Similar to discussions about improv class, a number of people have inquired about my acting coaching sessions. In addition to some information on the “Coaching” page of this site, I wanted to share the basics of what you could expect.
Although the information in this article is, for the most part, specific to my sessions, I’ve tried to highlight some general principles for anyone to consider when looking for an acting coach.
There are a few different reasons why people have shown interest in acting lessons and coaching. Before we begin, we’ll talk about what your intent is. What is your goal?
What is your goal?
General Skill Improvement
“I acted a while ago and really enjoyed it, and I’d like to get back into it and see what I can do now.”
If you want to generally improv your acting ability, we’ll first talk about your past experience and what you perceive to be your strengths and your weaknesses. I’ll also collect a few two-person scenes (I’ll be your scene partner) that I think you’ll like, based on what you enjoy watching on TV and in movies. We’ll read them together and you can pick your favorite. I try to pick scripts that include a monologue for your character, as well. Through our work with the scene, you’ll be developing the monologue and soon have it ready to take to an audition. This scene becomes the basis for our work in the weeks that follow.
The trajectory for our sessions together, and how long we emphasize an aspect of acting, will simply be based on your level of experience. Whether it’s script analysis, enunciation and diction, stage movement, or any other tool for the actor, we’ll spend as much time as needed to help you feel equipped to hit the stage.
“There’s a role I really want, and I want to be able to say that I’ve done everything I can to prepare for it.”
Unlike the other goals listed here, this may require just one or two sessions. We can workshop your monologue, or explore the desired character and scenes from the play, or both. It’s my goal to equip you with the power to make three indelible memories in the audition room, so the director can’t help but to remember you and want to see more of you.
“I just got cast, and I’d like someone’s help to explore the character more.”
You were offered a role for stage or camera! Congratulations! In our coaching sessions, we will focus every session on exploring the depths of your new character and crafting a living, breathing, dynamic, engaging human being (or lion/whatever, if you’re in Lion King or something… I’m not picky about species).
What do I emphasize?
My first question when analyzing the character in the script is “What does he/she want?” “What’s your objective?” I believe that humans have an innate desire to reach higher, to want something, to win. The audience attends the play to watch a character strive and maybe succeed or maybe fail. The actor should be acutely aware of the character’s overall objective. For more details about objective, check out this article.
I believe that the most powerful resource we can draw from as actors is our own experience. The character has a different set of experiences (past and current) than you. Instead of pretending that you can relate to them and inventing experiences, we’ll try to find a real-life experience of yours that best represents the situation in the script. Then, however you think and feel about your real-life experience will translate to the character. This process is called substitution, and it has proven to be a powerful, rewarding tool in our sessions. For more details about substitution, check out this article.
If you can tuck a little bit of improvisation experience into your belt, it will pay big dividends in your confidence and creativity with a script. On occasion, we will improvise some scenes that will help us explore the script even further. If that seems intimidating to you, don’t worry – I assure you that you can’t say anything wrong.
The Promise of a Safe Space
It is of the utmost importance to me that our sessions be a place where you can feel free to try something new, boldly act on an impulse, or share a real-life experience without any judgment from me. I don’t sit back and critique. I lean in to encourage and enable. You can’t make a bad or wrong choice with the character. There are only more-effective or less-effective choices (I will likely give suggestions that end up being less-effective! Just communicate how you feel!).
In summary, here are some important ideas to consider when looking for an acting coach or instructor:
- What do you want out of your acting sessions? Go in with a goal, and know what you want. If it looks like the instructor wants to just fit you into his pre-determined order of operations, you may not feel like you’re getting the most value out of your time.
- When searching for an acting coach, feel free to ask them what they emphasize in their method. If the answer doesn’t really mesh with you, you can decide to either try it and stretch yourself, or keep looking for a stronger connection.
- If you ever feel uncomfortable during a session (you feel criticized, embarrassed, or anything along those lines), communicate with your coach if you want to try to have the issue resolved, or you can just move on to find another coach. This should be a fun, empowering, creative experience. Anything less is not worth the time.
Have you ever worked with an acting instructor? What were some things that you enjoyed through the process?