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Getting The Most Out of Acting Class

February 9, 2015

Having taught acting for several decades it becomes apparent that sometimes, despite certain improvement, an actor can sense when he or she is not getting everything desired in a class. In my experience, all acting classes – which is to say, each acting class – has its own personality. Naturally, the class personality, in large part, reflects upon the teacher, his or her philosophy of acting (and of life), and the teacher’s goals and intentions. It also depends a great deal on the individual actor’s goals and intentions. You’ll want to be matched up with the right class in order to get the most out of it. Now what you consider ‘getting the most out of it’, and what the teacher and the others in class consider ‘getting the most out of it’ may well be very different things. How so?

There are elements to professional acting classes that include, but are not limited to: ego, reputation, class standing, agency and management affiliations, competition, personal jealousy or even envy, cost and community clout. Add to these a teacher who has become to the majority of students a personal guru, more than a trusted mentor, and you have a lot on your plate as an actor.

Having a thick skin is one of the necessary things an actor has to have in order to get through the ‘slings and arrows’ of a life in the arts, as there are always people who look at the business as a personal competition with others, rather than as an artistic journey. They just came out that way. And that’s cool. Each to his won – I mean ‘own’.

This is not to say that booking a lead or supporting role in a film or television series is not a wonderful and enriching thing. But I can tell you from experience that the finest actors I have worked with over the years – stars and costars in film and television and Emmy winners and nominees – were never really competing with anyone else. They were competing with their own sense of personal and artistic accomplishment. In fact, while obviously knowing who was and who was not ‘up’ for the same role, only passing thought was ever given to ‘winning’ a role. It had much more to do with getting an acting job and then doing it well – and for as long as possible. One wants to be a winning person, after all.

Here’s how to get the most out of your acting class – Part 1.

Focus: Concentrate on the task at hand in each class – you are paying a lot of money, and are paying for the privilege of paying full attention. It’s not all about you – and even if it is, then make it all about you. Take in everything of value that you can get. I have, many times, seen talented actors checking a text while in class and miss a moment being acted by a fellow student, which – if emulated  – would have changed the observer’s work, and maybe their career. When you are observing others work, become the ‘teacher / director’ in your own mind – surrender your identity as ‘actor’ when observing other actors work. Your own acting will improve exponentially, and your criticisms – whether voiced or not – will take on a miraculously objective dimension.

Be Discriminating: Classes are potential quicksand for your ego. Remember you are participating by and for your own purposes, do not allow yourself to be lost in a quagmire of contention. Even exchanges you witness between the teacher and other students (or between students) should be of observable value to you – as ‘ropes to climb’ – and ‘ropes to skip’ as well.

Start From Where You Are: Some of the most wonderful and successful actors are people who were not ‘made over’ in their acting classes. They are ‘as you see them’. There is a fungible authenticity to you that is not able to be substituted with any other model. This doesn’t mean that the actor should eschew good technique. All professionals who excel have great technique – regardless of the profession, please know this. But if you do wish to be ‘made over’, go to a qualified psychologist and start there. They have a license.

From our favorite non-actor, the philosopher Balthazar Gracian:

“Know how to rely on yourself. In great crises there is no better companion than a bold heart, and if it becomes weak, it must be strengthened from the neighboring parts. Worries die away for the person who asserts himself.”

Best to You – Always

Shawn

visit shawnnelsonacting.com for new material, Face Time and Skype rates, blogs and downloads.

contact: shawnnelsonusa@yahoo.com, shawnnelsonacting@ymail.com for Face Time and Skype or to talk to Shawn on the phone, 818-521-0363.

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2 Comments
  1. Kari Shemwell permalink

    Thanks for the tips. I enjoyed the class I had with you immensely, and I also enjoy reading your posts!

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