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Arts & Entertainment

Evolving as a Theater Actress

Helen Mirren

Lesson time 11:07 min

While performing with an experimental theater group, Helen learned valuable lessons about voice training, physicality, and control. Here, she shares them with you.

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Helen Mirren
Teaches Acting
In 28 lessons, the Oscar, Golden Globe, Tony, and Emmy winner teaches her process for acting on the stage and screen.
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Preview

I would advise many of you-- actually in a way more maybe than going to drama classes. I'm a little ambivalent about drama classes. But what I do believe in is training your voice. Because if your voice is so developed and so present, at least that's one tool you don't have to worry about. And that's to do with breathing, and breathing is very much to do with relaxation, and relaxation is very much to do with acting. Learning to breathe, learning to resonate. It's not necessarily about projection, although projection is very much a part of it. And it's very disappointing to me. Sometimes you see a wonderful actor on the screen, fabulous at being quiet, absolutely wonderful. Modulated, there's a lot of music, maybe, in their voices. Very interesting. But now they have to play a scene where they're supposed to be talking to 50 people. And you can't talk like this to 50 people because they won't hear you. You have to talk with some voice. And then you hear this actor who talks like this. (EXAGGERATEDLY) Something that sounds like this because they can't produce their voice. I don't know how to. And it's all become strangulated. So the idea of freeing your voice, freeing your vocal chords, it's a process, incidentally, I'm still working on. It's a constant work, but it's a good work to do. It's a good basic physical exercise. And that's a good thing to do. This was what I learned at the RSE. Because we were very lucky, we had voice teachers there as a part of the company. So you would be taken off every once a week or twice a week to work with the voice teacher. And they had very, very brilliant vocal teachers there. So if you can, either make your own group-- because if you can't afford to go to a voice coach, you can actually read some material and the exercises. And maybe make your own little group where you do a little half hour session together every day or three or four times a week or something. And I think that's a very good training tool. And then Peter Brook came to do what became one of his most iconic productions, which was of a Midsummer Night's Dream that I wasn't in. I very much wanted to be. I very much wanted to play Titania, but my dear friend Sarah Kesselman got that role and she played it brilliantly. And I was not chosen for that role, but I was on the sidelines watching. And I watched this extraordinary genius of the theater work. I had seen his experimental work in London a year before and been very, very taken by that. And the whole idea of experimental theater was exploding at that time. So I felt that I needed to expand my understanding, my preparation as an actor needed to expand. And needed to expand out of the classical theater, which is beautiful because it's so disciplined and demanding, but into experimental theater to find freedom. And freedom, freedom is my...


Find freedom in your roles

In her first-ever online acting class, Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren shares the techniques she has learned through the course of her international career that has spanned stage, screen, and television. Her powerful and versatile performances have earned her numerous awards, including the Academy Award in 2007 for her performance in The Queen, a Tony Award in 2015 for her performance in The Audience, and four Emmy Awards.



Reviews

4.7
Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I found this very helpful, she give us tips about acting & I also liked that she talks about her experience so I now have an idea on what to expect.

I miss seing pictures of the movies or plays she talks about.

It was very important to hear all of this not from an acting coach only but from an actress herself!

What a treat to hear from one of the greats in such an intimate conversation!


Comments

Janet M.

I liked it, what it did was open up space between us with great sense of curiousity or "somethings going to happen"... also place to start is ...what the person wants. Getting what you want. Animates the character.

A fellow student

Good advice on the voice. Actually, if you exercise for singing, your voice will improve. Then of course you must use it effectively while acting.

Maryam L.

I find it comforting to know that even a great actress as talented as Helen Mirren hasn't mastered her voice just as yet. It shows that when it comes to acting, there is always going to be something to learn and something you are going to try and master. It doesn't matter how long you've been acting or how old you are. What I really liked about the lesson is that it was mostly about being confident about yourself; about your ability, about your instincts, about your appearance. She explained the ways to do so, and those are ways we can all follow in our own way.

A fellow student

Be oneself. When I was very young, I was told the same thing, but I didn't really know who I was. Years later I have a better sense of myself and what will work. Thank you for underscoring this validation.

A fellow student

Very vague information. I was expecting something more specific, maybe more examples. A bit disappointing...

Claudia S.

This is an important lesson for me personally. How she presses on the importance of owning who we are and our quality and personalities and to stop comparing our evolution to others; is an advice that is essential for all actors and humans in general.

Mia P.

This lesson was really great. A part that really stuck out to me is when she was talking about how ourselves and how "to be an actor, you have to be the you that you are." It's so true, you need to be yourself in order to act because when it comes down to it we are playing characters on top of ourselves.

Rob H.

Hey guys this lesson is great I never thought about training my voice like this! if anyone is keen to set up a group as she suggests let me know :)

Madeline E.

I have little training in the way of voice at the moment so this is a great insight into how I can learn and develop further

A fellow student

I enjoyed this lesson, too. i love her sincerity and desire to share her life and love for her work. And I love her acting ...''the smell of the stage'' ... this lesson and words spoke to me.. pleased to meet all of you greetings from Milan