I was terrified when I signed up to take my first acting class. I was a freshman in college and I thought the window of ‘being new to acting’ was long gone. I wanted to challenge myself, learn about the craft and be part of the theater community at school, but I was nervous. I didn’t do theater in high school, the idea of performing made me anxious. No one likes the feeling of not knowing what they’re doing.
I’m forever grateful that I took a risk by signing up for that class — it ended up being one of my most favorite classes, I made some lifelong friends and it changed the direction of my college experience. Now as a double Journalism and Theater major, I can confidently say that I think everyone, no matter their major or level of experience should take at least one acting class.
- The skills transfer to every aspect of life.
Every acting class is different, but what’s consistent throughout is learning how to use more of your voice (whether that’s playing with things like range and volume). You learn breathing and grounding techniques. You learn different ways to think about and express emotions. Your critical thinking skills grow when analyzing plays and doing character work and you learn to expand your empathy. All of these things help with performing on a stage or getting behind a camera, but they also help with giving presentations, interpersonal relationships and any class or job — being able to express yourself and use your body to its fullest extent and growing your empathy are invaluable skills in any field.
- Taking acting classes makes you more introspective.
There are a few aspects to this — instead of using a paintbrush or camera or pen to create art, your body is your instrument. This brings up a lot for people — societal body standards, comparison, self-consciousness — and acting requires you to interrogate all of your beliefs about yourself and how you move through the world. I have found this to be difficult, but extremely necessary within my own path of personal growth. Also, when thinking about portraying a character, there are many things to consider, like the character’s emotional histories and traumas, which will bring up your own. All of this is emotionally exhausting, uncomfortable and painful at times, but so is growth. I’ve learned so much about myself, from my reactions, to fears around internalized perfectionism and my relationship to myself and one of the most important lessons I’m learning is to be patient and kind with myself, something that acting classes require — you cannot be free to play, experiment and learn if you are too afraid of making the ‘wrong’ choice.
- Acting classes motivate you to care for your body.
As previously mentioned, your body is your instrument. You can’t do your best work if you’re tired, hungry or generally unwell. Wellness looks different for everyone, but as long as you’re nourishing yourself, resting and moving your body — you will be able to have the stamina and strength acting requires.
- You’re pushed outside of your comfort zone.
Nobody is completely comfortable performing. It’s anxiety producing to think about people watching you, especially when you don’t have a lot of experience. Because I am a generally anxious person, I find it useful to constantly confront moments of high anxiety. It never goes away, but it definitely gets a little bit easier the more and more I am forced to push through it, which reminds me that much of the time, my anxiety is lying to me and I actually can do the things I am afraid of.
Acting classes require a level of trust and vulnerability that creates a closeness that not only makes the work possible but allows for meaningful relationships and connections. It’s not only nice to make friends, but it’s also important to have a space of people who relate — whether it be understanding what it’s like to memorize lines, help figure out things like blocking and other creative choices or just relating to the stresses and joys of learning to act.
So, if you’ve ever thought about taking an acting class, but thought, ‘maybe this isn’t for me,’ I invite you to try something new. You might learn things about yourself, realize you have an appreciation for theater and at the very least make some incredible friends.