to do them. Sometimes they fail, gloriously fail, but I always try. And I follow the advice of Yoda, and believe in doing over trying.

Most times, we fail at things because we never get past the wishing stage. The old adage that well begun is half done is true. By actually implementing a plan, doing things, a goal becomes a reality.

But understand that there are usually 2 different types of things on a Resolution list, goals and habits. Goals are basic things to achieve, a trip, a role, a new skill. Habits are things we want to change in our lives or introduce permanently. Sure, sometimes these things overlap, a desire to learn Karate may turn into a lifelong habit, but generally we can view a resolution, at the start, as a goal or habit.

Most of us will have 4-5 habits we want to change, (quit smoking, exercise more), and about the same number of goals, (trip to Bermuda, work with elderly).If you follow the instructions below, I think you can greatly increase your chance for success.


1- Write down 5 things you want to achieve. Weight loss, exercise, more reading, stop smoking, whatever. Don't just think of them, write them out.

2- Commit to doing the easiest habit first. Then take that habit, and break it down into 7 small steps. If you want to exercise more, step one might be 15 minutes of walking a day as your first step. Step two might be a half hour of walking. Step 3 might be to add 10 minutes of Wii fit in twice a week, etc.

3- Publicly commit to your habit. On your Facebook page, LiveJournal, blog, publicly state what you hope to do. Or take a good friend into your confidence about the habit.This step is called accountability, and works for most people.

4- Try and have a "trigger" for the activity or step. A trigger is something that makes you remember and engage in the activity. For example, always walk after dinner.Always practice piano during the commercials for Jeopardy!. Exercise right after you put your contact lenses in. This trigger helps form your new habit.

5- Continue for 7 weeks, the time it take us to create a new habit. From that point, the new habit is a part of your life. Now move on to your next item.


1-Like a habit, write them out, and be specific.

2- List what steps you need to take to achieve the goal. For example, if your goal is a trip to Italy you may have to get a passport, open a special account, save the money, book the flight.

3- List a time frame to achieve each step. Passport by the end of January, save $500 by the end of March.

4- Try and stay on target, (thank you Gold Leader), but be flexible and reasonable.

Hey, JT,  this is an acting blog, what about acting goals? Great question, but the above holds true. Being a better actor, for example, is a habit. Think about taking lessons, getting coaching, attending a seminar, voice lessons once a week.. Perhaps meeting once a week with other actors to work on scenes or do some improve.

 Acting more often on stage might be a goal, and committing to 2 auditions a month would be a great first step towards that achievement. (That doesn't always get you on stage as often as you want, but you can only control what you can control. Showing up at auditions is what you can control).


We run great classes at my company. Private lessons, group lessons,audition preparation, private coaching for speeches, if it falls in the realm of performing we can help you. We are located in Ipswich, MA, but can also do long distance coaching by phone or email. Check out our Winter classes at theactorscompany.org. Don't see what you need? Drop us a line at jtturneractor@gmail.com

Monday, December 28, 2009

Turner's Tension Transporters

A woman brings her husband to the doctors, explaining he just keeps saying the same things over and over. Sure enough, the husband sits in the doctor's office just repeating, "I am a teepee, I am a wigwam, I am a teepee, I am a wigwam..". The woman asks the doctor what the problem is. The doctor says, "He's two tents". (Say it out loud, it helps.Maybe :))

Too tense? Well we all are. If you have followed my blog posts about breathing, you know that it is a great way to relieve tension, especially pre-show and pre-audition. But for some people, being nervous and anxious manifests itself in a few noticable ways. You will recall that when stressed, our adrenaline pumps into our system. This adrenaline needs a place to go, so for some people when they are nervous they show it outwardly. Some people hyperventilate, (breathing slowly and well helps that, see my last 2 blogs), for others, it is shaky hands, or trembling legs, or hunched shoulders. All of those things are distracting, and will have a negative impact on an audition, preformance or speech. So what to do about these nervous physical reactions to a case of nerves? Transport them using Turner's Tension Transporters!

