To Learn From a Master
Let me rephrase that. Acting classes are totally necessary... and really, really expensive.
If you're like me, you might belong to several acting-related websites that send you daily deals for everything from reel production to teeth whitening. Every so often, I'm tempted to click "buy" for a discounted class, but then I stop myself. When I do the research, it often becomes clear that the discounted class is not the one that's right for me at this stage of the game. And I know it's risky, but I'd rather take no class at all, than waste my money on the wrong class. Especially considering the clout training with distinguished names and institutions can carry on your resume.
For me, it's just better to wait for the right class at the right time. This takes patience, most of which I've used up parenting my two-year old, but somehow I've managed to stay the course.
It was also terrifically empowering. Because the class was taught by a very successful actor/entrepreneur, there was a refreshing "no bullshit" policy. No filling people up with compliments they hadn't earned. No tearing down work that was good only to rebuild it and declare it good because the ideas had come from the instructor. And no gimmicks. Just solid training.
I've been fortunate to have some great teachers in my life, but learning from great actors, who also happen to be passionate and incredibly adept at teaching is truly a revelation. My teacher absolutely knew of whence she spoke, so there was none of this "Let me tell you what you should do, even though I've never been in your shoes and have absolutely no idea how difficult it actually is." In fact, the stories she shared from her experiences in the trenches, which continue today, we're a valuable part of the instruction.
I'm not saying a terrific director or former actor, who has long since hung up the acting hat, can't help a person to places of growth and artistic breakthrough. Each can. I've experienced it.
But learning from a master of a craft makes me feel like part of a by-gone system, where people apprenticed or were mentored by the masters of their trade, and were informed by the masters' well established skill and experience. Of course the apprentices would make their own mistakes, but being trained in a thoughtful, well-rounded fashion, with warnings about pitfalls and trouble zones, is like having a detailed road map. You can still get lost, but the odds that you'll eventually find your way are much greater.
Right now I have a post-class haze. I had a major breakthrough in an area I'd been struggling with, and I'm not sure where to go next, so I'm idling a bit until I make my next move. It's a tricky spot to be in because there is really no excuse not to move forward. Even when I'm momentarily contented, it's important for me to push myself to the next level, especially when I know what I'm capable of doing. Stagnation is imminent when challenges are few. I see that now. I just have to figure out what's next.
Have you taken a great class recently? Did the teacher's background impact you in some way? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
(Photo by Alex Brown)