Picking the right teacher is essential for the student to get the most out of a class. A great teacher can make all the difference in the world. Like in college when I took “Classical Dance in Europe: Form and Historical Origins 101.” (Yawn.) What I thought was going to be an hour and a half of class time to sleep off my hangover turned out to be the best class ever. Why? Because the professor was super passionate about the material, and it rubbed off on all the students.
That being said, I think the best answer to the question, “What should I look for in an acting teacher?” is an experience from my own journey with acting as a student.
I remember I was too scared to explore my inner self in my early 20s. I didn’t even want to be with myself, let alone other people. Specifically I didn’t know how to be with my messy feelings or the messy feelings of other people. So that period was all about avoidance. But the funny thing is, when you run from something long enough, you realize that eventually your running leads you to exactly what you need to face. All paths lead you back to you. And that’s what a great teacher wakes you up to.
Thankfully I found a teacher who did that. I was forced to stop running and taught how to become present in a way I had never experienced. I learned how to start confronting myself and how to listen in such a deep way that it completely transformed my life and my work. These truths—which transcend “acting”—are what inspired me to teach and are the cornerstones of what I continue to share with actors today.
An actor should be curious about people, want to be with others and learn about them. Not objectify people in the name of an “acting” exercise or judge them—but really just enjoy exploring what it means to be human. What it means to be alive and share this collective experience called humanity.
This translates into finding an acting teacher who approaches the work from a place of curiosity about other people’s stories, what they’ve overcome, and their challenges. A teacher who loves being with his or her students. This ultimately informs the student on how to love being with him- or herself. Which is what acting is essentially all about—you.
You begin to learn that the things you run away from are actually the things that make you interesting, unique, and human. You begin to discover who you truly are—your potential, what’s possible for you. You begin experiencing what the “character” is. You reveal yourself to others in a meaningful way. Your truth is more interesting than any idea of character you could ever come up with. And it can be a scary journey. But a good teacher will guide you through it. That’s the greatest gift an acting teacher can give a student.
To discover it’s not really about acting at all. I’m not sure “acting” can even be taught. It’s not about escaping to play someone “else.” It’s about a deep exploration of self.
Audit classes. Ask questions. Find a teacher who lights that fire within you. And makes you realize being brave enough to tell your story, told through all the stories you will ever tell as an actor, is really what it’s all about.