What is an acting school?
There are various names for institutions running acting classes. You may have heard some of the following:
These are all generic terms and mean roughly the same thing, and tend to be interchangeable, depending on where you come from.
Perform Australia could be happily described as any of these things. Needless to say, there are some nuances to the titles. For instance, a “drama school” generally trains actors for work in the industry; “drama school” implies that classical actor training is taught. A “theatre school” may tend to specialise in theatre over film, while a “screen academy” may focus only on film and television without any reference to theatre. An “acting conservatory” usually means the school thinks of itself as providing practical, workshop-style training attending to the body, voice and mind. Meanwhile, a “performing arts academy” might branch out beyond acting into music and dance. So if you are thinking of going to acting school, make sure you find one which is going to deliver what you are looking for, and doesn’t exclude one aspect of acting at the expense of another that you’re interested in.
One of the most important things to consider in actor training is the quality of the teachers concerned. Be wary of those who set themselves up as self-styled ‘acting gurus’, but who really have little or no professional experience to speak of. Make sure you see through the bold claims they make. It’s easy to claim their work is “hugely successful” or “highly respected” without any evidence to support it. Take a good look at the teachers’ acting CVs – have they trained at a recognised institution? If not, they may have little professional knowledge to draw on, and little of substance to teach. And the awards they list in their resumé – do they come from amateur competitions and settings, or are they industry awards? While the arts landscape has plenty of room for both amateur and professional endeavour, there is a huge difference between the two. You can see some of our teachers and their credentials here.
But what do you do at an acting school? You’ll expect to receive “drama training” or “actor training” – that is, lessons on how to act - which may include things like:
At Perform Australia, we teach all these things – and more! If you are looking for a qualification in acting, which gives you a thorough grounding in all of these things, start with our 10197NAT Certificate IV in Acting for Stage and Screen and you can later move onto the 10295NAT Advanced Diploma of Performance. If musical theatre is more your style, with singing, dancing and acting included, look to the CUA40513 Certificate IV in Musical Theatre as your starting point.
But if you’re more after a short acting course, there are a range of courses on offer every term at Perform Australia. Just check out our short courses page, where we have a range of topical courses.
What happens in an acting class? If you’re new to acting, you might be curious as to what happens in an acting class... and unsure as to whether acting is for you. At Perform Australia, the following ingredients may play a part in any class you attend.
The Warm Up
An actor uses voice, body, mind and emotions to create characters for stage and screen. So, it makes sense we need to warm ourselves up, just as an athlete might. So it might involve some stretches, some meditation or relaxation exercises, as well as making vocal sounds which help you access greater range in your voice, or drama games to get your sense of fun and imagination going.
Actors often learn the skill of improvisation. Improvisation (sometimes called “improv” or “impro") is spontaneously creating scenes, characters, stories in the moment. Sound scary? It does get the heart pumping - but it’s a skill you can learn through a range of games and activities. Your teacher will lead you through a range of exercises to improve your improv skills, and before long, you’ll be tapping into creative energy you didn’t know you had. Improvisation is not our sole focus at Perform Australia, but it is regularly incorporated into classes to help actors develop self-confidence, stage presence, and technique.
Script or Scene Work
While improvisation is a great skill to have, traditionally, professional actors work from scripts. So, more than likely, you’ll work with scripts in an acting class with Perform Australia. Scripts are a blueprint for a performance, giving you a character in a story, plus their words and actions. Often scripts are fairly open, allowing you to come up with your own gestures, expressions and movements. Actors also interpret the text, playing their lines with their own choices in terms of tone of voice and emotion. In a professional setting, a director will give the actor instructions on how they would like the actor to interpret the text. Some directors are very prescriptive, while others like to include any and all the ideas an actor comes up with. In an acting class, you might workshop a short scene, or a longer play or screenplay. Your tutor will act as the director, and help shape how the scene turns out. Often classmates will then present their scenes to the rest of the class. Some classes might work towards a performance at the end of the term, to which family and friends are invited.
Every athlete, dancer, and painter needs technique. So do actors. Acting technique is frequently taught in our classes through exercises that focus the actor and help them create a believable performance. We draw on the thinking of some great acting teachers of the past, including Konstantin Stanislavski, Sanford Meisner, Viola Spolin, Anne Bogart, Jacque Le Coq, Rudolf Laban and many, many others.
Monologues are a script for one person (while duologues or dialogues are performances for two or more). Monologues appear in plays, screenplays and also as stand-alone performance works. They can be anything from a minute or two through to a full-length play. Sometimes you’ll work on a monologue – either an extract from a larger work, or a stand-alone piece - at Perform Australia. Monologues are also commonly used in auditions and self-tapes (also called “piece to camera”).
Many classes at Perform Australia have what we call “performance outcomes” – in other words, they’re not just about learning how to act, but you put it all into practice! So your performance may be a stage performance (in a theatre, or even more informally in a classroom), or a screen performance (in a clip, a short film or a longer production). You may spend some of your lessons in rehearsals – where you go over and over your script, making incremental improvements each time. Repetition is key here; every actor must be able to replicate in performance what they’ve practised in rehearsal. Your tutor will guide you towards your performance, offering you encouragement and direction along the way.
Whichever aspect of performing arts training you’re involved in, you will be guided by your tutor. At Perform Australia, our tutors are industry professionals, so you can be sure you are in good hands. So where do you start? Check out our suite of courses here and find the perfect learning experience for you. Begin your actor's journey today!
These blog posts are written by Perform Australia staff.