In this guest blog, regular ‘student’ Cat describes what it has been like joining the classes as a newbie, and explains why she keeps coming back.
If you’re wondering whether an adult improv, singing or acting class is right for you, here’s the noob’s-eye view of Open Stage Arts, which I started attending in early 2019.
As a grown-up web designer and mum of two primary age kids I don’t get masses of time to do my own thing. I’d been thinking about trying an improv class for a while, ever since a good friend of mine got into it.
Grown-up self-consciousness held me back from searching for adult acting classes in Oxford, so the idea drifted to the back of my mind. Then one day an Open Stage Arts ad popped up on Facebook. Without thinking about it, I booked myself on to a class to give it a go.
Who is it for?
Anyone! Performing in front of a bunch of strangers helps with all sorts of things, from presenting at work to playing with your kids. If you’re shy it will help bring you out of yourself. If you’re a big show-off you get the pleasant ego boost of making people laugh.
Improv also helps you to stop taking yourself too seriously, relax your mind and have a laugh at your own expense. There are benefits for mental health as it helps you manage your anxiety in the moment (and prove to yourself that you can) and build social and emotional connections with others.
What’s it like?
The first time I went I was expecting improv, and that’s exactly what I got. The teacher used a framework to make it easier – and sillier – by getting us to say a sentence each, starting with the next letter of the alphabet. It was easier than I thought it would be and I left the class feeling energised and loosened up.
The next class started with singing (most classes are an hour of singing followed by an hour of drama, but some are “double drama”), which I was terrified about beforehand. I enjoy singing but I’ve never had any training and it takes a serious amount of gin to get me to do it in front of anyone on my own. But I wasn’t called for a solo; no one ever is. Singing at OSA is a safe and a super cost-effective way to get some professional voice coaching.
In the acting hour of the same class the teacher told us to run up to the wall one by one, spring back and shout/act “Friends, Romans, countrymen! Lend me your ear!” at the rest of the room. I honestly nearly puked in the queue with terror, but, like anything else, once you do it you find it’s nowhere near as terrifying as you though it would be.
What else happens?
I expected improv and got improv in my first week, but since then we’ve done all sorts. In singing we learn about breathing and harmony. In acting we learn practically anything that a professional actor might learn, from different characterisation techniques to overacting Shakespeare.
We have chosen different animals to express different human characteristics. We’ve learned what Meisner had to say about finding your motivation. We’ve even rolled around on the floor having pretend punch-ups in stage combat.
Open Stage Arts is a great opportunity to poke your head out of your shell, play and be silly (something us grown-ups don’t do anywhere near enough of) and learn things you would never have otherwise learned. With the opportunity to try before you buy, why not give it a go?