Even before the pandemic changed our lives, online classes were taking off thanks to sites like Masterclass. Yet the pandemic has put the idea in overdrive—it seems like everyone has an online offering.
For actors, training is vital, and online acting classes seem like a more convenient option. But before joining (or paying) for one, I want to share my thoughts on the true value these classes deliver. Like any acting class, value comes from setting expectations and understanding how they fit into your overall training as an actor.
That’s why when someone asks me, are online acting classes more important than ever? I say both Yes and No.
Read on to hear why.
My first answer is NO.
Education can only be effective if the educator knows their medium and how to be effective in that medium. An acting teacher, for example, might excel in delivering energy and enthusiasm in-person teaching yet doesn’t know how to deliver that same energy virtually.
Simply put, it’s really difficult to be inspired by acting lessons if they’re not done in person. Anything that’s online fails to be as effective as in-person teaching.
“An acting teacher, for example, might excel in delivering energy and enthusiasm in-person teaching yet doesn’t know how to deliver that same energy virtually”
Often, the Motive Isn’t Teaching. It’s Money.
I hate to say it, but some people are pushing online acting classes for the wrong reason: money. If the instructor is only concerned about making money, then their class exists for the wrong reason. Their instructor, and the education you receive, will suffer.
Be sure to look into the motive as to why people are putting their classes online. Research the history of the class, was it in-person not too long ago? Have they perfected the translation into the digital realm?
Nine times out of 10 they are not as effective because they have not figured out how to do that. Look into the instructor’s background. Look for any reviews of their classes. Find out what you need to see if it’s a good fit for your needs.
Finally, look at the duration of the classes. A great teacher will explicitly say that they can only teach for, at most, a year at a time. Anything more than that is a lie.
So Why Are Online Acting Classes Not a Great Idea?
In acting, you need action and reaction to take place.
It’s hard to do a scene-study class if you’re not in the same room as the person you need to react to. How do you watch a scene play out if the actors are visible through just two small boxes on a screen? What if something going on in a participant’s background distracts people from the scene? What if someone’s internet connection causes a delay? These issues also make exercises like Improvs, in my opinion, almost impossible to do effectively.
The best acting classes I’ve been in always took place with a new teacher who had a great passion for the subject they taught. I remember studying at the American Conservatory Theater and there was an acting teacher that introduced us to a new method of acting called status.
He explained that in every part of life, we put different statuses on people and things. As an 18 year old, I was introduced to a new outlook on life and a new method of acting; it was exciting to learn. That was in a class that had about 16 fellow students and a passionate acting teacher. How do you replace that online? How do you not lose so much material? You can’t.
My second answer is YES. But it depends on what you’re learning in that online class.
If an online acting class has the intention of staying online, and it provides you with all the materials you’ll need online, then sure, it can be a great tool to have.
Mastering the Business of Acting, for instance, was made to be viewed and studied exclusively online with the goal of furthering acting careers. It is meant to be a supplement to what students are never taught in traditional school environments. Even with its digital structure, it would still be effective to have the 7 episodes be translated into real-life coursework that could span several weeks at schools.
Look for online acting classes that have been around for years before Covid. They have perfected their stuff and are designed for online instruction. Those are ok to participate in, granted everything else about the class checks out.
Anyone that thinks you can just translate everything that takes place in an in-person class into a digital platform is mistaken. It’s like watching a play or musical that has been recorded exactly as it has been performed live on stage. If you’ve experienced both, you cannot say both have the same effect on you.
“Look for online acting classes that have been around for years before Covid. They have perfected their stuff and are designed for online instruction.”
Better To Have Something Than Nothing
I’ll end on this—if you have the time & space, and want to stay remote, it’s better to partake in an online class than none at all as the world and the industry figure out how to live with this pandemic. To protect your health, of course, you should go for the online class.
For the people that need to catch up on a certain aspect of acting whether it’s business, new methods you’re unfamiliar with, or the beginner ABC stuff, use this time to stay safe and learn remotely. But, again, I would stick to the online classes that were always meant to be online and are structured that way since their inception. Do not fall for the scams that are popping up every day.
I can’t tell you how hard it is to find a worthwhile acting teacher so be prepared to do your research. The people who do make good teachers come once in a lifetime and usually don’t like to teach. So lookout for people who actually want to share their knowledge because they don’t want their knowledge to die with them. Those are the people you need to be searching for. Remember to avoid classes that do co-reading, classes that are just trying to make money, classes that have no specified end date, etc.
So are online acting classes more important than ever? Yes and no—the key is approaching them correctly.
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