I’m sure to get some arguments before people even read this whole post even though I am far from the first person to address this subject. Sure, it won’t incite any protests but some people will passionately support acting classes while others will discredit them entirely. The truth, in my not-so-humble opinion, is that acting classes will not make you a better actor, even if you attend one weekly, and it doesn’t require any deep thinking to see why.
As someone who teaches acting classes and takes acting classes, I might seem completely hypocritical in making a statement that acting class won’t make you a better actor. But, don’t mistake it for meaning acting class has no value for you. On the contrary, acting class has plenty of value. That value can be serving as an introduction to the craft and teaching the basics a wide variety of acting-related tools, such as audition techniques and improvisation. Yet there is a stopping point in any class, no matter how sharp, insightful, and charismatic the teacher may be.
That stopping point consists solely of one thing: You. What you do with those lessons in class, how you carry them forward, and how you integrate them into your approach and process makes all the difference. The class itself doesn’t do the work for you; it’s up to you to do the work the class shows you needs to be done.
As someone who loves using analogies in every conversation, let me throw one at you right now. Food seems to work as a reference for my students so let’s focus on Caesar salad for a moment—so I don’t lose the vegetarians. If you order a Caesar salad for lunch, merely observing the salad itself didn’t end your hunger. It was the process of actually eating it that got the job done.
In the acting class, acting exercises and scene work are still very much like observing the salad. You’re in a safe classroom setting, not an actual audition. You’ll get feedback (hopefully constructive) from the teacher and fellow students yet it’s not the same as getting tested in a live audition or even a taped audition with a deadline.
So how do you put the acting class experience to good use so you can become a better actor? I came up with a short list of ways to turn the acting class experience into real world work in between classes. Take a look.
- Whether you’re represented by an agent or not, make it a regular practice to audition live and on tape. By “regular”, I mean you’re auditioning at least once a week.
- If you are unable to find scripted auditions to submit to in your market at times or do not get sides for auditions, develop your own scripted scenes, monologues, and improv material to practice what you’re learning in class.
- Tape yourself and track your progress. In between classes, make it habit to tape at least one scene or a monologue. You don’t need professional equipment, a smartphone or iPad will do. Store these files in one place and look at your collection of taped auditions in sequence regularly to note what improvements you have made.
What makes you a better actor is your level of commitment to the craft and the time you invest in learning new skills and continuously enhancing them. No single actor accomplishes this purely by going to class. It all happens when you’re processing and practicing what you learn. That’s where your biggest discoveries will be made, in between.
Keep a record of those discoveries, too. Save it wherever seems best suited for you but make sure it’s a place you can find quickly. You will be amazed at how easy it becomes to create a whole collection of personal acting discoveries for your own benefit and to share with others back in the classroom.