“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”
― William Shakespeare, As You Like It
I’ve been attending adult acting classes at the Guildford School of Acting (GSA) on and off for over six years. I love them. I’ve done plays at my local theatre, a one-month intensive training course with the National Youth Theatre, and various workshops, but it’s always the GSA classes I come back to. They’re a happy safe space to exercise my performance muscle.
So here I give you 10 reasons to give acting classes a go:
1.) The fun. They provide a welcome break from all the seriousness of every day life. We play games, read scripts and laugh a lot. None of us take any of it too seriously. I feed off the energy in that room.
2.) Every week is different. We’ll always do a couple of warm-up games, but after that it varies completely. One week we might be given a selection of scenes (mainly from plays) to read through in pairs or as a group. (I once had to play Doris from the 1964 play The Owl and the Pussycat which involved putting on my best and boldest New York accent; not something I do regularly.) Another week there’ll be various forms of improvisation exercises, where you have no idea what you’ll end up doing. (For example: One person pretending to type at a computer, another playing the voice inside that person’s head as they type. We all went in completely different directions, improvising on the spot..).
Sometimes we’re given a short brief, often with character descriptions and asked to make a scene up in groups. One week we were hot-seated as different characters, answering questions all about that person’s life. (A life we were to make up on the spot.)
If we feel like it, we can perform a monologue. (Our teacher is always giving us new monologues to learn, though there’s no obligation to.) Then there are the countless random acting exercises we’ve done over the years.
3.) You meet like-minded people. I’ve formed life-long friendships with people I’ve met at GSA. I love the varied crowd an acting class can attract. We share a love of performing and creativity, but all bring something different to the table. The class has always felt like a welcoming, non-judgmental, safe space, where we’re all free to be ourselves and make mistakes. It helps that we have a brilliant teacher.
4.) You always learn something about yourself. I am learning I enjoy spoken improvisation, but anything physical and I tend to freeze up a bit. One week we had to pretend to be a specific breed of dog, and everyone had to guess what we were. I attempted the gloomy expression of a bloodhound by dropping my jaw, relaxing my tongue and half-closing my eyes. Pretty. Miraculously someone got it. This was not one of my finer-actor-moments.
5.) The recommendations. A play by a playwright you’ve never come across. A TV show with a particularly brilliant script. An old black and white movie you simply MUST watch. A small theatre in London that champions new writers. A voice-over course. The latest industry tips. Being surrounded by like-minded people who are excited by the same things means lots of relevant-information-sharing. Our teacher is always recommending writers, old and new.
6.) You leave your comfort zone and grow in confidence as a performer. I love the feeling after a class knowing I challenged myself once again. There is a lot of thinking on your feet. Which I loathe and love in equal measure.
Often I don’t feel like going, I turn up weary and sleep-deprived, feeling as though I don’t have much to offer. But somehow the hour goes by and I’ve taken part in every exercise, enjoyed working through a new scene and loved every minute.
7.) You watch others grow as performers. I love seeing how people come alive when they’re acting. A seemingly quiet soul lights up when she’s given a monologue to read. The unassuming young man who happens to be brilliant at accents and whose highly animated performances seem to erupt out of nowhere but are always hilarious. I’ve witnessed people who, at the start of term lack confidence and self-belief, go on to relax into the class and blossom as performers.
8.) The escapism. Acting is escaping our own world and entering someone else’s. It’s walking in someone else’s shoes, and this can be a liberation. One is literally set free of themselves, for a brief moment, and it’s wonderful to watch. There is a lightness that washes over people as they assume the identity of another.
The anxieties and headaches of our daily lives are cast aside as we throw ourselves into the business of pretending.
9.) They help develop your imagination. This is particularly true for improvisation exercises, which put your imagination on the hot-seat. But whether you have a script or not, acting is all about the imagination. I love that the exercises force me to think in ways I never would normally. It’s like being in an ideas factory.
10.) The mindfulness practice. Acting is all-consuming; there’s no room for overthinking or hesitation. When we’re in the room, our focus is on the here and now. We do our best and live in the moment. It’s a lesson in mindfulness.