This blog is inspired by Michael Beale and Ken Robinson.
People often ask, ‘What can an acting coach do for me?’ Professional actors are themselves the most suspicious clients that I work with. They simply don’t see how an acting coach could help them. Probably because most of their learning or coaching experiences have ended in little or no practical help.
So what should an Acting Coach do to help you? What is their role?
Thanks to educationalist Kenneth Robinson, it’s possible to recognise FOUR distinct areas where a coach of any kind can help us to succeed with our goals. I’ve applied these 4 key areas to actor training and actor coaching and I hope it will give you a fuller picture of the roles and responsibilities of an acting coach. Then, when you do get some coaching, you’ll have a yardstick against which to hold your experience of being coached.
ONE: An Acting Coach will Recognise Your Potential
The first thing an acting coach should do is test to see if you actually have the goods. I don’t mean that you necessarily need to have talent, but that you have potential for training to a higher level. Some people are innately gifted, it’s true, but some people show the signs of being ‘trainable’ and some people clearly are not. An Acting Coach should be truthful with you about your potential and be honest with you about your chances for progression. Even (especially) when coaching experienced actors, the acting coach should always be truthful and honest. That doesn’t mean that they should ride roughshod over your feelings. They must believe that you can learn the skills of the actor. If they do not believe this, they shouldn’t keep appeasing you and taking your money, this is just Charlatanism.
Acting coaches have a responsibility to be honest with our students because the bond that is created is one of trust. This can’t be built on hypocrisy and bullshit.
TWO: An Acting Coach will Encourage You
Once a bond of trust has been established, an acting coach should encourage you in any way that they can. Once they’ve established that you are trainable, they should point you in the direction that you want to go and give you the encouragement you need to believe in yourself and your developing skills.
THREE: An Acting Coach will Facilitate You
An Acting Coach will give you the necessary practical tools that will help you to improve. These tools should relate DIRECTLY to the job of acting. None of us wants to learn to water-ski in order to tap dance. Likewise, your actor training should be job specific. You should be taught pragmatic skills that can be used immediately, or at least with practice. Their facilitation of you should be based in practice. It doesn’t matter how many books they’ve read, they need to know this stuff works for real, otherwise, they won’t facilitate you, they’ll actually disable you.
FOUR: An Acting Coach Stretch You
A good acting coach will never stop pushing, gently, sometimes sternly, but they will always keep trying to stretch your capabilities. It’s not always pleasant, any kind of change is usually accompanied by some kind of pain, some mild and some less so. After a number of classes, you should feel that the coach is pushing you and helping you by not letting you rest on your laurels, or get comfortable, by constantly shifting the goal posts, they will continue to stretch you as you improve.
However, they should acknowledge your achievements and encourage you to press on ever upwards towards perfection, even if you never reach it.