The other day after an acting class, I overheard several actors beating themselves or apologizing for their work in class. “I sucked” … My scene was awful., I was busy, I didn’t have time to work on it,” etc. I hear the same comments after my classes as well. I remember saying those same things when I was at the American Academy, many years ago. The truth is their work in class was good. They were accomplishing exactly what Penny or I were asking them to do. Why would they feel they were failing – doing bad work?
Too many actors feel their work has to be perfect. Another reason actor’s beat themselves up is the “performance gene”. Too often we get up in front of the class to do our scene or monologue, the goal is that everyone thinks your performance was great. We quite naturally want everyone to see how good we are. This is why many teachers, including us, do not allow actors to audit their classes. Having a stranger in the room observing makes it virtually impossible to turn off the performance gene. No one wants to look bad in front of a stranger. Everyone in the room must have skin in the game for the actors to risk it all so then can learn.
In my Beginning Acting Class, I open the class with the same welcoming speech. “You are not allowed to beat yourself up. You cannot possibly make a mistake when learning something new. In fact, trying, and getting up and trying again are necessary steps in the learning process. You weren’t born knowing how to tie your shoes. At 4 you learned how. It seemed to take forever and you thought you’d never get it. Look at your feet, your shoes are tied! You are in this class to learn acting technique. If you are learning, you are doing it right.”
Penny and I are completely non-judgmental in our classes. When actors get up to do a scene, the result is, they did their scene. The result is not good or bad, “it is what it is.” The purpose of doing the scene was to get better at integrating specific acting skills into their work. Whether the scene worked or not is of no immediate importance. The result gives us knowledge. Taking that knowledge and using it as we go back to work on the scene for next week is called learning.
The most important, things actors can to get their money’s worth out of acting classes.
- Remember, It Is an Acting Class!
- Don’t wait until the day before or worse the day of class to begin working on your scene.
- Start working on it as soon as you get it. Work on it every day. You are your own boss. Don’t put up with a lazy employee.
- Work on a specific part of your technique each class. Structure, Choices, Substitutions, Listening, Blocking & Movement, Style, Breathing, Pacing, etc.
- Keep track of how you use your technique to prepare and the specific results you are looking for.
- Trust all of your work and your technique. Discover and explore what happens when you allow the scene to just happen
- After class review the results of your preparation. What worked the way planned and what came out differently. Notice I didn’t say, “What didn’t work.” Everything you did in your preparation affected the scene. If specific choice you made had an unexpected result. Explore that. Find out if that choice causes a similar result with other material.
The more you can learn what specific Objectives, Action and Tactics, Substitutions and your pre scene prep do to your work the more consistent your work be and the better actor you will become.
Acting Class is for learning not just practicing skills you are already good at.
Learning can be very frustrating. We don’t want to look bad in front of the class. Everyone has skills that come naturally to them and others that seem impossible. For this reason, scene study classes are often used by many actors to practice things they are already good at. Sometimes that is a good thing. It is important, to build up confidence. A good teacher will balance the work between challenging scenes that will take hard work, failing and getting back up, and confidence builders. Actors must to trust the teacher to give them the right mix of scenes top keep them growing and improving in their craft.
It is Class. Leave your ego at the door.
Don’t perform, Discover. Don’t try, Do. Don’t Complain, Learn
Please Follow & and Like our Penny Templeton Studio Facebook Page.
Hank Schob Teaches Camera Technique, Script Analysis, Beginning Acting Technique and Memorization for Actors at Penny Templeton Studio. A graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Hank immediately began working Off-Broadway in the hit show “Your Own Thing.” His 50 years of theatre experience include Off Broadway. Regional Theatre, and National Tours. He has worked with stars such as Richard Gere in “Awake and Sing.” Jose Ferrer in “Cyrano”, and John Raitt in “Shenandoah”. He was nominated for a Carbonal Award in the Leading Actor category for his portrayal of Billy Flynn in “Chicago.” Mr. Schob has also been featured in the films “Cadillac Man,” “Heading for Broadway” and “Fame.” His TV credits include roles on “All My Children,” “Ryan’s Hope,” “Search for Tomorrow,” “Kojak,” and “Law & Order.” He has appeared on Good Morning America as an expert commentator on Acting and recently cast the feature film “The Paragon Cortex.” He contributed chapters on Camera Technique, Blocking and Script Analysis to the book ACTING LIONS.
PENNY TEMPLETON – Founder of Penny Templeton Studio Acting Teacher, Coach, Director, Author; Penny Templeton’s artistry is the culmination of four generations of theatre actresses. Although Penny was warned by her family not to go on the Stage, she embraced her legacy and began performing and studying under such masters as Paul Sorvino and Wynn Handman. Highlights of her career include starring in Joyce Carol Oates’ I Stand Before You Naked at the American Place Theatre, and as Paul Sorvino’s wife in All The King’s Men. She started teaching in the early 1990’s, and opened the Penny Templeton Studio in Manhattan in 1994. Ms. Templeton was selected by Columbia University’s School of the Arts to teach ‘Acting for the Camera’ to third year MFA students. Her book on the craft, business and art of acting, ACTING LIONS is being referred to as “The Actor’s Bible” and is receiving rave reviews in the industry. She is featured in Ronald Rand’s acclaimed Acting Teachers of America, and Glenn Alterman’s book, Promoting Your Acting Career. Ms. Templeton works and Skypes regularly with actors in Theatre, Film and Television in New York City, Los Angeles, throughout the United States, and all over the world.
- For more Acting Tips & Career Advice, follow and like Penny Templeton Studio on FB and @Pennytempleton and @ActingLions on TWITTER to find out how you can become an Acting Lion!
- To receive the Blog, ACTING LION TIPS AND CAREER ADVICE, in your email every day, SUBSCRIBE to our Newsletter!
- CLICK HERE for Previous ACTING TIPS