Ok even though I call the method I teach Turner'ss Tension Transporters, they are just good sound physical assists for your tremors.Atheletes know to stretch and work muscles before use, that idea can help us a bit. Simply put, what ever trembles or is tense for you, hands, shoulders, legs, can be helped by adding more tension to it. ( I know, that makes no sense. More tension? that's silly! But as with much of life, this contrary idea works).Let's use hands as an example. I have seen actors hand me an audition sheet with  hands shaking so badly they can barely get the paper in my hand. I have seen actors reading a scene with tremors in their hands so pronounced that the paper literally rattles during the reading. My solution: tense and release.

Do you watch Dr. Who? If not you should, it is an awesome series and david Tennant does a great job as The Doctor. in the series, The Doctor goes into a time machine called a Tardis, (see photo in this blog),cleverly disguised as a London Police Box, and is transported to a new place. That's what we want to do with your excess energy, transport it to another place.

If your hands are trembling, tense them. Squeeze the hands into fists for a slow count of 8, then release. Repeat two more times, You will find that the trembles are gone. Shaking legs? Tense and release 3 times at an 8 count. Shakes are gone. Hunched shoulders? Lift them up toward your ears, hold for 8, and drop them back. you will find them more relaxed.

Using this simple tense/release method, you can channel off much of the excess energy you have that may get in the way of your performing at your best.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"RELAX!" he screamed.

OK more about breathing. Please note I am not a doctor, take no responsibility for you nor your health, so as with all things be smart about use. And now, onto my blog, already in progress.

One of the biggest hurdles in auditioning and performing well on stage is relaxation. Don't get me wrong, it is great to have some butterflies in your stomach......as long as you can get them to fly in formation. To that end, I want to talk a bit more about breathing. As mentioned in my last, (and first), post, breathing well is the key to helping support sound as well as a method we can use to calm us down a bit, and help to gain control at a stressful time.

I have been to auditions on both sides of the table, as a director and as an auditioner. I have seen so many actors that are just a wreck at auditions. There are many things we can do to make an audition go well, and I promise I will address many of them here in future blogs. But let's lay down a great foundation, shall we?

When your nerves take over, when you feel anxious and scared, your body reacts in a certain way. Doctors and psychologists refer to it as a "fight or flight" reaction. Your body gets signals from your mind that you are nervous, scared (terrified), and promptly reacts to the signals that you are in trouble. It increases your heart rate, makes you breath faster (faster not better), and believe it or not, SHUTS DOWN SOME OF YOUR BRAIN. This is because your body is concentrating all its energy in making you ready to fight by dumping adrenaline into your system, or to run away as fast as you can. (Many of us feel like running away at auditions, you are not alone). But for an actor, singer or speaker, all these reactions are counterproductive to being successful. Poor, shallow breathing, tons of adrenaline in your system causing you to shake, and your brain working under capacity all mean a iffy audition.performance at best,

We have discussed what a good breath is. You may recall I said a good, diaphragmatic breath, from the belly, can help you calm down and have less stress. A few good proper breaths before you audition, speak, sing or act can really help. First, it makes sure you have more oxygen in the blood, and it sends signals to the body that all is well. That helps ease the adrenaline flow, and clears your head.It also helps you focus on one thing, rather than letting your thoughts race all over the place.

Here are a few basic breathing exercises that can get your jumpy nerves under control.

1) Sipping Air- This one can't always be done at an audition, but is great before you get there. It forces you to breath well, and calms you down. Take short, sharp intakes of air, like you are sipping it in. We do this on a count of four, 1-2-3 or sip-sip-sip. Standing relaxed, raise both arms in front of you, palms parralel to the ground on the first 3 sips. Without exhaling, take 3 more sips, moving your arms open wide, then 3 more as you raise your hands over your head. By now you have a great deal of air in you, so slowly lower your arms down in front of you to your sides AS YOU EXHALE. repeat this 2-3 times. Great for air support and calming yourself. (This is actually a Tai Chi exercise, and a good one. You can also do it seated, as long as you sit up nice and straight).

