Acting class isn’t reserved for aspiring Broadway actors and actresses. Keep reading to discover how acting classes can help you improve your communication skills, develop self-confidence, and relieve stress.
I went to my first acting class during my senior year of high school, which required every student to play a part in a school play. The idea of performing in front of my peers terrified me at the time, because I was worried I might forget my lines, or have a fit of hysteria, faint, and fall off the stage. You might be wondering what possessed me to take an acting class if the idea filled me with such trepidation. To answer that question, we have go time-travel all the way back to my teenage years.
As a teenager, I was crippled by shyness. Meeting new people made me so nervous that I wished I could disappear. Talking to girls stressed me out so much that it made me break a sweat. Confronting a bully, or speaking up for myself, just isn’t something that I had the confidence to do. But confident or not, I was emotionally intelligent enough to realize I had a problem that needed to be fixed.
Here’s a photo of me playing Antipholus of Ephesus in a production of “The Comedy of Errors” at Milligan College in 2009.
I’m happy to report that my acting adventure was a smashing success, minus the occasional wardrobe malfunction (trust me when I say, you don’t want to know). What was meant to be a single semester of high school theater class blossomed into a new hobby and passion that I pursue to this day. Below are the top five benefits I experienced during my time in acting class.
“Huh?” is an expression I used to hear, oh, just about every time I said a word to anybody. Let me explain: I live in the south, where most people have a tendency to talk at a slow pace, effectively drawing out every word they say. Somehow, I grew up to speak in the exact opposite manner: with a quick, clipped pace. Add in the facts that I spoke in a whisper (fear of speaking up) and avoided eye contact (lack of confidence), and you can see how it might have been hard for anybody to understand the words that were coming out of my mouth.
At the time, it was frustrating, because I thought nobody cared enough to listen to me. But now, I understand that the blame laid solely with me; it wasn’t that they didn’t care, it was that I wasn’t communicating effectively. Acting teachers are masters of diction and dialogue: you will discover how to enunciate so everyone can hear (understand) you, experiment with new tones that add meaning to your vocalizations, and become more confident in the unique voice you have.
I used to have a lot of strange body tics. By “body tics,” I mean certain things I did (in some cases still do on a minor scale) with my body when I am stressed due to an uncomfortable situation, or being put on the spot (like when your acting teacher tells you, “Perform this monologue in front of a bunch of strangers,” for example). Things like…
A brilliant acting teacher named Evalyn Baron at the Barter Theater helped me learn to feel more comfortable in my body than ever before. I’ll never forget something she told me at the end of one of our classes together:
“A tense instrument cannot fully express itself.”
Evalyn believed in her statement so much that she began every class with a series of activities built to relax our bodies with things like breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga poses. While you probably shouldn’t expect such thorough treatment in any acting class you take, a little yoga and meditation at home would be a nice supplemental exercise for you to do.
Whether you walk into acting class after a stressful day at work or crappy day at school, you will be able to drop off some baggage while you’re there. Some dramatic scenes require you to tap into passionate emotions like anger, despair, hatred, love, shame, and yearning. While this is far from easy for any beginning actor, you’ll become more comfortable tapping into your full emotional range as time goes on. Many acting classes will require you to prepare your own monologue, which is a great opportunity to express some feelings that have been held in, as you could select a monologue that makes you think about whatever you’re going through in the real life (effectively giving you a much-needed emotional outlet where no holds are barred).
Remember how I mentioned that I used to be as shy as it gets? Getting on stage and doing ridiculous things in front of an audience of strangers (like performing a scene only in your knickers, for example) has a way of making you get over those silly inhibitions. In addition, performing a romantic scene (that could involve a kiss) with an acting partner could help you become more comfortable with expressing your true feelings to a current or potential life partner.
If it wasn’t for acting class and my time in the theater, I wouldn’t even know a lot of my friends exist. You can expect to meet many different “types” of people people who come from a variety of ages, backgrounds, and worldviews. I often took a brief walk to a bar down the road after class with my new friends, where we enjoyed a little bit of booze and a lot of deep conversation, which I fondly look back on as some of my most fun life experiences. You can expect to become quite close to your new friends in acting class, as you’ll all be actively working to improve your communication, body confidence, and ability to express your emotions. Working on these things together has a way of creating an emotional connection you will grow to be thankful for.
I feel confident in saying that going to acting class changed my life for the better. I don’t get as nervous when I introduce myself to people I haven’t met at parties. I’m able to express myself more clearly with better diction and more enunciation. I feel more comfortable and “at home” in the body that is mine and mine alone.
If you’ve ever been to an acting class, or you’re a working actor professionally or in the community theater, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you agree with the benefits listed here? What else would you include on this list? If you would like to act but are too nervous, too scared, or too worried about what might happen… what’s holding you back?
Featured photo credit: Inside the Acting for Film & Television Campus/Vancouver Film School via flickr.com
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