Your Questions

Why are you in class? | Your Questions, Day 6 of 30

You know what you’re doing — you’re a strong actor. Why are you still in class? Why do actors take class forever?

Not every actor does stay in class all the time but a lot do — self included. With breaks, of course, and with some general hopping around. When I first moved to LA, I had a background in … history.

My major was history.

Which isn’t to say that I didn’t know I wanted to be an actor or that I’d never acted before. I had. I acted in student films at Emerson, BU, UMass, Amherst, and other schools in Boston with film departments. It was a great way to learn. I also marched myself to the Boston Public Library and checked out every book they had on film acting. Which, as any actor can tell you, is 100% the best way you can learn about acting. Full stop!

I’d had some training in Boston with actual classes as well but when I got to LA, I wanted to make sure that I was as strong as any of the graduates with acting degrees so I started at a school on the West Side that taught Stanislavski — figured I’d start with the master and then trickle into his disciples. I was there for their basics class then intermediate and landed in scene study. I stayed there until the commute became awful and moved to another, similar, school in Atwater. I was THERE for a while and then decided to start trying out other methods. I’ve done pretty much all of them at this point, cycling through schools and programs and peeling out what works for ME.

For a fairly long while, I landed at a very well-regarded school and I liked it. The cost burden was pretty high though and I stepped away for a few months. In those few months, I realized that there were some things that were really not working for me and I made a list of what I need in a class:

  • I do not work well with negative reinforcement. I seek the pat on the head. I need it. I need to be cultivated.
  • I have no interest in being broken down and rebuilt. I’m an adult human. I’m a good adult human. I don’t need some teacher hurting me.
  • It can’t be painfully expensive
  • Must be on my side of town
  • and ideally not on weeknights…
  • I need to learn

And then I got lucky. My friend Kelvin introduced me to his teacher, Pat Skipper, who you might know from the Xfiles and like. A ton of stuff. I met with Pat, read his book, and I loved it — I loved HIM. The class is nurturing, even when it’s hard. It’s thoughtful. Pat works with YOU and what YOU’re giving. He doesn’t try to pigeonhole you into a read, he guides. He lets you explore and find for yourself. He suggests. It’s exactly how I need to be taught. And the language of the class is what I’m used to, what I studied when I first got here.

At some point, sure, maybe I will have gleaned all I can — at that point, we stay in class just to keep practicing. Auditions are few and far between; you don’t want to be rusty when they come. And maybe at that point I hop schools or instructors again. But staying active is really important.

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