by Nicolas Pinzon
I believe that everyone should take an acting class at least once in their lives. Acting pushes us to confront our physical and emotional selves in a way that no other art form does. Before you can be somebody else, you must know and accept yourself. The right type of acting class will be challenging, will be demanding, but it will also bring a freedom and strength out of you that you never knew you had. The right acting class could change your life.
However, not all acting classes are created equal. Whether you are a seasoned professional with dreams of the big screen or a first time amateur with no other aspiration than to satisfy your curiosity, the acting class you go into must fulfill certain requirements for it to be really worth your time and money.
1. You should constantly be working.
So many classes and big name instructors today will make you spend the entire class sitting while the teacher lectures or works with other students. This is counter productive. Yes, every so often it is good to be passive for a moment and think about what acting is, but acting - as the word implies - requires action. You should go into a class that is structured in a way that maximizes your working time. An actor is like an athlete; a basketball player won't suddenly make more hoops because he has spent two hours seeing others do it, he will only get better at his craft if he does the work, and so will you.
2. You should feel comfortable to fail.
An acting class is a place to experiment, to push yourself, make bold choices and to fail - sometimes slightly, sometimes miserably. You are in an acting class because you want to understand your strengths and shortcomings a little better. You will never do that if you play it safe. A good acting teacher is a mentor; a caring collaborator who will not judge you if you fail, but will instead help you grow from that failure.
3. Your previous acting experience and techniques should not be disregarded.
If your teacher tells you that everything you learned prior to coming to them is useless and that you should forget anything that is not "their method," run away as fast as you can. Acting is a constantly evolving art form and many techniques and approaches have been developed to tackle its challenges. The truth is that some techniques work better for some people than they do for others, and some can be more relevant in some acting situations than in others. So it's never a bad thing to have a varied arsenal of approaches you can resort to. Certain acting schools (that usually spend more money marketing than in resources for their students) will want to convince you that they are the only approach that works, but the reality is that they probably just want to sell you more books and classes. The acting instructor you want is one that is respectful of your previous acting education and will take your background into account as he or she works with you.
4. Your experience level and aspirations are accounted for.
You want to be in a class with people who have a similar level of experience as you do and who take acting as seriously as you do. Just like acting does, this requires a lot of honesty. You must be realistic about the level you are at and the level of commitment you're willing to put into the class. You don't want to be too much above or below the average skill level of your classmates. The right acting teacher will have the honesty to tell you if your aspirations and skill level matches with that of the rest of their students.
5. An acting teacher should be a mentor.
I touched on this earlier but it's an important enough point for me to expand on it here. The right acting class is one that is lead by someone who is willing to be a role model; who wants to share their knowledge and experience without any reservations; who provides constructive feedback; who values the opinions and ideas of others; and who will approach each class with enthusiasm and a sense of curiosity. Your acting teacher should be someone you feel values your development and whom you are comfortable with.
Ultimately, these five elements will ensure that the class is very good. But only your dedication, creativity, and willingness to take risks can make it truly great. In acting, like in life, you are the master of your won experiences.