I have often (and loudly) professed my belief that EVERYONE upon EVERYONE needs a technique. Many of us come to these performing careers with a modicum of natural ability and many more take a class or two and think “I’M READY” and off they go into the great wide world of professional work. Yes, there are plenty of benefits to on-the-job training and if you’re booking, you’re doing something right! Yes? Of course! All true! But there WILL come a time when you are sick, intimidated, not connecting with your fellow creators, in high altitude and out of breath, just undergone a major life event, running late, confused, etc etc etc...performing conditions are rarely perfect and therefore you NEED a technique to get you through.
So maybe you’re saying ‘okay, okay! I believe you’ or ‘um...lady...preaching to the choir’ so here are some tips for picking your coach to achieve all your technique dreams.
Ask questions about their background, their technique, their experience AS A TEACHER. Many professionals in craft industries will try to teach as a side hustle (excellent strategy!). However, the technique of teaching is very very very very very different than the performing technique. Pedagogy is important! Have they studied teaching? Do they teach elsewhere than their private studios? What teaching methodology do they subscribe to? Finding out HOW they teach will help to find out if you two are a good fit.
WHAT TECHNIQUE DO THEY USE?
Are they a Chekhov, Meisner, Hagen, Stanislavsky or Strasberg? Combo? Different all together? Does that matter to you? It should. If they have a handle on what they’re teaching you, then you get to pick a coach in the future who is different so you can decide what works for you and what doesn’t. Does your coach teach the technical side of the work (movement, voice and text, breath) and acting (storytelling, who are you and what do you want, etc)? Just one? What as a performer is important to you? Find a coach who matches your needs and be leery of anyone who thinks 'their' way is the only way.
DON’T PICK A TEACHER BASED ON FAME
Yes, there are a lot (A LOT) of coaches with big, fancy titles on their IMDb page. And maybe a little birdie in the back of your head thinks “if i impress them enough, maybe just maybe they’ll introduce me to all their work buddies and then I’ll be working like crazy!” First off, your coach should never be thought of as your ticket into the industry. Secondly, just because someone has had the opportunities to do parts of their career on a more visible scale doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re a good teacher (see tip #1 - pedagogy matters). Yes, industry experience matters...don’t get me wrong. But MOST of this industry is not glamorous. Pick a teacher whose students have improved. Whose students are booking.
Pick a teacher who has reasonable rates...this isn’t just about paying too much but also paying too little. A coach should have packages and plans that will suit what you need to learn from them. A good coach will also be willing to talk with you for FREE before signing up to coach with them.
STAY LONGER THAN YOU THINK
Many students will come and take one lesson and off they go. Or they only pop around when they have an audition to prepare for. I have seen twitter posts from professionals advising not to stay too long with some coaches...and yes, there is merit to this thinking. But often people will take one offs and think they got as much from the lessons as they could. But as we know from trying to learn any skill (have you tried to draw or paint and got annoyed because your body just won’t do what you’re asking it to do?) it takes time, patience and dedication. Sticking with a coach for a good chunk of time will allow the coach to recognize what areas you need help with better and what methods to guide you to polish them.
Sandford Meisner said it takes twenty years to become an actor. Give yourself the gift of this journey and get a guide to help you along the way. If you think I could be that person, give me a shout. I’d love to play.