I’ve watched a few movies (OK, about a million. But who hasn’t?). I’ve even watched a few plays. But, nothing that I’ve experienced had prepared me for Acting Class. If you really, really…want to step out of your box…take an acting class.

Well… here I go again, stepping into an unknown world that feels completely alien, and maybe even a little over my head. I’ve never acted in a play, not even in school. But, the world of theater has always held a slightly mystical and appealing draw for me.  I can’t remember watching a play where I didn’t envy the actors or actresses as they portrayed characters that were often quirky and imperfect. How utterly freeing it must be, to be someone else, even for just a moment. Think about that for just a minute. Ever wanted to be a Doctor? Maybe a Scientist, or a Baker? How about a Cabinet Maker? (catch that Dr. Seuss-like rhyme?)

We live our lives, day after day, assuming the identity of the person that we have become. But, what if,  just for a little while, we could become someone else. Someone more popular, someone more confident, maybe even a someone a little better looking (because stage makeup can do wonders) or someone with a lot less responsibility. And what if, just by chance, we grow a little in the process.

Adult Acting I

When I walked into Adult Acting Class at the Omaha Community Playhouse, I expected to find a group of people far different from myself. I expected to find people who had acted in High School, or had some kind of theater experience that I didn’t have. That was not the case.

Alas….I’m normal! (Well, at least in this context) It seems, at least to the untrained eye, that most of my fellow acting students are just like me… acting virgins. People who had always felt the allure of the stage, but for one reason or another, never actually pursued any kind of theatrical adventure.

When our class began, there were about 20 people attending. The numbers seemed to drop fairly quickly to around 15 or so, giving the indication that some simply were not feeling the class as much as they though they might. I have to admit, at first, the class was a little slow. We talked about and practiced some of the basics, like becoming familiar with the different stage locations, on stage stance and acting out very minor actions.

Acting One was one night a week for 6 weeks. By the end of this course, those of us that remained were encouraged with what we had learned and were ready to sign up for Acting Two.

Adult Acting II

Our second class, Adult Acting Two, was smaller than the first. After all, only the truly committed attendees from the first class made the cut for Adult Acting Two. The selection process was particularly brutal. Each applicant was required to complete a rigorous acting obstacle course with costume changes nearly every 4 minutes while constantly being followed and harassed by a team of angrily yelling would-be directors.  Blood and spittle dripping from their….. OK, maybe that didn’t really happen. Anyone could sign up. But, only about ten of us actually did.

Realistically though, for me, there was a slight bit of inward fear going into this class. I imagined the instructor putting us in horribly uncomfortable positions to build our acting stamina and desensitize us from all the different situational fears that we might encounter. In reality, it was really rather tame. We didn’t have to do or say anything that we had not done or said a thousand times in our lives.

In my mind’s eye, however, I envisioned the instructor directing one person to eat a handful of garlic, and then telling the rest of us, one by one, to engage in  a scripted conversation with that person in particularly close quarters. Of course, all without missing any portion of our script. A paramedic crew would be standing by for anyone who might succumb to the resulting poisonous garlic laced gas. And, rest assured,  no animals would be hurt, maimed or killed in any way during the event. But, we’d be warned that we could encounter group projectile vomiting, partial paralysis and short-term lack of appetite.

Group therapy

Whew! OK, I’m back.  So, this class involved a few different scripts that we would read and attempt to act out using mostly an imagined set. The instructor would help us to interpret how the script was meant to be played out, and we, the students, would then act out portions of the different plays, growing our ability and our self-confidence, with each new challenge.

For me, this class was a little like therapy. For one, I could not seem to think about anything other than the current acting challenge that we were working on. All else was blocked from my mind. Work and worries all washed away momentarily as I drifted into some other persona. Additionally, I was forced in this class, to allow people into my personal space. Having been a Police Officer for so many years, it has been ingrained into my psyche not to do this, for safety reasons. When someone gets too close, it lessens your ability to physically defend yourself, draw your gun or Taser or even flee.  And at first, It was truly uncomfortable. By the time the class was over, I felt a little more comfortable allowing someone into my ‘zone’. And, since I’m no longer a working Police Officer, well, it’s OK……somewhat.

In the end, I felt a little freed. I did something that pulled me out of my comfort zone. I was challenged. I was forced away from reality for a couple of hours each week. But, the best part of all is that now, as I write these words, Acting no longer seems like a mysterious Jedi ability that only the very snootiest of high school cool kids can do. It no longer frightens me to think about ‘acting’ a part, even in front of people you don’t know. And, it’s not that I left the class with mad acting skills. But instead, I left the class knowing that there is one less unknown, one more thing that I have some practiced familiarity with, one more thing that I did, in life, to step outside of my box and maybe live just a little.

So again, go take an acting class. I don’t think you’ll regret it.