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What Kind of Acting Classes are Right for You?

Updated on July 23, 2013

Acting Classes

There are many ways to study acting. Like any art, the more practice you get, the better you will be. Trying out for the school play is a great place to begin, but you can only learn so much about acting if you are cast as “The Angry Apple Tree” in The Wizard of Oz.

Classical versus Contemporary

Classical acting has all but gone out of fashion, but there are benefits to understanding what it offers. This is a declamatory style, where actors developed their characters by concentrating on tone of voice, facial expression and physical flourishes. Techniques like perfect diction and powerful projection can still be useful for certain roles. You can still see this style in Shakespearean theatre, old movies and filmed plays. Take a look at any Laurence Olivier movie for an idea of classical acting. If you want to focus on acting in the theatre, you will need to study the classical style.

Watch the movie My Week with Marilyn to see how the film industry had difficulty absorbing classically trained actors.

Contemporary classes ask actors to develop their character by looking deep inside themselves. These classes are usually based on the teachings of Stanislavsky and include techniques like sense memory and the “magic if.” Many famous contemporary actors have used his system to tap into their own feelings to determine how a character might react in given circumstances. This method of acting emphasizes realism and the truth of an actor’s own experience.

Lee Strasberg championed Stanislavsky in this country. Some of his pupils broke off and started their own methods. The most famous one was Sanford Meisner, who felt the actor should be more in the moment and not so caught up with his own feelings that the story goes by the wayside. He used repetitive exercises and disciplined actors to wait until they feel the truth before responding. Be sure to finish this class, though, because taking only the first few months of it can mess with your timing. Eventually, you have to pick up your cues!

Speaking of timing, an improv class might be helpful if you want to focus on comedy. If you were the class clown and aren’t sure why you got laughs, a great improv class that ends with a real performance might be for you. You can get an insight into what an improv class has to offer by checking out UCB in Los Angeles or New York (http://www.ucbtheatre.com/). If you don’t live in either of those cities, Google “Improv” in your city and try to see some live shows. Failing that, you can always watch some old Whose Line is it Anyway? episodes on You Tube.

You may find a good teacher or coach in your hometown, but if you want to be a professional actor, you will eentually need to make your way to a major city. There are plenty of articles on acting classes in Los Angeles and New York. Ask if you can sit in on a class before you commit. No matter what type of class you choose, look for a teacher who inspires actors to discover their potential. Remember, actors have diverse skills, backgrounds and sensibilities, so keep looking until you find one that’s right for you at this point in your life as an actor.

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