I have read many acting books over the years, and there are some great ones out there, each with unique views and perspectives on the craft. I encourage actors to read as many as possible, and get a well-rounded overview of various techniques and theories.
Finding a good acting class is much trickier. You need to feel safe in class, as you will be taking off your clothes and getting naked (emotionally, that is), but you also must feel challenged to push yourself and take chances. The teacher’s voice should resonate with you while giving notes and speaking to the class, and you should have more than a few “aha” moments. The notes should not only make sense, but they should speak to you, so you leave class with insight and real, actionable tools you can use in auditions, rehearsals, and performance.
Teachers vary in their tools, ideas, and language, speaking to students from a technical, emotional, or even spiritual perspective. I believe the best acting coaches combine all three.
Finding an acting class is not that hard, there are plenty around, finding the best one for you is the challenge.
You want to get the most for your time and money, so the language needs to speak to you, and the teacher needs to “get” you. Each actor has their own set of needs. There are academics to acting, that is knowing the techniques, and then there is the process of working on them. Each actor is unique and has their own issues. A good teacher needs to have insight into what the actor needs to do to move through their blocks and go to their next level. An acting teacher is a coach, they are working with you to achieve your specific needs. It’s like finding a good therapist, personal trainer, or athletic coach. You need someone that gets you and can help what you specifically need. And it needs to feel right to you.
There are several ways to research acting classes. Google, Yelp, other publications, referrals from other actors, and industry people. Again finding the best for you is what I want to emphasize.
These are things to check out. How large is the class? – that will give you indication of how much time you will get. How much is the class? – make sure it fits your budget and is something you can handle. How often is the class. It’s great if you can work out more than once a week. Location – be realistic that you can get there on time regularly. How long have they been teaching? Be careful of all the name dropping that so many teachers like to do. Sometimes a name actor may have taken one class with a teacher, and the teacher will exploit that in advertising. Get referrals.
Be careful of large classes that emphasize you can sit in and watch. Watching is good and important, but acting is active. You don’t learn to be a precision driver by just watching videos, you need to get in the car and drive. So you want time to work and get critiqued. I think one should plan on at least 3 months in a class as it will take some time for the teacher to get to know your work personally and deal with your issues.
As far as paying for an audit, I’m suspicious. If you are a trained actor and you can do a “working” audit where you get to work and get notes, then I say maybe check it out. I am also skeptical of long term commitments as if it’s not working for you, you’re stuck. I know a lot of acting teachers out there will disagree with me about a lot of what I say here, but each has their own vision and integrity, I respect their choices.
Also, actors need to understand the difference between training and showcasing.
You want to be in a space where you can take risks, fall on your face, and yes, fail, so you can learn and grow. In classes where there are industry, don’t kid yourself, you are auditioning. So know the difference and the make your choices accordingly. Each school has their own way for you to check them out, interviews, audits, meetings, etc.
At the Actors Workout, we offer actors a 45-minute interview and participating audit. We don’t just offer it, we require it, as it is part of our process of discovering how to best serve our students. The audit is free, and gives Los Angeles actors a chance to meet with me or my staff, audit and participate, and begin a dialogue, where they can ask questions, receive feedback, and get a professional opinion and recommendation. That’s about five hours of free information and personal time with an expert in the craft. I often wonder why every serious actor in LA doesn’t take that opportunity. I haven’t heard of any actor that had an audit at the Actors Workout Studio who didn’t learn and take away something of value.
So, do your homework, research, be proactive. Check out different voices. Get out there and seek. It is an opportunity to hear about other techniques and teaching styles. Get out there and learn, observe, find a perspective. I tell actors to audit at least three of four different classes before they make their choice. This way they have something to compare to; then they can see what others doo, and how it may be different or similar to what’s out there.