The Complete
Guide to
Acting Techniques


If you’ve ever watched the likes of Millie Bobby Brown in Stranger Things you’ll know that putting in a believable performance is an incredible skill. And while many kids in Australia dream of hitting the big time like Millie did, parents know only too well that developing a talent like that will take a lot of hard work.

But here’s the thing, and we may have said this before — acting is a learnable skill. Sure, there are many child actors out there who were born with a flair for performance, but we can absolutely guarantee you right now that every single successful actor has put in the hard yards to get where they are now.

And that means that your child or teen has just as good a chance as anyone else out there once they put in that effort.

That hard work can involve everything from learning how to prepare for auditions right through to attending acting classes which we’ll talk about a little later.

But one of the least talked about aspects of child acting is the many acting techniques that can be used to practice and deliver amazing Oscar-worthy performances.

These are the techniques that the biggest actors such as Julian Bailey Dennison and Finn Wolfhard use to get into character and deliver those unforgettable performances.

Now we’re not going to lie, this is going to go way over the head of most little superstars-in-the-making so mums and dads or their guardians will have to study up on this and help out as much as you can.

Teen actors, on the other hand, should be more than capable of learning about and implementing these acting techniques.

Oh, and remember, Google and YouTube are your friends!

What are the Main
Acting Techniques?

There are dozens of acting techniques developed throughout the ages that actors both on stage and on set use to dazzle their audiences. But truth be told, nearly every single one of them can be loosely categorised into one of the seven main acting techniques listed below.

Word of warning — from here on out, it might start to feel a little like being back in school yourself, but just remember that the reason we’re explaining these techniques is just to give you a good understanding of what they are. At some point, you may decide that certain aspects of one technique will suit your child or may even help during rehearsals and line practice sessions.

Trust us though, at some point in your child’s career, they will certainly start using the techniques below, especially if they land any big roles.

So what are the techniques?


Sounds like something from history or geography class, right? Trust us though, they’re actually quite simple when you break them down (famous last words!) In fact, you may even notice that some of the core aspects of each technique are very similar to others. Son once you understand one, you’ll have a pretty good grasp on them all.

Let’s take a quick look at each.


The Meisner Technique

“Acting is living truthfully
under imaginary circumstances.”
– Sanford Meisner
The Meisner technique is centred around three principles:

The logic behind the Meisner method is that these three principles work together to help actors engage with their scene partners as opposed to just relying solely on memory or rehearsal.

Emotional Preparation

This technique is about waking up your emotions and using whatever affects you on a personal level to get into the right emotional state for your character. This could be something that really happened such as a great birthday gift for happiness or a lost pet for sadness. On the other hand, you could create imaginary ‘what if’ situations that evoke the same emotions. For example, imagine you just received a unicorn for your birthday!

Repetition Exercise

This technique is also called the “Word Repetition Game”, which requires an actor (that’s your child or teen) to sit across from their scene partner and observe them, and vice versa. This helps create a connection between actors and encourages active listening. If your child can’t practice with a scene partner then perhaps mum or dad can sit in.

The repetition exercise trains the actor’s responses by repeating a phrase several times building on what the other says each time around. It’s a little like a classroom game, but instead of just repeating, your child needs to act their line. You can even throw in physical actions to take it up another level. This is a fun exercise and one that allows your child to really think about what they are doing and how their scene partner is acting.


We’ve all heard of improvisation and yes, it’s exactly what you think it is — acting on impulse.

In a nutshell, this technique encourages an actor to use natural lines and not those that are scripted. While this is a great technique for getting into character during at-home rehearsals, we wouldn’t advise using it on set. Directors will want your child to use the exact lines in the script.


The Stanislavsky Technique

This technique was created by Konstantin Stanislavsky (sometimes spelled “Stanislavski”), also known as the father of modern acting. His method is to “live” a role rather than “perform” it. Heavy stuff perhaps for a child actor, but something that a teen could certainly try on for size.

Here are some of the key aspects of this technique.


The Magic If

This is one of the most important and popular aspects of the Stanislavsky technique. The ‘Magic If’ requires an actor to put themselves into the character’s shoes completely and imagine what they would do ‘if’ this was the case.

The ‘Magic If’ pushes a young actor to really become the character and tests their understanding of the character’s personality.


This aspect of the technique requires the actor to always consider the objective of the character during the scene. What is it they are trying to achieve? What is their goal? Again, this helps to give an actor a better feeling for the character.

