It was a beautiful star-sprinkled evening - a metaphorical reminder of the new world I was about to enter. On the fifty minute drive to The Acting Academy, I felt a mixture of excitement and anticipation, tinted with a hint of uncertainty. I knew that I wanted to put myself back into the role of a beginner, but I wasn't exactly sure what I would encounter when I did that.
I received a warm welcome from Sherry. I discovered that my classmates had differing degrees of experience - some had already been in movies, others were dabbling with the ultimate goal of performing. The reasons I joined were to experience something new, have fun, meet new people and learn something about the acting world.
The format for the classes at The Acting Academy follows a pattern. Students are paired up and given a scene to sight read. Sight reading is where you read your line, while glancing up often to look at your partner in scene.
This scene then becomes homework; it is to be memorized for the following week. The second half of the class is dedicated to watching the previous week's scene. Usually, each pair goes through it twice, sometimes three times, implementing Sherry's recommendations. She highlights the nuances of the scene and guides the students into a better performance.
"Be there for them," Sherry often says. You want to emotionally connect with your partner by actively listening.
The skills that are practiced in acting class are easily applicable to all aspects of life. We can all benefit from enhancing our ability to listen, sharpening our memorization skills and developing our ability to empathize. I recall a scene that two of the more experienced students were performing. Suffice to say, we were all empathizing, and thinking the same thing, "Oh, I'm so thankful that I don't have to do that scene!"
As a result of being in this class, I look at commercials, television programs, plays and movies through new eyes. It may seem easy, but it's hard work. I found it challenging, even though I only had a few lines to memorize and perform in front of my classmates. It would be that much more demanding to put it all together - voice, presence, actions, emotion and connection - on stage or in front of the camera, to create a scene that transports the audience, whether it is to another time and place, to bring tears or laughter, to instruct or to make a purchase.
If you're working as a teacher, coach, trainer or facilitator, you know your material so well that you might forget what it is like to be a beginner. I urge you to step into that role by learning to do something completely new. It's humbling, as well as being instructive. Knowing what it feels like to be starting out with no or very little prior knowledge provides you with insight and compassion for the people you are teaching, coaching or guiding.
It is evident that Sherry knows her stuff and brings her wealth of experience to each class. Her insight is invaluable. She is skilled at recognizing that her students have varying degrees of experience. She instinctively knows how much to push each student. The degree of difficulty of the scenes she assigns helps each student climb up the ladder into the stars, towards acting success.