One of the most important things actors can do to keep their skills sharp, especially during downtime, is to be in an acting class. Because acting classes are process oriented, they allow students to explore new parts of themselves in a safe environment. You aren’t going to get fired from your acting class because you are trying something new!
But finding the RIGHT acting class is sometimes difficult. There are so many styles of acting and outlooks of teachers that it can be hard to choose. Here are some things to think about to help you choose a class that will take you to the next level.
Time and Place
Make sure you can get to the class when it’s offered. Ideally, you will have a little break from the rest of your day before the class starts so you can reset and recharge before class. Rushing across town to get to a class right after you get off work isn’t ideal. Sometimes it’s the best or only option though.
There are quite a few methods and approaches to acting. Not every method is right for every student (and what the student is open to changes over the course of their career). Are you more interested in having fun and playing games? Maybe an improv class will be better for you. They are also fantastic for being loose and fluid during auditions. Are you more interested in working on text? Maybe a Shakespeare class or Stella Adler style class would be better. If you’re interested in working on the psychology of acting, a Strassburg or a Meisner class may be appropriate. There are lots of other approaches as well and even two classes that are teaching the same method may vary quite a bit based on …
Each acting teacher will have his or her own unique take on the process of shepherding students. How they communicate with the students, what aspects of the process are important for them, how strict or loose they are with the material all varies quite a bit. It’s so important to shop around classes and see which teacher feels inspiring to you. Ideally, the teacher is someone who will guide the students to some unknown territory. The process can be thrilling, frightening, exciting, emotional. It’s very important to trust the person who is professing to know the way!
The Other Students
Who else is going to the class? Are they the kind of actors that will challenge you and inspire you? Do they feel like they are going somewhere or are they just messing around? Depending on what you want to get out of the class, who you’re studying with can be at least as important as the teacher! Getting in the right group can move you to do much more than studying individually. Students share opportunities with each other. They share challenges and doubts with each other. They help each other out and give each other advice. Look for a class that has students you want to be working with!
The School Reputation
Schools and classes can have various reputations in the community. Some schools take on a cult status or an us versus them status. It may not be important to you right now, but ask around about what people outside the class think about it. You may not want to study at a school that casting directors despise. Or you may decide that the work that is going on there is what you want to do despite the reputation. Also, maybe a school that you weren’t terribly excited about has an excellent reputation. It may be worth a second look. Whether you make your decision based on the reputation or not, it’s very good to know going in what the ramifications of being that school’s student might be.
Keeping an Open Mind
Wherever you decide to study, one of the things that a good class will do is make you grow. Hopefully most of that growth will be wonderful, but it can also be challenging. Make sure that you keep an open mind about the class. One of the things that I’m finding about acting, is that it works best when you commit to whatever it is that you’re doing. So when you find a class, give it your all. Even when doubts start to creep in.