I had a student the other day, ask me, ‘Do I need to go get some acting training and where?’ Or from my own point of view when is a good time to go back to your training?
The longer I’ve been in the entertainment industry, the more I’ve learned that keeping my skill set up can be a never-ending string thing …. So when is too much and when is too little, well, I think this is a personal choice. There are a lot of performers with no ‘formal’ training, and do perfectly fine, but, I’ve had formal and informal, so I can honestly say, I’ve seen all sides from the training perspective.
Naturally, learning on the job, is a great way to go, but it doesn’t always build confidence, at least not right away, as, often that can lead to mistakes quite quickly, but I’m not a ‘rah, rah’ person for the ‘formal’ route either, as it nearly destroyed me, as I had thought an educational institution was there to help you grow and develop – well, in my experience that wasn’t the case. I don’t wish to go into it in any detail, but suffice to say, I have not gone back.
So, what do I mean by ‘informal training’ this isn’t really attached to any university or college, for me, more of an independent approach, which is positive and supportive. For example, as in my case, I did the Impulse Theatre with Scott Williams, in London. This was exactly what I needed and when I needed it, as I was having another crisis of faith in my role in the industry. I was doing a wide variety of classes at the Actors Centre at the time and everyone was talking about this Scott Williams and saying crazy things like, ‘You are wearing a blue shirt,’ then they would burst out laughing and sing his praises. This peaked my curiosity and, well, the long and short of it was, I did the 2 year course and I’ve not looked back since. In fact, I’m now one of the director/teachers at Brighton Meisner. Didn’t think I would do that when I started with Scott!
For me, this was an instinct thing, I had reached a point, that I knew what I didn’t like anymore and when I encountered this, it was exactly what I needed. I’m very grateful I did it. I often find the best place to start is with the ‘don’t wants’ in life and then eventually, I’ve found what I wanted and then I go after it with all my ability.
Like I said, I was taking classes at the Actors Centre, at the time and I still do take classes, more just to keep my skills up or to learn new ones. Mostly, lately, they’ve been more on the admin and business side of things, as I won a scholarship to start ‘Other Dream Job’ with Dallas Travers – the actors advocate. As many of you know, I was on a round the world trip last year, as a result of that, I had blogged every week to family and friends, so my husband and I decided we wanted to start a new side business, which is now on its legs and starting to walk. At the time of looking at this was the time when I entered the competition to win the scholarship and, lo and behold, I won! I was 1 of 5 people who won, with hundreds who had entered, so, once again, I am very grateful. I have a new side business I love and it fits in nicely with my performing work. Plus, it’s got me going with my performing blogging with more consistency and clarity.
The biggest thing I can offer to others about this is, do as much homework about a place of study as you can, ask others who have done the course or ask about the teacher/director who runs it. If you can – meet them or do a drop in. Actors Centre is a great place for that in London and there are tons of drop in classes all around Brighton. From there you can find out if it’s a ‘right fit’ for you or trust that if this isn’t a route for you now, just go out and do it. You can change your mind at any point. I have learned that it’s all about a lifetime and it will work out in whatever way it needs to, even if I can go a little astray at times. An example of this, for me is, I tried improv and enjoyed it, but it still wasn’t quite hitting the spot, so I’m glad I did it, with the Maydays in Brighton, but I found out that I am not needing it, but I can do it if necessary. Now, I was lucky, I know a lot of people who are doing this, so it was easy for me to find them and to do their course. I found them good, I just didn’t fall in love with the technique, like I did with the Meisner work, but it’s all proved useful. I can write about it here!
Also, as many of you know, I am a trained opera singer, now this was an area I ended up in, rather than I chose it outright. The story goes like this – I’m a younger sister to an older brother who I did whatever he did when we were kids, so he was into sports = I was into sports. Well all that changed when I hit 13, I went from wanting to do everything he did to wanting to do nothing he did, so I went into the arts. It looked like fun and I knew he would never do it. So I thought, I’d start with being an actress. I tried it in high school, only to find that our one acting teacher in the school, taught acting like – ‘melt like an ice cream’ or ‘sway like a tree’. This was not for me, I had understood acting was about being real and feeling your feelings. It had nothing to do with trees or ice cream feelings, so I wanted none of that, so I took dance lessons. I had a friend who was doing it and she loved it and I thought I could keep fit. Turned out I had a bit of a talent for it, but as I had injured my leg as a teenager, I just didn’t see any longevity in that, so singing. Only this was a case of learning classical singing, as everyone said that would be the best technique to learn, well, once again, seems I had a bit of a talent for it, so when people said, ‘You should be an opera singer’, I went, ‘Oh, OK.’ I didn’t know the first thing about it – I thought it was all fat ladies with big horns on their heads screaming.
I just couldn’t see how that would work for me and, guess what, it hasn’t really. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the incredible singing skills I have – they were right about the technique, but my heart just wasn’t into it. (Just an insert to those who know me as an opera singer – don’t worry, I still sing, just in my own way which is a lot more fun and engaging – check out my ‘Songs from the Heart evenings‘.) So I’ve come back to acting, but with an incredible ability to sing well. I pretty much sing anything, it just may not sound like the original, but it’s likely to have a lot of style and flair.
I had forgotten about where this all started, which was to act. So, in some ways, I’ve come full circle and what an incredible journey it’s been and it’s far from over. I just have a very unique and strong skill set, which I am now passing onto others, seems teaching is a bit of a buzz for me, but once again, I found that I didn’t want to teach in some of the more traditional sense of the word. I like group classes, it just works better for me and I can reach a much wider group and it fits with my performing side quite well – another side business. So, really, at heart I’m what is known as an entrepreneur in the business world.
As you can see, I’m constantly learning and sharing and doing what I can to do the career which, in some ways chose me. It led me down roads I never expected to travel when I was a teenager. I had dreams of becoming an astronaut or an archaelogist or a pilot – those not so normal areas. Somehow I ended up being who I am and it seems to work for me. As far as the continued training, I’m looking to crack the voice over world – my dream is to be a Disney character in an animated feature – I know, it’s not normal, but I guess that is one thing that hasn’t changed – I was never normal, never really strove too much to be normal and I’m now loving what makes me – me!
So I’m a kinda opera singing, voice over, acting, teaching, blogging, entrepreneur crazy person. Not the greatest of U.S.P’s, but it does cover a lot of me, at least on the work side. On the personal side I’m a movie loving, live performance watching, fine wine and whiskey drinking, tea loving, walking, cycling around town nut.
Know any others like me? What are you like and what has your training been like? Are you still doing it?
They say learning new things all the time is good for the brain as you get older – I think mine may be a bit on overload on my learning curves lately!