Acting Classes on a Budget
Those in love with the dramatic muse may find her to be a rather costly companion. However, for those who wish to delve into the world of live theatre, but avoid the occupational hazard of becoming a starving artist, here's some ideas for taking acting classes on a budget. In the paraphrased words of the Immortal Bard, "Read on, Macduff!"
The Bill's the Thing
Acting classes are not free, and if you are really serious about pursuing acting, you must be prepared to pay to learn about things like Stanislavski's System, how to perfect your wide array of accents and dialects, or proper stage movement. Remember, there's a reason why it's called show business. However, by approaching acting as a pleasure and a business, you can ensure you don't suffer unnecessarily for your art.
First, set up a budget and be ready to commit to it. Use programs like Quicken to keep track of your finances so you can see exactly where your money goes each month. Keep and register every receipt for everything you buy, whether it's bus fare, a snack, a tall soy latte at Starbucks, or a burger at McDonald's. It is important to keep these records in order to avoid having to choose between paying for your rent or for that workshop in stage combat. Although being homeless for a week might give you some great firsthand experiences, in the end, stage fighting is not going to be the best defense against inclement weather.
Remember Your Roots
Most professionals agree that the best way to start honing your theatrical skills is to be involved in an actual production, so consider looking into joining a local playhouse or other opportunities offered by your community. If you audition and make it into the show, even if your role is small, you will still have the opportunity to learn about life upon the wicked stage and things like choreography/blocking and how directors work with their casts. Moreover, performing in the community will give you numerous credits for your acting resume and also introduce you to people and professional contacts that may be useful in the future. Plus, you may discover that your fellow thespians are a very kind and supportive bunch of people. If not, you'll learn firsthand how to deal with divas and backstage temper tantrums.
"Will Work for Workshops"
If the local scene is not to your liking and you really have your heart set on professional classes, feel free to surf the Web or call around to see which places will let you try a class for free. For example, the non-profit New City Theatre of Las Vegas offers free adult acting classes every Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. However, keep in mind that like any class, space is likely to be limited and reservations required.
If you find you really enjoy one particular studio or company but can't afford to pay full tuition, offer to work in exchange for classes. Explain that you really want to take classes, but you have no money and you'd be happy to help with cleaning, filing, or whatever else they need help with. If it's a program associated with a specific theatre, you can offer to take tickets and usher during shows, then sweep up after everyone leaves.
A great acting coach has lots of acting experience and an undying passion for theatre and for teaching stage technique. However, before going, many professionals stress the importance of first acting in a group setting because, as one coach explains, "Even a monologue is usually part of a dialogue." The advantage of an acting coach is that you can work on anything your thespian heart desires. You can also walk in, monologue in hand, and soak up any and all tips your coach might have. Furthermore, depending on the coach, this individual attention won't cost much more than a workshop.
Where to Look and What Prices to Expect:
Use resources like Craigslist, the Yellow Pages, or community bulletin boards to find listings for acting studios and teachers in your area. You can even try a search on MySpace or use an online school like ActingOntheWeb.com, which offers video lessons and digital feedback from coaches and teachers.
To lead by example, here's a price list from the Hollywood Actor's Studio of Los Angeles, which offers "weekly classes, workshops and private training for acting, voiceovers, commercials and public speaking."
* Weekly classes are $200.00 per month.
* 1 Hour per week intensive individual training $360 per month plus registration
* 2 Hours per week intensive individual training $720 per month plus registration
* 3 Hours per week intensive individual training $1080 per month plus registration
Also, from the Creative Freedom Arts Studio of Washington, DC:
Affordable Acting Workshops:
Principles of Acting
Monday's November 5th 7:00p - 9:00p (6 weeks - Adults) $190.
**NEW - Actor Showcase at the end of session FEATURING a REP from a union franchised casting house.
If or when you find a studio or program that sounds like a good fit, it never hurts to do a little double checking with companies like the Better Business Bureau, who can tip you off to scams or other shady business dealings, like those of the John Robert Powers acting school.
Good luck, and I hope to see ya' on the boards!
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