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Career Dispatch Writers Confess Why They Chose Acting Classes

"Acting is standing up naked and turning around very slowly," Rosalind Russell once said, and it's hard to argue with Auntie Mame. The best actors fearlessly reveal inner weakness and vulnerability, which is a daunting task. That's why finding a safe-space acting class to hone one's craft is so important. To grow, one needs feedback, and the range of options available to those seeking teachers is vast. So we spoke to a few of our Career Dispatch writer-actors about what they look for in an acting class.

"I went to USC's graduate acting program in Los Angeles for my MFA. One of my criteria was having professors who are working actors and directors in TV, film, and/or theater. I think the world of education can be very much a bubble, and the industry is continually changing and growing. So it was important to me to have professors who still had a finger to the pulse of what's happening outside academia. At USC, I was under the tutelage of people like Andrew Robinson, Natsuko Ohama, David Bridel, Charlotte Cornwell, Andrei Belgrader, and Ntare Mwine.

"Most of the notable grad programs have a strong theater foundation, but at USC's, actors also get a lot of training and experience in front of the camera. I also didn't want to be in a program that churned out a certain kind of actor. I was enamored with USC's more organic approach; I felt like the individual was truly championed. Lastly, it was important to me to be at a program that would give me a strong jump-start into the industry upon graduation. USC gave me exactly that. The three years culminates in a three-play repertory in which all actors are cast, a showcase through which I got a manager, an amazing agent, and a mentor."
-- McKinley Belcher III

"I think there are people in L.A. who can get by on their looks for a while, but when that fades, all that's left are the underpinnings of our craft. It's why I really believe that studying is so important. Once I started working, I tried a lot of different classes, but my favorite teacher by far in L.A. has been Annie Grindlay, who helped bridge the gap for me from theater acting to film technique. After taking her classes, I had more confidence walking into an audition. I learned how to imagine my way out of my nerves and just be connected to the material."
-- Vanessa Claire Stewart

"Acting is an art, not a science. With that premise in mind I would avoid any teacher who claims that his or her way is the only one.

"Passion for the theater is important to me. It indicates that the teacher is aware of the world of dramatic literature that existed before 'Who's the Boss?' burst onto the scene.

"Crushing a performer's spirit is not a valuable part of actor training. I prefer teachers who are honest but supportive.

"The most important part of any actor training is teaching 'truth' in its various incarnations. Discovering the truth of a scene involves analysis -- the ability to read a script and understand what is there. The truth of any performance involves allowing your instincts to breathe and then bringing them to light. The truth of getting work involves problem solving, understanding what the audition and various on-set situations demand, and preparing the student for handling those situations. A good teacher provides a balance of these 'truths.' "
-- Stephen Tobolowsky

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