Although we often picture acting as a high profile, not to mention glamorous, job thanks to the sparkle of Hollywood and the growth in popular TV shows and miniseries, the reality for many actors is that the industry is highly competitive, with many actors vying for a single role.
If you’re looking to study drama at university, or want to move into acting part-time or full-time as a career, it’s important to learn as many skills and techniques possible, as this should improve your acting talent and hopefully help you to land those all-important roles at auditions.
Although the types of acting courses you might attend will vary depending on the nature of acting work you’d like to secure, this article highlights some of the most popular acting classes that many actors find useful to attend.
Acting Technique Classes
Although acting might seem relatively easy on the surface, the reality is very different. This is because being a good actor means putting on a performance that is believable, convincing, and wins your audience over. In order to achieve this, an actor needs to be able to do much more than just read from a script.
If you’re new to the world of acting or want to further hone the craft, it’s helpful to know that there are classes available that are designed to help actors with their acting technique, which should hopefully allow them to become better actors in the process. These classes are known as acting technique classes and can be seen as the bread and butter of many drama studies.
There are lots of different acting techniques out there, including:
- The Meisner Technique;
- Method Acting;
- The Stanislavsky Method; and
- The Chekhov Technique.
During an acting technique class, you might learn about just one particular technique in depth, and work on performances that incorporate and develop this technique exclusively.
Other acting technique classes may be broader in approach and cover a wide range of acting techniques so that you come away with a deeper knowledge of different acting methods and techniques.
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When choosing an acting technique class, it’s worth deciding in advance whether you’d like to attend a class that specialises in a given technique, or if you’d rather attend a broader class. While broader classes can be helpful for those starting out in acting, including absolute beginners, actors that are particularly committed to one method such as method acting may find it more useful to attend a more focused class on that technique.
Regardless of your ability level when it comes to acting, acting technique classes are usually quite popular, as they give you the opportunity to further learn about acting and hone your skills in a comfortable environment.
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Audition Technique Classes
Auditions are a core part of acting. After all, the vast majority of actors who are booked for commercials, film, or TV roles will have to go through an audition process of some form or another.
As such, it’s not too surprising that there are also audition technique classes out there that aim to help actors land more roles and get more callbacks from the auditions they attend.
Understandably, some may find the concept of an audition technique class a little strange at first – after all, if you’re a good actor with good technique, surely you don’t need any additional help when it comes to auditions?
Unfortunately, the reality is that auditions are in many ways like any other job interview. While you may be good at the actual job you’re applying for, you might not be as gifted when it comes to convincing your potential employer that you’re the best fit for the job.
As a result, audition technique classes can be really helpful for actors who would like to improve their success rate in auditions and let their talents shine through to the casting director.
Although the content of an audition technique class is likely to vary from course to course, you can generally expect to cover the following kinds of topics:
- How audition types differ depending on the type of role you’re auditioning for (for example, the differences between auditions for film roles and commercial TV roles);
- Ways to improve your confidence on audition day and how to make your performance memorable; and
- How to take feedback from the casting director on board and use it to improve your audition as well as future performances.
Audition technique classes tend to be popular with a wide range of actors, from those that are looking to go to university or to drama school to study acting and drama in greater detail, to beginners and more established veterans in the industry. So, regardless of your current ability level, there’s likely to be an audition technique class out there that’s suitable for you.
Bear in mind that some audition technique classes may also ask you to prepare one or two audition pieces in advance of attending the class, with the intention being that you perform those pieces during the course.
If you are asked to pre-prepare any scripts, try your best to prepare for them as much as possible, as this should enhance the value of the feedback you get from the course instructor and can help you improve your audition technique for any future auditions.
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Scene Study Classes
Being an actor takes patience, skill, and practice. When it comes to the latter, one of the best ways to practice acting is to take a scene study class.
A scene study class is essentially a step further than an acting technique class, as a scene study class requires its participants to bring together all the knowledge and techniques that they have in order to perform a scene in front of an instructor, who should then provide the actors with feedback as to how they can improve.
As such, a scene study class doesn’t usually teach actors about acting techniques or methods. Rather, it provides a place for actors to practice techniques that they are already aware of.
