How to Make the Most Out of an Acting Class

iStock_000017231803_SmallIn past articles we’ve discussed how to choose the right acting class for you, but what happens once you get there? Your time is valuable! You are a struggling artist—you can’t be chucking your hard-earned cash hither and yon on course after course, snailing your way through your educational achievements! That’s why today, we’re going to break down how to get the most of out of your classes, so you can be the uncontested star of your own training.

  1. Homework Your Face Off. This is the big leagues now. The days of all nighters crowned with a shoddy copy/paste job are over. Homework is your life now. You live and breathe it. If there is not enough of it, you will make more for yourself. Seriously, though, taking your training seriously is an excellent way to set yourself up for success. And although it should seem self-explanatory, preparation is often overlooked even at the higher levels. Get into the habit of over-preparing: don’t just come memorized, come memorized and worked, with backup monologues and scenes, water bottles, notebooks, extra headshots and resumes, the whole nine yards. The more prepared you are before you walk into class, the further you’ll be able to go.
  2. This is no time to be shy. If the instructor asks for a volunteer, shoot that hand into the air like you’re punching wrackspurts. (Is that a deep cut? I’ve lost all objectivity with the Harry Potter generation). The point is, you should be aiming to get as much camera time, stage time, instructor time as possible. That is what you’re paying for after all. If you need to mentally prepare yourself, assume you will always go first.
  3. Ask for Help. Your instructors are valuable resources! Avail yourself of them! All your questions about auditions, career management, agents, taxes, networking, you name it—these are the people to ask. They’ve been working with actors in your city and have seen a broad spectrum of successes and failure. Politely and gratefully wring them dry of every drop of industry wisdom they are willing to share.
  4. Commit to Failure. This is my favorite, and one that I see people (including myself) forgetting all the time. Class is a consequence-free zone! For once, the work you do will not directly influence whether or not you book a gig, get an agent, or are asked to work with a theatre company again. Class is a place to learn and grow, and no one can do that without some good old-fashioned failure. This is the time to make bold choices that may be the wrong ones, to attempt things that might not work in a professional setting, and to learn by trial and error after error. If you’re not falling flat on your face half the time, you’re doing it wrong.
  5. Use the Time to Explore. To piggyback on the whole failure thing, set your sights a little higher. Class is an opportunity to stretch outside your comfort zone, outside your usual type, and find new things that work for you. If you’ve only done contemporary, bring in a monologue from a Shakespeare play. If you’re a solid ingénue, break out some character work! Figure out whatever scares you most about acting and try that. You have an instructor whose only agenda is to help you—there will be no better time for exploration.

I think it’s easy for working actors to be afraid of revisiting their training—it’s yet another arena of self-reflection and potential rejection and who needs more of that in this business? But it is so important. It’s a continual cycle: your training fuels your acting which in turn informs your growth as a student. If you plan a lifetime career in acting, you need to commit to keeping your instrument in tune. And even once you’ve paid your tuition, that responsibility does not transfer to your acting coach. It’s on you to get the most out of your classes. So have fun with it. There aren’t many times in your life when you can perfectly tailor your education to your own needs and goals. Make it count.

 

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Rachel Rachel Frawley is an actor living in Atlanta. She holds a B.F.A. in Theatre from Michigan State University (with cognates in Music and Professional Writing) and is an Apprentice Company graduate from the Atlanta Shakespeare Co. She also works as an education artist for local theatres, which have included the Shakespeare Tavern and Aurora Theatre. For more information, visit her website at www.rachelfrawley.com

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