2) Exhale Through A Straw- This is a great one, and can be done without anyone noticing it. Take a deep, belly breath. Now, purse your lips, and exhale as though blowing through a straw. Think of forming a small stream of air out of your mouth. The pressure needed to do this will help get rid of some of the tension you have. Push until your breath is all gone, inhale and repeat.

3) The 4-7-8 Breath- This is a great breath exercise, it not only calms you, but it is a great way to build up good breathing habits. I mentioned last post that a few good, proper breathing breaks a day really helps your body, even with no auditions looming. This exercise is a terrific one for that purpose, and it is also good at auditions as no one will know you are doing it.

  • Exhale completely through your mouth.
  • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth,  to a count of eight.
  • This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
One of the challenges we all face as we age is a diminishment of lung capacity. This exercise keeps that capacity solid, and for those of us that perform, keeping the breathing mechanisms in shape is critical.

With all of these exercise, don't overdue it, too much deep breathing will make you dizzy.

Next up, I will share my patent pending Turner Tension Transporters, ways to help you relax pre-audition beyond breath work.

Monday, December 21, 2009

To begin with.........BREATHE!

Thanks for coming to my blog. I intend to use this space to share ideas, philosophies and tips for actors of all ages, but primarily young ones, those in Middle School , High School and College. You older actors, feel free to lurk, join and comment.

A great topic to start an acting commentary is a basic one, breathing! Seriously, it is such a key foundation to any acting work we do, yet many actors of all ages and abilities show a shocking lack of knowledge in this area..Yes, yes it is totally natural and boring, one of those things we rarely think about. And yet many of us do in improperly. PE teachers and coaches tell us to take a deep breath by filling our chest with air. That tends to be very shallow breathing. What we want is diaphragmatic breathing.

As an actor, singer, speaker or preformer, I want you to think lower, right around your belly. There is a key muscle that helps us breath called the diaphragm. Its located just at the bottom of your rib cage, right at the top of your stomach. When we breath properly, this muscle creates a vacuum inside you, and air is drawn down deep into your body. Yes the chest fills, but that should be after the lower part of you abdomen fills. By the way, some teachers will refer to this method as abdominal breathing, same concept.

Place your hands on your belly. Breath in. If you do it right, your belly should expand outward. As you exhale, it contracts in. If you are doing the opposite, and many people do, just try and relax and adjust your breath to create the right pattern, air in means belly out, air out means belly in.

It may help, as an exercise to get use to this idea, to lie on your back with a book on your stomach. Making the book rise and fall as you breath can help you focus and learn what a "good" breath is. Also if you have a baby handy, watch how it breathes. ( I do not recommend stealing a baby just for an exercise, just see if one is handy). Babies breath the right way, because gravity is on their side, and they have no bad breathing habits. (As an aside, babies can cry for long periods of time without getting their voices tired, this is because they don't let the throat get in the way, they just wail right from the diaphragm. This is an important concept for singers and speakers, it shows that great sound can be produced without straining the voice. More about that in a future blog).

Most of us go through the day breathing shallowly. Stopping every so often and breathing deeply, a good diaphragmatic breath or two as described above, does many great things for you.

1) A good breath relaxes you.

2) A good breath oxygenates your blood, and helps you think more clearly.

3) A good breath is the basic of support for clear supported speaking and singing.

4) People that suffer from asthma seem to get some relief with the occasional proper breath.

5) This type of breathing helps people who are having a panic attack (you know, like when the person running an audition call your name :)).

Try and take a few breathing breaks throughout the day. If you are into yoga or meditation, you may already be doing this type of exercise. If you are not, you will be surprised at how refreshing a few good breaths can be.

In my next post, I will try and revisit breathing properly, and how I teach my students to use breathing to relax before going on stage or auditioning.