I’ve seen a lot of posts on Facebook lately from folks looking for acting teachers, dialect coaches, help with diction and more. It’s really incredible how many great teachers we have here in Albuquerque, all with good education and experience in the business and in the craft. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start and who to start with.
The good news is, it’s all up to you, and where you feel you can grow as an actor. I continue to train even though I’ve been doing this for a quite while. I feel better when I am being challenged to express myself with new methods that are out of my comfort zone.
Here are the things I do when checking out an acting teacher (or any teacher for that matter) that I hope will be useful to you.
1. Visit a class. An acting teacher is dealing with 12 or more hearts, souls and minds all at once in a class. Acting is a stressful business. Energy runs high in an an acting class (especially at the professional level). Emotions are raw. It takes a tuned in, balanced person to hold space and manage their own thoughts and emotions while asking an actor to reach deeper and be more in the moment. It can be hilarious. It can be explosive. The teacher is like a lightning rod for the actors, always looking deep into what is happening in the scene.
2. Listen to how the instructor communicates his/her insights. I watch their body language especially when they are working with an emotionally charged scene.
3. Take in the energy of the class. Are they welcoming? Do they seem to like each other? Is the energy one of community and empathy, or competition and isolation. Personally, I prefer the first one. Again, this is a highly competitive business and I want my class experience to be one where I can take huge risks and be vulnerable. Believe me, that is not always pretty! I save perfection for the audition! So I want to be around people who uphold me in the mess as I find my way.
4. Look into the teacher’s background. Do they have a degree in theatre and bookings on TV and Film? Are they currently booking or directing films? Are their students booking? I actually audition for the same roles as my students. Believe me, I love it when they book! It helps to see that what they teach, works.
5. Ask questions! It’s important to me (and it may not matter to you) that my teachers are life long learners. How are they tending to their own artistry and development as a teacher? Good acting is good acting, and it’s also important to be current!
All in all, it comes down to what you really need to move to the next phase of your art form. Sometimes it’s a gentle loving voice, sometimes it’s a dose of tough love. I love training and instead of having to travel, I have asked some of the best and brightest teaching and acting talents I know to join us at Sol. It’s selfish really! I love training here at Sol, side by side with students, because the teachers train, too, always expanding their knowledge base and sharing it with the next generation of actors. And we get to celebrate together when one of the teachers or students books a role! This can be a really competitive business. We need each other for support, encouragement and community. As artists, we thrive in an atmosphere of trust and challenge!
So find your spot, train for a while, then as you grow in strength and artistic freedom, switch it up! Jump in with a new teacher, who scares the wits out of you in a good way!
As one of my coaches, Amy Jo Berman says “How can it get even better than this!”