If you have ventured onto this blog post, then it is likely that you are already interested in drama and the amazing possibilities, opportunities and benefits that acting lessons offer you. That is a good place to start!
Now it is my turn to explain to you why investing in an acting workshop or seminar is something you should and must do, even if only to satisfy a hobby. Likewise, if you’ve dreamt of a life in the entertainment industry, then there are various acting classes just waiting to be discovered.
First and foremost, let’s explore what acting classes are on offer, what they consist of and roughly how much they cost.
There are numerous types of acting camps on offer (aside from attending full-time art schools, or attending a postgraduate course that equips you with a bachelor degree in the performing arts) which can help you to develop different elements of the dramatic arts.
Before you sign up for any class, you should familiarise yourself with the options available to you and decide on which is best suited for your own personal goals and financial budget.
To save you attending expensive classes that don’t meet your expectations, here is a list of just some of the courses you might encounter when looking around for acting classes to participate in.
The intensive Acting Technique class is the fundamental actor training for an aspiring actor or actress with dreams of being a TV actor or going to New York City to mingle with film and broadway stars. Most serious actors will go to drama school but as someone who comes into drama later in life then this well rounded master class really is a must to give you a foundation in the industry.
Individual classes will differ in layout and content due to different techniques and approaches used by teachers (i.e. they might adopt the Sanford Meisner Technique, the Alexander Technique, Method Acting, Stella Adler or other) so take the time to investigate two or three classes if you know that you have a preference.
Equally an important class to attend if you plan to audition for professional roles, the instructor in this lesson focuses on the audition and callback process and how to be confident going into either scenario.
This training will introduce you to studying, analysing and practising scenes off and on-camera. While it is important in understanding scenes for a play, film or television show, the class leader will still want you to draw on your acting techniques, like those learnt from the above classes.
Also referred to as Cold reading, this class is great for improving in this discipline. It is best suited to those who are auditioning for roles that don’t offer much in the way of preparation, like short adverts or brief appearances. It will teach you to quickly prepare a text and deliver it confidently, allowing you to spend more time thinking about your performance.
Those presenting in the moment on live TV or on stage in front of thousands of spectators may have to improvise from time to time. Improv, as it is also known, is valuable for actors and comedians because it enables them to think fast, embrace spontaneity and to be more aware of timing.
Anyone looking to appear in commercials should place this high on their list, but with improv being required for most commercial auditions, you shouldn’t rule out the above Improvisation classes too (with the first probably outweighing the second in terms of value).
Vocal coaching is not just for people interested in singing; the voice is equally as important for actors in how they tell their story. This class is good for people looking to appear in stage productions, as they will be taught breathing techniques, how to sing and ways to control their vocal abilities.
This is the physical version of the above course, i.e. with an acting teacher teaching you how to use your body and movement to evoke feelings in performances. It teaches you awareness of all aspects of your body, from your limbs to your facial expressions so is, again, good for those theatrical performances.
Designed for trainees looking to appear in classical performances like Shakespearean plays, for example, in class you will learn about period acting, including dialect, accent and speech. Voice and movement techniques and other acting tips will make up part of this course, and you will be taught how to read and analyse the complicated English in classical literature.
Classical acting refers to the method of learning to act out classical literature like Shakespeare’s plays. Photo credit: EaglebrookSchool on Visualhunt
These are slightly different to vocal lessons because they focus on the specific branch of acting: voice-overs. These classes are only necessary for those wishing to pursue this as a career, so it isn’t worth wasting your time and money on these lessons unless you have to master the technical aspects of this job,
Highly Influential Acting Techniques
You may have noticed that some techniques were referred to above.
Just like the different movements in drama have changed throughout the years, there are also various types of acting techniques that have come from strong and seasoned influences in the industry. Some have been around for a long time, whilst others have emerged thanks to modern developments in theatre.
The Stanislavski Method
The Stanislavski method draws on feelings and experiences that are said to convey the truth about the characters being portrayed. The actors are encouraged to put themselves in the mindset of the person they are playing and to find links and things in common to make their performances feel more genuine
This term is quite broad and encompasses the expression of voice, body, imagination, improvisation (or improv) and script analysis. It is based upon the theories and principles of a selection of classical actors and directors from over the years, including Stanislavski.
