A number of years ago, The Acting Center was interviewing students about their careers and experiences as actors. Many students had recounted stories of ranting teachers, trying to use tortured memories for scene work and being embarrassed in front of their fellow classmates in an effort to learn acting. One interview, from an experienced actor, stood out that day. “They all say they are breaking you down to build you back up,” he said, “but where’s the ‘building back up’ part? I just feel broken.”
He laughed. I was floored by his comment and it still haunts me.
Acting is like any skill. Do it a lot and you get good at it. But just like riding a bike or learning to cook a soufflé, you have to get in there with the training wheels or practice making an omelet first. You certainly don’t gain confidence in yourself in an environment where you’re made to feel embarrassed or uncertain about your work.
Actor training is exactly that: it is training to know how to become a character and learning to identify and express each emotion as that unique person. A trained actor should also be able to layer on each part of a character and deliver the whole personality package—physical traits, attitudes about life, thoughts, rhythms, what the character has to say and more. And when an experienced performer does it well? The audience believes the character and is swept away in the story.
So what’s all this about “breaking down” a performer?
A performer needs to be BUILT UP at every turn. An acting school needs to provide lots of effective exercises that drill each particular skill an actor needs to be their very best at auditions, on set and on stage.
A school needs to provide lots of time during class for an actor to practice so they gain self-confidence.
A school needs to provide lots of stage time so the actor can overcome nerves and get comfortable in front of an audience.
And a school needs a kind, caring staff that is helping each artist succeed in achieving their dreams.
So get into a class where you can gain certainty in your work, one that builds you up—not breaks you down.
At The Acting Center, we are committed to building up artists, one-by-one, in every class.
Written by April Biggs, Executive Director of The Acting Center