When you’re looking for a new acting teacher, how do you know that they’re the real thing? Can you tell a credible acting coach from a fraud, or a high school English teacher with a passion for drama? Here are 10 warning signs that your potential acting teacher may not be all they’re cracked up to be:
ONE: Credibility – If your acting teacher has no traceable history, the chances are they’re not a bona fide acting teacher. So what would make the acting teacher credible? Formal qualifications would help of course, plus professional experience, but most importantly that they trained at credible theatre institutions. In the UK that usually means an acting conservatory or drama school, and not usually a university.
TWO: Guarantees – A good acting teacher will never make you any guarantees about fame, fortune and your future. They may whole-heartedly believe in what they teach you, they may be sure that their way works, but the moment they start making promises and guarantees, engage your common sense.
THREE: References – If asked, your potential acting teacher should be able to supply you with a dozen names of students that would be only too happy to provide a reference. Furthermore, a great acting teacher will be able to provide testimonials from people who actively work in the acting business. If they’re the real deal, your acting teacher should be drowning in positive testimonials.
FOUR: Impractical - If you sign up for a couple of classes and you have a strange sensation that what you’re being asked to do is ridiculous, perhaps it is. Ask your acting coach to explain. If they give a good explanation, give it another month. If they don’t… scram.
FIVE: Google Test – Use Google to search for the acting teacher and read the results. You’ll be able to find out about your acting teacher instantly.
SIX: Online Acting Lessons - Believe it or not, some acting coaches are offering online classes. Actor training requires a connection between teacher and student, and I don’t mean a broadband connection.
SEVEN: Big Money – If you’re signing up to a class, you should expect to pay upfront by cheque, PayPal or some other payment method. However, if your common sense tells you it’s a huge fee for what you’re getting, maybe reconsider.
EIGHT: Mail Bomb – You sign up to their website newsletter and receive a never-ending campaign of emails designed to move you to sign up to one of their very expensive courses. A few emails is one thing, a systematic mail campaign is another. If they’re liberal with the word ‘FREE’, start using the delete button liberally!
NINE: Off the Topic - Once you sign up for a class, you notice that the acting class is a discussion rather than a practical class. Obviously, there should be some discussion of relevant matters, but the bad acting teacher will be happy to talk about anything rather than teach you.
TEN: Living Room Studio – Many private acting teachers use their home, but if they seem to teach all of their acting classes from their crusty, untidy living room, you may want to get out of there!
Mark Westbrook is an acting coach and runs acting classes in Glasgow, Scotland; across the UK; and Europe.