Working as an actor looks like one of the most glamorous jobs in the world, and it certainly can be. The other side of this reality is that we do not see the hard work, long hours, and endless rehearsals that take place behind the scenes. There’s no doubt, it takes enormous amounts of dedication and perseverance to succeed as an actor or actress in today’s screen-obsessed world!

Fortunately, there is so much available tuition and coaching for aspiring actors in terms of preparation and grounding for a professional career on screen or on stage. In fact, for anyone considering a career with any of the elements of drama in it, the best advice they could receive is to know upfront that it is a highly competitive industry where passion and talent only go so far. Not only do actors need to be highly skilled in terms of audition techniques, but they also need to have a good knowledge of the varying acting techniques that make a script come to life.

Even for professionals who have long left acting school behind them, skills need to be continually honed and this is why so many actors still enrol in acting courses or have private coaches to help them tackle whatever new script comes their way.

If you are considering a career in acting, this article takes a look at why one of the more popular acting courses that are typically found in performing arts schools, the scene study class, would be extremely beneficial.

What is a Scene Study Class?  

You will find that almost every drama school includes acting courses on scene study. It’s important to know that as a general rule, although content for scene study classes may differ, you will not be taught new acting techniques in a scene study class. The main reason for this is that scene study brings all the other elements of drama and all the experience you have gained in your other acting courses, together!

In fact, by bringing all the existing techniques you have learned in acting school together, you should be able to make a scene come alive and also deliver a believable and honest performance. For example, here are some of the acting techniques that you might use as part of your scene study class.

  • The Meisner technique
  • Method acting
  • Improvisation (also called “Improv” for short)
actor in makeup chair
Professional actors also need to hone their skills, and often take acting lessons. | Source: Unsplash

Typically, in a scene study class, you would work with a partner or group to transform words from a script into colourful elements of drama! Whether you are in a prestigious performing arts school or smaller private acting school, the process will be the same. There will also be an instructor or tutor to guide you and your fellow actors through the scene and to offer constructive feedback on how to improve.

With this in mind, make sure that you are indeed picking up all the necessary techniques through your other acting courses otherwise scene study might be a struggle. Of course, you could find an acting school that also offers scene study courses for beginners, thus taking into account that you may be simultaneously learning acting techniques in other acting courses.

Before enrolling in any drama school or acting courses it is always advisable to thoroughly check out the curriculum and speak to lecturers and other students so that you can correctly align your own goals for pursuing a career in acting.

The Benefits of Scene Study Classes

If you are serious about acting or wanting to continually practise your acting skills, then scene study classes offer many benefits.

Firstly, scene study classes give you the opportunity to put the skills that you have learned from all your other acting courses into practice. It also provides you with the opportunity to experience and explore different types of scenes, characters, and writing styles.

Essentially, scene study classes allow the course participants the opportunity to be directed!

To be able to take direction and feedback in a positive light is a critical part of acting. It is a skill that you will continually learn through your acting career, long after you have graduated from drama school. In fact, it is so important that many actors, both aspiring and professional, have their own private acting tutors just for the purposes of feedback and direction.

Finding a private acting tutor for additional scene study training is not difficult, you could use a website like Superprof and find one located near to you. Alternatively, you could find out if they are willing to give you coaching online. All you would need is an internet connection and computer with video.

Bear in mind that the content of scene study classes usually depends on the teacher or coach’s experience, as well as their preferred genre of acting. It makes sense that if you are passionate about improv and comedy, then you shouldn’t sign up for scene study classes that typically use the works of Shakespeare!

woman filming acting lesson
If your acting lessons are recorded, you can review your performances and improve faster. | Source: Unsplash

Another differentiator concerning the types of scene study available is that classes are sometimes recorded, and sometimes they are not.

If possible, try and attend acting courses that will record your practices as this will help you to improve faster. Some of the more specific benefits of recorded rehearsals include:

  • The visual feedback of your performance can highlight your challenges and ultimately improve your performance.
  • You will be taught, amongst other things, how to work with a camera. This is important if you would like to pursue any kind of acting that does not include the stage.
  • Helping to show you where to stand, control your voice, and take direction.

General scene study classes, mostly offered in bigger performing arts schools, offer the opportunity to go through a variety of scripts.

In this way, students can find out which types of acting techniques are more suited to them. For instance, you may find that you shine when performing a scene from a period drama, but battle with monologues or modern thrillers.  From here, you could always hone your talents by enrolling in scene study classes that include the elements of drama in which you are most interested!

Like most classes, acting courses at performing arts schools are geared towards the whole group. If you feel you need extra tuition with scene study or any other subject at acting school, a private tutor could certainly help boost your confidence.

Other Acting Courses Worth Mentioning

If you are pursuing a career as an actor, you should know that it is a field that is rich with many, varied, elements of drama. If you are fortunate to study full time at a drama school, even at one of South Africa’s prestigious universities, like Stellenbosch Universit and University of the Witwatersrand (WITS), for instance, it is likely that some of the following acting courses will be included in the curriculum.

  • An improvisation class
  • An acting technique class
  • Sight reading (also called cold reading)
  • Audition technique class, and many others.

Before enrolling in your course, consider your ultimate acting goal, as well as both the financial and time investment that you can afford.

Hollywood sign at sunset
With hard work and perseverance, you can succeed as an actor. | Source: Unsplash

If you are attending short-term courses and workshops, take your experience and skill level into consideration. If you are signing up with a private tutor on Superprof, these are things that you could discuss in your first lesson, which is often offered at no charge.

If you are on a limited budget and know which direction you want to take with your acting career, you could eliminate a lot of the courses that a large drama school would typically offer and hone in on workshops and courses that are of particular interest to you. For instance, if you are determined to work in voice acting, it would be advantageous to attend voice acting and narration classes. However, if you already know that you want to work exclusively in theatre, you may find classical acting courses, focused on Broadway classics to be more helpful.

At the end of the day, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to how to become an actor. It is up to each individual to choose from the many elements of drama available to them and then to polish their craft accordingly.

It is always wise to do your research before committing to acting courses. Find out exactly what is in the syllabus and check out the reviews and the reputation of the performing arts schools that interest you. Word of mouth recommendations are always great too, especially when it comes to something as practical and personal as acting.

So whether you find that you lack confidence at auditions or want to focus on a particularly whacky genre of scene study, there is a drama tutor suited to you. Perhaps all you want to learn is improvisation, or perhaps you want to supplement your formal drama classes with some extra tuition on sight reading - the options are endless, especially when you can tailor your learning with a private tutor.

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Niki is a content writer from Cape Town, South Africa, who is passionate about words, strategic communication and using words to help create and maintain brand personas. Niki has a PR and marketing background, but her happiest place is when she is bringing a story to life on a page.