Method Acting is made up of a range of techniques formulated by Lee Strasberg in order to develop a cognitive and emotional understanding of the actor’s character. The individual is asked to draw on their own experiences to identify with their role on a personal level, so it is also based loosely on Stanislavski’s ideas too.
The Meisner Technique
The Meisner Technique asks the actor to focus on nothing but the other actor or actors in the scene with them, as if nothing else in the world exists during that moment. The idea is that the intensity of the performance makes the scene feel more authentic and powerful. It has connotations with the Stanislavski method.
Last but not least, Practical Aesthetics is a technique that derives from a conception that David Mamet and William H. Macy came up with, based once again on the Stanislavski method, along with the Meisner technique and the philosopher Epictetus. The approach includes script analysis, repetition exercises and explores adaptability.
No matter where you live, you are sure to find an acting class near you. However, as you will have gathered from the above, there are many different branches of acting that you could choose to focus on.
If you aren’t fussy and just want to reap some of the rewards that drama classes offer, then you will be able to choose a workshop that is convenient and priced right for you. If, on the other hand, you want to learn a specific skill like improvisation, then you might have to do a bit more research, pay more for an acting coach or travel further afield.
Regardless of which class you attend, the main thing is that you feel comfortable in the environment and that it brings about positive feelings. It is okay to feel a little nervous at the start, and even to dread your first session, just as long as you can see how the class is or is going to benefit you in the long run.
Drama schools will often have predetermined fees listed on their websites, updated annually, to give you an idea of how much tuition like this costs. Likewise, independent classes will advertise their prices on forums, websites and other listings but the challenge is working out what is cheap and what is expensive for adult classes!
Some classes may only charge £45 for a single workshop, yet others may offer a block of three for £65. Meanwhile, some courses in central London or at acclaimed academies might charge hundreds of pounds – it really is a minefield!
The best tip I can give you is to do your research and to trust your instincts. In most cases, elevated prices are due to the teacher being highly respected for what they do or because you are likely to gain more skills from attending the workshop than other courses (which both mean better value for money). So if it is within budget and it gets you excited, then go ahead and sign up!
Anyone who has had even a minor, supporting role in a school or village play, or who has attended their first ever acting workshop, will admit that learning to act and to portray a character is a truly liberating experience. Not only is it time spent forgetting about all of your own financial worries, relationship troubles, work stress and other concerns, it is a time for you to soak up all of the energy and gusto of the person you are playing and transmit that to the stage.
It is often said that some people ‘are meant for the stage’. In fact, many parents and grandparents proudly talk of their younger generations being destined for life as a star, because of their wild imagination and ‘don’t care’ attitude. While I do believe that some people are indeed born to be film stars, I am in no way saying that less self-assured human beings shouldn’t even bother competing. Far from it!
People often say that their children are destined for the stage, because they extrovert in a number of ways. Photo on VisualHunt
I am a firm believer in taking yourself out of your comfort zone to really find a sense of accomplishment. That is why I think that acting classes are the perfect way to bring an introvert’s personality and emotions to the surface and help them to realise that it is good to express themselves and to be heard (even if it is through the voice of their character initially!).
But acting isn’t only an activity that makes you seem more extrovert. Acting brings all of its participants a number of positive long-term effects.
Firstly, taking part in acting classes and rehearsals means interacting with other like-minded individuals in the class and results in combating shyness or awkwardness in social situations, thus vastly improving social skills. When you join an acting class, you are more than likely going to develop new bonds and friendships that could wind up being relationships for life!
Furthermore, acting classes encourage you to become focused on yourself and explore your own uniqueness and individuality. By learning to understand yourself better than ever before, you can also work on expressing yourself more effectively.
Interestingly, performing in front of an audience can teach you more about yourself than you could have discovered on your own!
The way that you react and interact with an audience says a lot about the way you engage and connect with those around you. That is why some actors and actresses have stood out in history as being so electric to watch on stage or on screen, with the legendary Audrey Hepburn being a perfect example.
