The Importance of Acting Classes

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When I first started acting, I was eager to jump into a class. Any class. But at $200-500 a month for classes held once a week, I realized I had a lot of careful contemplating to do. I wanted to try ’em all but which to try out first?? I didn’t have the time to audit all these classes. I never did make a decision thanks to my indecisiveness, but luckily after chatting to a couple actors I’d met on student film projects, the decision making process was made to be a lot easier for me.

I was pretty sure I’d made the right choice. I heard some fantastic feedback from a couple of actors, this place sounded perfect, not to mention these classes were 6 weeks long- clearly I would be taking more away from it than a 4 week class! I was surely on my way to acting enlightenment! I got so excited about attending these classes, that for about 2 weeks prior to my first day I obsessively scoured every inch of their website for every detail I could find on their teachers, their methods, philosophies, techniques. They also had an extensive YouTube channel, so I spent hours watching all of the videos, which I’d found very informative and exciting. The founder of the school seemed to be so passionate and had so many interesting stories to tell, it was hard not to be affected by it.

My first day there wasn’t quite what I was expecting but still, I was going to go with it. This was my first acting class ever! What did I know about how these things work? The teacher was pretty cute too, which didn’t hurt…though it did make it harder for me to relax and feel less self conscious about myself. Everybody seemed nice enough. There were students of all ages, genders and kinds of character. It did make me nervous not knowing what ‘levels’ they were at. Were they all experienced actors? Was I the only newbie?

Anyways. Looking back at that first class, it kind of felt like a waste of time. Like it was purposely there to waste that first week out of the six. He went through the basic principles they believed in, which was all great. Then we spent a lot of time just chatting. Then we sat around a table and read our new scripts out loud with our chosen scene partners. In this class, we only got to work on one scene the entire six weeks. I mean I’m guessing this is the norm in many acting classes? Spending 6 weeks on one scene. At the time for a newbie actor, this was perfectly fine. I probably needed all that time to get to know the character.

The next couple of weeks were dedicated to playing theatre games, analyzing our characters technically with very specific questions we were given (this was our ‘homework’), rehearsing the scenes we got and then finally putting them “up” in our last week while a person filmed around us with a camcorder.

First of all, I’ve never been a fan of “theatre games” (sorry, I mean “voice & movement exercises” *eye roll*). Not since I got a feel for them in my high school drama classes. I mean I get it. I get why they’re done. To open you up, loosen your body, help you relax, get out of your mind, learn to stay present and you know, cause everyone else is making themselves look like a douche bag, it’s okay if you do too! I didn’t have too much of a problem with them, except it was a little annoying when we spent half the class doing these exercises when we could’ve been working on you know…acting.

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There are also days where, guess what! I don’t FEEL like being particularly active or social and just want to be left alone and get down to business. So you forcing me to dance and make weird noises and faces at people is COMPLETELY LUDICROUS. To be honest, it would really turn me off of going to class. I also noticed that there were people who would just never get comfortable with it. The self-consciousness and inability to let go just oozed out of their pores, and it was painful to watch. Why are you making these people who are clearly already very uncomfortable participate in an uncomfortable exercise that’s kind of, somewhat humiliating? It’s like forcing the kid with stage fright to become the lead in the annual school play. You just don’t do that. You give him a one-liner and build his confidence up by making him feel safe but like he’s still doing something.

Another exercise they had us do was to partner up with somebody, stand like an inch from their face and just stare into their eyes for 5 minutes and “connect”.

Uhh…okay.

Meanwhile I’m thinking maybe I shouldn’t have had garlicky pasta leftovers for lunch…

I also don’t like the whole partnering up thing. It reminds me of middle school, that awkward feeling when someone is clearly scrambling to find a partner cause he/she wasn’t anybody’s first choice. Then we’d have to tell each other things such as our deepest fears, our regrets, what our goals are in life, what we liked and didn’t like about ourselves. Talk about a breach of privacy. After that the teacher would have us tell the other person three words we thought described them based on first impressions. There’s nothing worse than someone telling you you seem like a “really nice person” because they clearly know nothing about you and don’t know what else to say. Nice? You think I’m NICE? That’s so…boring. And I was a bit passive aggressive back then, so I’d fire back with an equally mundane description. HA! Take that. PFFT.

Sometimes though people would seriously say things that made you go like, “What???” Things that were a little offensive to me, but I couldn’t blame them if they were forced to make uninformed judgements about me based on..nothing. So I didn’t take it too personally, but clearly I was not a fan of the exercise. And also, what is the point exactly?? They said it helps you connect with the other actor. But in what sense? I did not feel connected at all. In fact, I felt judged and uncomfortable.

In the 4th and 5th weeks, we got to rehearse our scenes in the latter half of class and were given feedback by the teacher. In those weeks, we’d also have to meet up with our scene partners to rehearse outside of class. Bitch, who got time for that?! Having to meet with my scene partner on my own time outside of class so that we could over-rehearse a piece, as beginners, with no guidance? Sounds like the perfect situation for bad habits to be formed. We might as well have been headless chickens feigning to know which direction we were headed. I mean, looking back, we were doing so much that was wrong when rehearsing on our own, that it really was just a waste of time. But sigh, I must digress. At the time, I thought this was the shit. I felt so actor-y. Whoop dee doo.

I also got some very strange feedback during the times we got to rehearse in class. This was a living room scene, mind you:

“Why did you decide to hold the coffee cup in your hands?”

“Uh…I don’t know. It just felt right? I mean she’s sitting at home and stuff and the coffee cup was there…isn’t that the kind of stuff you do at home, talking to your friend?”

“No. You can’t do something like that without a reason. Is there a reason your character is holding a drinking cup?”

“Um…no. I guess not.”

“Then don’t do it.”

“Okay.”

[CONT’D]

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