Scene study classes are often a high priority class for many actors for a number of reasons. For example, a scene study class can:
- Allow an actor to experience working with different types of scripts and characters, from period pieces to contemporary plays;
- Provide an actor with the opportunity to receive feedback on their performances and how they can improve;
- Allow an actor to get used to working alongside an acting partner or group of people; and
- Give an actor experience when it comes to receiving direction from the instructor, which is a vital skill to have if you’re looking to book roles.
It’s also worth being aware that some scene study classes may also record your performances. The idea behind this is that both you and the course instructor should be able to review the footage, giving you a better idea of what aspects of the performance went well, and which areas could be improved.
The content of a scene study class is likely to differ depending on where you study and the background of the course instructor, so if you are looking to book onto a scene study class it’s best to find out in advance what kinds of scenes you might work with, so that you can decide whether that class is right for you.
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Improvisation is considered by many actors to be a core skill. Not only can an actor with good improvisation skills help make a character more believable and relatable, but they also tend to be better equipped at crafting more fluid performances, as they are able to deal with dialogue that develops in real time or with off the cuff requests from directors or fellow actors.
Some examples of how improvisation can really make a performance stand out include iconic moments in films such as the "Here's Johnny” line that Jack Nicholson says in The Shining, as well as the comedic line “You're gonna need a bigger boat” that appears in the film Jaws.
Typically, improvisation tends to be associated with comedy, which is understandable given the long association between the two (improvisation, after all, was a big part of the Commedia dell’Arte many hundreds of years ago).
However, it’s not just comedic actors that can benefit from developing their improvisation skills, as being able to improvise can also really help actors during the audition process, for example, and can also help boost an actor’s confidence overall.
What’s more, improvisation skills can also be considered to be useful in other areas outside of acting, with improvisation classes also offered to business professionals as well as school-age children.
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How Do I Get Better At Improvisation?
There are many different ways to improve your improvisation skills, with one of the most effective methods being to attend an improvisation class or workshop. There, you should be given the opportunity to work on your improvisation technique alongside other course participants, and you may act alone, in pairs, or as part of a group.
While practising improvisation is one of the best ways you can actually hone your skills, other ways to get better at improv are:
- To play improvisation games regularly;
- To receive coaching on how you can improve your improvisation technique; and
- To watch improvisation performances for inspiration and supplemental study.
There are lots of places to watch improv, with comedy nights often being one way of seeing different improv actors perform for an audience.
Alternatively, you might choose to watch a film or TV show that features actors that are known for their improv skills. Robin Williams, for example, is particularly renowned for his improvisation skills, both in his stand-up comedy as well as in his body of TV and film work.
Sight Reading Classes
Another form of acting class that you might see advertised is a sight reading class.
Also known as cold reading, sight reading is essentially the act of reading a script with minimal to no prior preparation. This means that an actor has to rely on their sight reading skills and acting abilities to bring an otherwise unseen script to life as they read through it.
While strong sight reading skills are incredibly helpful, for example when it comes to the audition process, it’s fair to say that some people need to work and refine their sight reading skills more than others in order to deliver a more fluid performance. This is where a sight reading class can come in handy.
Sight readings aren’t just a skill you need for auditions either – sometimes, a playwright or scriptwriter may ask the cast to go through a sight reading of a script in order to better understand how their work sounds when spoken and how the actors and their characters react to events depicted on the page.
As a result, it’s highly likely that at some point during your acting career you will need to undertake sight reading, so if it’s not something you’re particularly confident with a class can help.
If you find yourself struggling to find a sight reading class or another type of acting class that interests you in your local area, remember that you could also look to hire an acting or drama tutor to help you improve your craft as well.
A drama tutor, such as one from Superprof, can help you in a variety of ways. For example:
- A tutor can boost your confidence when it comes to preparing for auditions;
- A tutor can teach you about a variety of acting techniques and help you practice the techniques you’d like to;
- A tutor can provide more information about the theory of acting and answer any specific questions you may have about how you could become a better performer.
What’s more, with online, one to one, and group workshops available, there’s likely to be a teaching format available that appeals to and is convenient for you.