Finally, if you are a beginner in the world of acting, then any small accomplishment (like walking through the door on that first day!) can feel like you have overcome a big hurdle. Reaching new goals and challenging yourself culminates in a great sense of achievement and is often the best cure for low self-esteem and conquering your fears.
No matter your line of work, communication skills are absolutely necessary for success. What kind of employee are you if you can’t listen to even simple commands and what sort of manager would you be if you didn’t listen to the concerns of your faculty?
Drama classes are a great way to fine tune your communication skills, and particularly to enhance your ability to listen. This does not mean your ability to simply hear and process an instruction, it means to receive an instruction, truly understand it and respond to it in an appropriate manner.
There is nothing more frustrating than having to repeat yourself over and over again before you are finally understood, so don’t be that person who doesn’t fully engage in conversations or who is easily distracted.
Similarly, don’t be that individual who is having an intense chat with a friend, nodding along, but in reality is thinking about what they are going to eat for dinner. Listening is just as important in enriching your personal life as well as advancing in your professional one.
Many would say that speaking and listening are skills that are dying out thanks to digital communication, but when it comes down to it and technology fails us, our personal interaction is always there and ready for action. And, truthfully, there are few scenarios in life where it is better to put something down in writing to convey a really important message.
Listening is a vital skill for any performer, especially those who are often involved in improvisation work and must react quickly and feed off of others’ comments. Plus, actually listening to your co-star talking transforms a scene into a more authentic performance, as opposed to just standing and waiting for cue line.
As a result, the scene becomes a true conversation instead of a rehearsed set of lines.
Moreover, any person who watches a performance on-stage or on-screen benefits from being a good listener because it allows them to really appreciate and get the most from what they are watching.
In addition, educational establishments are aware of the positives that drama classes bring to their pupils and their ability to communicate and interact in other academic lessons on the curriculum.
Learning to listen can bring joy to many parts of your life. Photo on Visual Hunt
Acting classes teach you about physical movement and expression, which includes helping you to show that you are listening as well as helping you to actually listen.
During your acting workshop, you will learn about body language and posture (like smiling, making eye contact and nodding your head as nonverbal cues) as well as vocal coaching tips which help you to master the art of timing (i.e. not interrupting, summarising and paraphrasing).
The arts, with drama included, have a huge effect on mood, and happiness goes hand in hand with creativity. As such, doing something creative like taking on acting roles can make one feel feel happy in that moment. This euphoric feeling can often last long after the experience and turn into excitement for the next time that they take to the stage.
Just like doing creative activities can make someone feel happier, such distractions can also play a part in preventing someone from feeling sad. Research by Boston College has shown that acting classes can help people prone to depression or unhealthy behaviours to adopt healthier attitudes and more positive emotions.
Many youths and adults suffering from anxiety or depression showcase introvert traits and characteristics, almost as if they are being suppressed or inhibited. By learning how to act, these people can turn this around and counter any negative feelings by learning from the characters that they are portraying.
It may seem counter-intuitive but by placing a drama student in a role playing a troubled personality can help them to better understand their own reactions and sentiments.
Other reports have shown that teenagers in acting classes not only became more confident, but they also grew in other ways. For example, they became more empathetic and thoughtful, which in turn means that they broadened their creativity and imagination.
But will adult acting classes benefit you as much as after school activities help teens? Very much so.
Drama skills are a fantastic addition to any person’s resume, as they not only show your employer that you have interests outside of the workplace, but they also bring with them a range of additional, versatile (and very useful) skills. We have already mentioned that acting classes can teach individuals about the art of listening, but they also encourage self-expression, confidence and creativity, all of which can really benefit most workplaces.
Not only could a sharper and more creative mind come up with better ideas and suggestions for improvement, they can also be far more influential over their peers. This is why so many corporate team building activities involve role-play – this and acting are one and the same!
So if you are impressed by the astounding knock-on effects that a bit of drama training can have on all aspects of your life, then why not go to your manager and suggest that the company considers booking acting workshops for staff to improve productivity and creativity, or get yourself down to your nearest drama class to see and experience the full effects for yourself here and now!