Why Take An Acting Class

Why Take An Acting Class

In PerformInk’s series The Craft, we invite professionals in the educational field to discuss the benefits and the history behind the craft they teach. To read past blogs click here.

Why Take An Acting Class?
By Richard Poole co-founder of The Gatley/Poole Conservatory

Why take an acting class? This is a fair question. There is a cost involved, and it can be time-consuming. When I first talk with someone who has contacted me about an interest in studying, they sometimes say they believe they have a natural talent, and they question whether they need to take more than 1-2 classes, possibly skipping the beginning classes and going right into an advanced class. Friends have said this to them because they are intuitive about people, are highly expressive, and have other attributes which actors need to be successful.

All of these characteristics are a good sign. If people you know say you are talented, then there probably is something there. If someone discovers that they can throw a baseball more quickly and accurately than most people, then they probably have a talent as a pitcher, but as one goes from Little League to High School to College baseball, does it mean they are ready for a career in the Major League or even the Minor League? Probably not, because to succeed at that level requires something more than talent.

Most children who have a natural grace, who are highly co-ordinated, who are supple in movement and highly responsive to music, probably have the potential as a dancer. They may begin in grade school in a local production of The Nutcracker. They may do musicals in High School. They may become the dance captain in summer stock productions, but are they ready for the New York City Ballet or Broadway? I do not think so. It is taken for granted that to become good at something one needs to take some time to develop the skill-set needed and to practice those skills away from the public until one is ready to be seen.

So, is this any different for the actor? Unfortunately, for some people, it is. This is because there are some aspects of the acting profession which allow actors in before they are ready to begin working. This has to do with the commercialism of the business in this country which has placed more value on the ‘look’ of a person than on their acting ability. This allows some to jump-start their careers at the beginning, but it does not help them to last very long. Eventually, an actor who is not skilled enough to move onto other roles — not to mention the challenge of a career which moves from stage to film to prime time television to commercials to industrials to cable tv to documentaries and all the different styles and demands of the profession — is an actor who will struggle to survive.

In the end, the purpose of training is two-fold. On the one hand, it is meant to maximize one’s potential so that one is capable of using all that their talent offers them. On the other hand, it also is meant to create a career with some staying power. It may not be stardom, but as Michael Caine says, stardom is not necessarily recommended, it has its own pitfalls; but a solid career can create a life of financial security and artistic recognition. Vince Lombardi, the great football coach of the Green Bay Packers in the 1960’s, said, “There is no gain without pain.” There are dozens of these simple sayings which communicate the same message. To be good at something you have to work at it. There is another well-known saying which comes to mind. A musician stops a pedestrian on the street in New York City and asks, “Can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall” – and the answer given is, “Practice.” There is no way around it. If you want to stay in the game, you have to put in your dues. The good news is people will respect you for it, and for your own part, you will know that you are good at something and have something to be proud of.

To learn more about Richard Poole and the Gatley/Poole Conservatory visit gatelypoole.com

© Richard Poole 2016

About author

Richard Poole

Richard Poole is Executive Director for The Gately/Poole Acting Conservatory. He co-founded the school in NYC w/ Kathryn Gately and was both its director and master teacher for 14 years. Previously Poole taught at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, Rutgers University, was the executive director for 42nd Street’s Nat Horne Theatre, and head of acting for the professional program at Primary Stages Theatre Co. Poole co-founded the first Two Year Meisner Professional training program for Film and Television in the country. He is a Professor Emeritus at Northern Illinois University, and w/ Gatley co-teaches a summer Meisner workshop in London and master classes both in the U.S. and Europe. From 2002–04 Poole was the artistic director for The Barnstormers, an Equity Theatre in Tamworth, New Hampshire.