I hadn’t stepped foot in a classroom since my senior year of college. And even then – my last class was my Senior Seminar, where my classmates and I laughed and talked while procrastinating submitting our theses.
But I’ve always been interested in learning and exercising my brain. Life can get boring if you’re not trying something new. So why not take an acting class?
I grew up immersed in the arts as a dancer, but it wasn’t until I choreographed my college’s production of Cabaret that I understood the depth and complexity of theatre. My peers worked hard – and I mean really hard – to perfect their German accents, to push themselves out of their comfort zone in each dance number, to embody such complicated characters. With that in mind, I couldn’t imagine myself stepping right into their artistic shoes.
Intro to Acting seemed like a good place for me to start. On Monday evenings, I arrived at Studio 8 in the DCPA’s Newman Center to learn from one of the best: Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski, Director of Education and Curriculum Management. I sat in a circle with a group of strangers from all different backgrounds and listened as we each shared why we had chosen to take the class. It was inspiring to hear from each person, especially as an employee with the DCPA, to hear that our organization has such a broad reach and impact. So many people mentioned they had zero experience with acting but had heard these classes were a great place to start. One classmate mentioned she had come to a performance of the DCPA Theatre Company production, In the Upper Room, and fell in love with theatre.
Our teacher, Patrick, emphasized that this was a safe environment where we would push each other out of our comfort zones, support one another, and learn together. Although I knew we were in good hands, it’s difficult to try something for the first time in front of people you hardly know. Almost immediately, Patrick had us out of our seats and acting with our bodies. What does that mean? Well, we would receive a prompt – like a place or a person – and create that shape as a group without speaking to one another. It was a wonderful way to throw us into the deep end.
Over the next couple of classes, the initial discomfort continued to fade. I was remembering everyone’s names, leaning into the activities Patrick was throwing our way, and feeling less insecure. Our group found a sort of solidarity in the discomfort and worked through it together. I was laughing a lot more, taking myself less seriously, and paying attention to my impulses rather than feeling I had to do everything “correctly.”
Through six classes, we moved from more physically based acting into more vocal acting, culminating in an optional final assignment. This final assignment included memorizing (to the best of your ability) a short snippet of dialogue and performing it in front of the class. It was so joyful to watch my classmates share their work with everyone. The point wasn’t to be perfect; it was to support and celebrate one another’s progress.
Ultimately, I left these classes with a stronger understanding of theatre and a deeper respect for actors. I was challenged, encouraged, and inspired by Patrick and my classmates each week. While you won’t find me on a Colorado stage anytime soon, several of my classmates asked questions about the audition process and found a supportive mentor in Patrick.
DCPA summer classes are now on sale. If you’re interested in participating, you can’t go wrong choosing a course. Intro to Acting not only serves as the springboard for many other classes, it also was an engaging and inspirational experience like none I’ve ever had before.