Emotional Memory

Emotional memory is all about the actor (your child) drawing from personal experiences to give more authenticity and feeling to their performance.

Physical Action

Physical Action is a technique that helps actors build on a character’s behaviour through specific actions. With this technique, there’s much more emphasis on physical movement than lines. This can be a great way for a child actor to have some fun when rehearsing.


The subtext is when you read between the lines of the performance to get a handle on what the character may be suggesting with their actions. While this is one of the main aspects of the Stanislavsky method, it’s highly unlikely that your budding little actor will quite understand what the subtext is even when explained to them. So don’t worry about this one too much.

The Viola Spolin Technique

Viola Spolin has been recognized all over the world for her “games” techniques, which still bring spontaneity and fun to rehearsals while teaching some incredibly valuable acting skills.

Viola Spolin’s Technique helps actors loosen up with spontaneity and creativity on stage without compromising the quality of performance. As you may have guessed, this method takes the form of games, which stimulate actors to unlock their imagination.


Skills developed using the Viola Spolin Technique

Needless to say, all of the above are great skills for any actor to have so this is an extremely useful technique for child and teen actors.

Below we’ve listed some of the games used in this particular technique.


Group Counting

Sitting in a circle, actors must count aloud to as high a number as possible. Each actor can voice the next number on impulse; but if more than one speaks at once, the game is over. This helps actors shift their focus from themselves to others, teaching subtle communication between scene partners.


This is perhaps our favourite of all acting techniques listed in this guide. The gibberish method encourages actors to perform without using actual words, instead they use gibberish! This is a great way to encourage young actors to use their actions, facial expressions, and the tones of their voice to convey a message. And yes, it’s brilliant fun!

Who started the motion?

This game involves an actor leaving the room while the rest pick a leader. The leader will come with a motion that the rest of the group must then imitate such as nodding their head in a certain way, stomping their feet, etc. Once the actor returns to the room, they have to figure out who the leader is. This type of exercise teaches the importance of taking cues and practising working together as a group.

Why Teach Through Games?

If you know kids then you know the answer to this already! Games are such a great way to get kids interested in a topic and learning about something that they may have otherwise found boring. Besides, it’s great for mums and dads too!

The Chekhov Technique

“All true artists bear within themselves a deeply rooted and often unconscious desire for transformation”
– Michael Chekhov

Michael Chekhov was a Russian actor, director, theatre practitioner, and author, and some would say the most brilliant student of Konstantin Stanislavsky. The core belief behind Chekhov’s method is that actors are artists and every choice they explore and discover on stage is important to the story.

Here are a few of the most important aspects of this technique and yes, they’re a bit on the heavy side.


Sensitivity of the Body

The idea here is that the actor’s body can be trained in such a way that it adapts to the various energies of different characters. This will then be picked up on by the audience who subconsciously react to these energies. Good luck explaining that to your 6-year-old!


The idea here is that an actor must dive deep into the psychology of the characters allowing them to give a performance that is authentic. While this may sound a little ‘over your child’s head’ it’s actually no different than playing something like a ‘what if’ game to understand a character’s personality.

Creative Imagination

Chekhov believed that imagination can stir up emotions if you continuously think about the scenarios. He believed that if actors continued to imagine what a scene looked like or how it played out, they would be inspired to add something to the scene or change it up a little.

As you can probably guess by the various aspects mentioned above, the Chekhov technique is for actors who are very intuitive and creative types. Actors who like to get into character by experiencing the part rather than figuring everything out through reading their script. While some child actors may suit this, it’s usually a technique reserved for older teens and adult actors.


The Adler Technique

Stella Adler was an American actor, director, and acting teacher who also happened to be part of one of the most famous families in the New York theatre scene. Her techniques encourage actors to learn more about the world around them so that they could bring their experiences into their performances.

Here are some of its core aspects.


Yes, you’ve read this one before — it’s all about bringing your own past experiences into your performance. Adler felt that it was important to personalise every performance so that the actor could truly believe in their role.

Power of Imagination

Adler encouraged actors to use their imagination as often as possible to think about simple questions on mundane subjects and add embellishments. For example, why is that man waiting on the bus? And then coming up with an imagined story. She wanted her actors to wake their imagination and keep it active so that when performing, they could imagine the scene as being real.

Justification and Actions

One of the methods of Stella Adler is the justification of what the character says and does. For example, an actor must think about how they move and for what the reasons are for each action. Adler believed that every action should have a reason that portrays some kind of emotion or gets the audience thinking in a certain way.

