Let’s face it: Acting classes aren’t cheap. Not only do you have to shell out a fair amount for each class, but you also have to commit to showing up week after week for the entire semester. So if you’re going to put in the time and money to take an acting class, what can you do to make sure you get the most out of it?
We asked four teachers at Green Shirt Studio — Meisner teachers Andrew Gallant, Sommer Austin and Ashlea Woodley; scene study teacher Michael McKeogh; and improv teacher Jimmy Carrane — to share their tips for how you can get the most out of your acting class.
- Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
When you step into an acting class full of people you don’t know, you’re natural tendency is to play the role you’ve always played. So some people are shy and sit back, others are always getting up to work first being the “good student,” but everyone has a default way of being in that kind of environment. That default mode is a way of making the student feel comfortable in the crucible of an acting class. But comfort is anathema to change. So, my biggest single piece of advice is to steer into the discomfort. If you’re someone who holds back, volunteer to be the first to go. If you’re someone who breaks the ice by being the funny person, see what happens if you just spend the class listening and working earnestly without comment. Acting classes should be a place where you can screw up and do the things that make you feel vulnerable, so it’s important you go in ready to make mistakes and open up beyond your everyday socialized self.
— Andrew Gallant
- Ask Questions
If you are taking an acting class or an improv class, you are paying to learn from an expert in the field. Your teachers are resources, and the best way to get the most out of them is to ask questions. Some students are scared to do so, or they wait until the end of class and corner the teacher all alone. Instead, when you have a question, ask the teacher in the moment because chances are there are a couple of other people in the class who want to ask it as well but are afraid to. So be brave and ask questions.
— Jimmy Carrane
- Be OK with Not Understanding Everything
I find a lot of times in an acting class, students want all the answers to their questions right now, and that is simply not possible. You cannot be given the answer to a question that you cannot live. Try to be okay with living in the journey, in the unknown. Feel your feelings, live in them, even if the feeling is frustration. To be in feeling is far more important in an acting class than trying to intellectualize your way into an answer that you’re not ready for yet. I believe you should ask questions of your teacher, but if the answer doesn’t make sense to you just yet, don’t panic. Keep a journal of your thoughts and your feelings and your discoveries. One day when you have the answers you once sought, and you can look back on your journal with fondness as you read your past writings in which you tried to work it all out on paper.
— Sommer Austin
- Do your homework
In an acting class you may be asked to memorize a scene from a play, rehearse with your scene partner, or create an imaginary circumstance — things that will take time outside of class. If you need to be off-book by the third week and you are not, you are ripping yourself off and usually pissing off your scene partner. Be prepared to spend additional hours a week outside of class, so make sure you don’t over commit yourself during the term of the class.
— Jimmy Carrane
- Warm Up
I would say that the most common way students don’t get the most out of their acting class is by showing up cold. Many students will show up right at the designated time or stroll in five to 10 minutes late with their dinner or lunches in hand. And I totally understand. With busy work schedules or juggling the home life, sometimes it feels like just getting to the class can be a challenge. But showing up to class even ten minutes early to stretch and warm up your body and voice will simply allow you to transition physically and mentally from the pedestrian to artistically focused. In addition, it helps instill a more professional work ethic and self-respect. It’s about honoring the room that you create art in and honoring yourself.
— Michael McKeogh
- Make Mistakes
The classroom is your playground. Have fun, get messy, and make mistakes. Sometimes our bruises teach us more than any exercise will on a given day. There is no perfection. Cultivate forgiveness, and know that everyday, every class is a new opportunity to try something new. Make this your time to be a sponge for learning. Fall down learning, pick yourself back up, and try it again.
— Ashlea Woodley
If you’ve taken an acting class before, what are your tips for getting the most out of it? Let us know in the comments below.