I’ve been an acting coach for almost twenty years and on occasion I hear stories of actors being challenged by well-meaning friends and family about why they need to study acting. Many think it is easy, or that people naturally have this ability. Like many things, until we try, we have no idea how truly difficult something is.
I also have encountered actors who believe they can learn all they need to know by reading a few books or watching some YouTube tutorials. I am all in favor of learning all you can from any and all sources. This, however, will only take an actor so far. Online acting classes can be very helpful providing they are interactive and there is a coach giving personal instruction to the actor. I coach many actors via Skype or Zoom and the studio just implemented a series of online classes.
There are many benefits to being in an acting class, in front of a qualified, skilled coach. First, it is important to have a pair of eyes on you who can quickly see if something is working or not. I tell my actors when I give them notes that something “works” if: a) it helps the tell the writer’s story and, b) it’s interesting. I often ask myself if I would pay to see what I am seeing… if not, we need to make some changes. I don’t see how an actor would make this call by only watching videos or reading books. None of us appear the way with think we do.
Secondly, it is vital that an actor be challenged to go outside of their comfort zone. After all, this is where the magic happens. It’s simply not in our nature, or even our ability to do this without the help of more experienced eyes. Only those who dare to go too far will know how far they can go.
Lastly, once an actor learns how to be an evocative, versatile performer, they need to practice to keep all of these acting muscles strong. I often say that if one were a violinist in the symphony, they would not take a few months of class, put their violin away and wait for the Philharmonic to call. It is the same at thinking you can play in the NBA because you are 6’7” and have watched LeBron James in a post-game interview. It just doesn’t work that way.
Thus, an actor’s education can be definitely be supplemented by online classes but nothing takes the place of being in front of a great coach, working out with other actors, being challenged, and challenging oneself to go beyond what we think is possible.