The Uta Hagen Technique

“We must learn how to use our discoveries so that we can reveal all the fascinating human beings in dramatic literature within our reach.”
– Uta Hagen

Uta Hagen is a German American actress and drama teacher who had great success in American Theatre. When acting on Broadway, she developed her own techniques to help her give incredible performances that had all the critics raving. It’s little wonder that those techniques are now so hugely popular.

The methods and techniques below may ring a bell or two as she certainly took inspiration from some of her predecessors. However, she was and still is considered to be one of the leading lights in acting techniques.


This is when an actor uses moments from their own life and substitutes it with aspects of a scene they are performing. A little like emotional memory, but only for specific moments in a scene.


Hagen believes that actors can improve their performance by rehearsing with items and objects that are specific to the scene. They can even visualise those objects if they do not use props in the actual performance.


This is the use of authentic actions, props, costume, and anything else that might make a scene more believable and allow an actor to fully immerse themselves in a role.


Hagen believed that an actor’s preparation is everything. In fact, she stated that just two minutes of performance in a scene would require at least an hour of rehearsal each time.
Uta Hagen also created nine questions to help actors develop the details of their character’s backstory.
One of the most notable things about the Uta Hagen method is that it allows actors to improve their skills without the need for classes or external help from directors. This makes it a great method to use at home.

The Strasberg Method

“Method acting is what all actors have always done whenever they acted well.”
– Lee Strasberg

Lee Strasberg was an actor, director, and teacher, who was known as the “Father of method acting in America.” His technique is based upon the Konstantin Stanislavsky technique where actors use their “emotional memories” for a realistic performance.

Now, you’ve probably heard of method acting and know that it usually involves getting really into a character and staying in that character for prolonged periods. Heath Ledger was amazingly talented at this as is Christian Bale.

Here are some of Strasberg’s most popular method acting techniques.

Removing tension

Strasberg encourages actors to remove all tension from their bodies and become a blank canvas before taking on a role. This makes getting into character much more straightforward.

Focus and Deliberateness

Once their canvas is blank, the actor must soak up everything around them while in character. They will look at things differently and react to things and people in a different way. This is a major step into fully becoming the character.

Using Sense Memory

Sense memory is a little like emotional memory in that it allows the actor to draw on personal experiences to get fully into the mindset of their character and deliver an authentic performance.

Identification and Replication

This is the skill of identifying certain sensations or feelings and being able to replicate them to give yourself a key to turn on an emotion when performing.

Now, as you can see, method acting is not something that any child actor nor too many teen actors will make use of as it is a truly immersive experience that is a lot to ask of a kid. So please don’t expect your child to take this on!

What Techniques do Acting
Classes Usually Teach?

That’s a very good question and it really all depends on the teacher and the type of students in the class. It also depends on what particular acting skill the teacher is trying to teach.

For example, in our online acting school Bubblegum Academy, our experienced teachers might use certain aspects of the Uta Hagen technique to teach young actors about getting into character while they might use the Viola Spolin technique to bring kids out of their shell and have some fun.

The truth is that no two acting classes are the same and that’s actually a very good thing. As we mentioned earlier, many of the techniques listed above draw inspiration from each other and all have some common themes that you’ll notice about using your ‘emotional memory’ and so on.

This means that no matter what class you join, you or your child will certainly notice some aspects of all the techniques listed above.


That’s a wrap!

Phew, we’re not gonna lie, there was some pretty heavy stuff here when compared to our other guides, but we’re glad you made it through to the end. Just remember that no director or agency will expect your child to have any real understanding of these acting techniques, but they will certainly help mums and dads as they coach their little starlets.

Oh, and if you’d like to learn more about the techniques that our awesome acting teachers use in their classes, feel free to check out our online acting school Bubblegum Academy.


At Bubblegum, we represent some of Australia’s brightest young stars, but even so, we’re always on the lookout for fresh new faces and talent.

If your child is aged anywhere from 3 months to 18 years of age, and you think they might have what it takes to shine in front of a camera or on stage, then we want to hear from you.

We’ll set up a quick informal chat where we’ll get a feel for your child’s suitability for working in the industry.

The lucky kids that make it onto our books benefit from in-house workshops and coaching sessions to help them brush up on their skills. They’ll also get great advice and tips from the Bubblegum team, some of whom have worked as child models and actors themselves! We’ll even arrange a portfolio shoot with our in-house photographer.

We want all the kids on our books to have their chance to shine and if that means working twice as hard to make it happen, then that’s what we’ll do!


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