For part three of the series on getting started, I’d like to focus on private training. One of the most difficult problems a new actor faces is how to choose an acting teacher, studio, or school. If you’ve already decided that a degree program is not in the cards, then you will want to find a private program that suits your needs. Research is key. The answer for each actor is different, but it is important to understand the difference between classes, workshops, and coaching.
In general, a beginning actor will want to take classes that are designed to teach you the craft of acting. Do not start out with business of acting workshops or audition coaching. You need to crawl before you can walk. In New York, there are a number of reputable studios and private teachers who teach classes for beginners. A helpful guide to acting instruction can be found at Backstage.
Contact the teacher or studio to find out further details. Only you know how you learn best, so some details may be important to you while others are less so. Find out if you can audit the class or talk with former or current students. Attend a showcase for that school and see if the actors in the showcase seem polished and prepared. Look into class size and get recommendations from friends and colleagues. Also, spend wisely, don’t choose a class because it’s the cheapest or because it’s the most expensive. You will ned to invest time and energy in this, so be prepared to spend at least 2 years in basic training. Start out general and then begin to focus. You will want to learn about voice and movement, scenework, and character study. You may also wish to study a particular method. Learning takes time and costs money, so choose wisely and get as much out of it as you can.
Once you’ve learned the basics then your focus will begin to shift toward actually getting acting work and real experience. Workshops and coaching are great for actors who are looking to hone and develop their skills, but again, choose wisely, there are people out there who just want to take your money. Actors are schemed and scammed all the time so do your research! (Future postings will go into more detail on workhops and coaching)
Remember: acting is a job like any other. You need to be qualified to get the job. Yes, there are some exceptions, but I’m guessing that most of you don’t already have a record deal or a reality show. Look at it this way, if you’re training to be a doctor, first you must have the prerequisites to attend medical school. Then, you learn all about the body and all about illnesses and injuries that affect health. After that, you get on the job training by starting your residency (during this time you are learning from established doctors and treating your own patients). Finally, after residency is completed, you can become a licensed physician. The exact steps for becoming an actor may differ, but the general process is the same: make sure that acting is the right choice for you, learn the basics of acting in a classroom setting, get your feet wet with an apprenticeship or find small roles in an established company where you can learn from more seasoned actors, work on student productions and smaller projects where you can further hone your skills and begin to get exposure, and then seek out more challenging and substantial roles and maybe even start to develop work of your own. I will continue to focus on this process in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!