Are Online Acting Classes Worth It?
This isn't exactly a new question but in the "new normal" of Covid-19, it definitely takes on fresh dimensions and is worth revisiting. I spent about 10 years of my life studying with a number of acting teachers in NYC, eventually becoming one myself, so I do have a perspective on the subject. We're all experiencing a certain amount of upheaval in the pandemic and the acting world is no different. The Broadway theater district is shuttered, as are movie theaters, no one knows when this will change but I'm guessing it won't change anytime soon. Now would-be actors have been flocking to this town to learn their craft for many years and nobody in the biz wants that to go away.
Alas, Covid isn't going away anytime soon either, so change we must. Up until this crisis, in-person classes were the life's blood of the craft, where actors could take daring chances, stretch and grow. You didn't have to worry about what the agent thought, the director wanted or the producer needed - you were in class to experiment and do your work, period. Now that in-person instruction has been sidelined indefinitely, what really are your alternatives?
Not studying at all? For young actors with little or no training, this is going to take you nowhere fast. If you don't know how to approach the work, you're never going to get any.
You were studying but now that's on hold? Well, some knowledge is better than none but if you allow your acting muscles to atrophy, you're going to lose whatever you've gained up till this point. Better to keep going to the acting gym in any form, than not at all.
Continue working on your own? You can try that but rehearsing alone in the mirror will only do so much for you. Where's the feedback? How do you progress?
Find a class on Youtube? OK, sure, there's a tutorial for just about anything on there but you'll have to wade through a lot of garbage to find someone knowledgeable. Maybe.
So if none of those work, where does that leave us? Sherlock Holmes once said, "When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." That plainly leaves us with Online Acting Classes. Look, the bottom line is that the world has been slowly marching towards remote learning for a while, Covid merely raised the stakes. For technology aside, the training of actors will remain largely the same, at least from my point of view. Actors have to learn a system, they have to learn how to handle text and they have to learn techniques for stage/camera that work.
Remote learning isn't going to prevent any of that but it is going to make some parts more challenging. Because of the distance between them, actors will be less reliant on physical chemistry, it might still be there but it will be less immediate. Students will have to rely more on what they can manufacture for themselves emotionally, independently of who they're acting with. This is where students of Method Acting are going to have a distinct advantage, as that's a key component of our work.
Whether your Method is based in Strasberg, Meisner or Adler's work, all of them have the common goal of learning how to achieve genuine emotion via a system. Once the actor identifies what colors they need for a scene, they use that system's tools to generate that emotion and plug it into their work. Granted, when these systems were developed, they didn't have computers, let alone Zoom but that doesn't mean they can't be learned remotely.
Of course, there are going to be some drawbacks to remote classwork, it may not have the same immediacy as the old school but I've been teaching remotely part-time for about 2 years now and I can tell the sense of community is very strong. Actors are in the business of making connections and will always do that, no matter what. Now remote teaching isn't ideal for training stage actors as they need to reach out and fill a space. They do, however, still need to learn all the other basic skills the training involves and that can be learned in a remote setting. The best experience for that is stage time in front of a live audience. That might be a little to grab right now but there's no reason to suppose it's gone for good either.
Training camera actors in a remote setting should pose fewer difficulties, as film actors must always deal with the intrusion of technology in their work. Acting for the camera is all about drawing the audience in with your eyes and other subtle signals. Roughly 80% of film acting takes place from the chin up, so working remotely falls right into that zone. The biggest problem stage actors run into on camera is their inability to bring it down to scale and not look like they're doing Kabuki. Since there's actually more work out for onscreen actors, learning how to do more with less is a skill worth cultivating.
Two other things worth considering - class prices and geography. Lots of acting hopefuls get off of the bus and the train every year, armed with a year of savings and a copy of Backstage in their back pocket. Whether it's NYC, LA or London, coming to the big city to pursue your dream is an expensive, intimidating proposition. Acting classes and rent are not cheap. You need to find a place to live and a survival job to keep you afloat. Back in the Old Days. While we will certainly get back to this scenario, you can look at Online Acting Class as a real gift, where you can get quality training for a few bucks less and minus the move.
Pretty much everyone I know in the community has gone remote and since many of us no longer have to maintain the overhead of a physical studio, can afford to offer our services for less. For most acting students that should count as a real plus. The fact that you don't have to cough up thousands of dollars to share a tiny NYC apartment, can also be read as a perk. Now you won't be in a position to meet agents or go on auditions, so there's a downside there but since work been largely curtailed by the Pandemic, you probably haven't lost that many opportunities either.
'Course you still need to find a class that's right for you and can give you the acting tools you'll need in the professional world. You'll still need to do your research, learn about the different types of training which are available and start searching for a teacher that can help you with your objectives. When I got to NYC 30 years ago, that was like looking for a needle in a haystack, literally. Technology and remote learning haven't made the craft of acting any easier but in some regards, it has become a little simpler.
Want a short list for what to look for in an acting class? Check out this article!