PRIVATE COACHING VS GROUP ACTING CLASSES: PROS & CONS OF EACH
Okay, so you want to start your acting career and know that it always starts with training, so where do you start? Of course scheduling, budget, and time commitment can all play a factor but, when it comes to investing in your acting training, how do you know if private acting coaching or group acting classes will work better for you? How can we best set ourselves up for the maximum amount of impact so we can hit the ground running in the industry?
Here we will dig into the pros and cons of doing private coaching vs. group study for actors, and hopefully help you decide which is right for you.
Let's start here. Acting is a team sport. If you want to train to be a world champion soccer player, you don't start by getting a personal trainer, you start with getting on the field and joining a team. Acting is exactly the same. The reality is… it can’t be done alone. Even monologues (which may feel like we are alone) are really about engaging with an invisible person -- connecting with a relationship and fighting for an objective.
Of course, actors do a lot of independent work by reading plays and acting books, consuming masterclasses and podcasts online, etc... but group classes are where the real magic happens. Actors not only get to dive into the work prescribed by a studio but also get to reap the benefits of seeing that same work explored and interpreted by others.
If we could learn to act by ourselves in a vacuum, we most assuredly would, but so much of our work comes down to being observers of human behavior. Noticing not only our own instinctual responses to stimuli but also taking the time to see how other moving bodies in space listen, react, and create stimuli for us to react to.
Even in the midst of our own work as actors, when it's our turn to run our scene, we might not always be able to name why we are struggling or see where our body or our heads might be blocking our path. It’s in watching our fellow actors that we can see, in them, ourselves. When we watch others work, we can reflect more deeply and notice habits, name breakthroughs, and see discoveries happen in real time -- and learn how to apply those same choices in our own work. It's the greatest gift that group coursework has to offer.
And, to top it off, actors get to build something they will need to survive in this industry: a family. A community and tribe of actors who they can cheer on and root for and who can support them when they need an audition reader or want to drive to an open call together or attend a networking event.
So let’s unpack the pros & cons of Group Classes.
PROS OF GROUP CLASSES:
You learn twice as much from watching others work (both in their successes and struggles).
You always have a scene partner to work with and bounce off of and respond to.
You can practice listening and connecting to an ensemble & working as a team.
You get to build a community and ensemble & gain friendships and network.
Oftentimes, it’s the more cost-effective, inexpensive option.
Even if you aren’t yet ready to audition or work in the field yet, it will still offer you immediate, tangible tools to apply and work on content.
You get live, on-your-feet feedback and redirects AND get to see how others receive and implement feedback, too.
They are valuable to actors at every level of their careers and they will always enhance your process and training.
They tend to hold more weight on a resume than a private coaching.
You get more contact hours & inherently longer hours per session than private coaching.
More time per class means time to do warm ups and explore other content beyond your individual scene work.
CONS OF GROUP CLASSES:
There may be less flexibility with scheduling and make-ups if you have to miss a session.
Content can sometimes be less personalized, as an entire group will also be navigating the same exercises, warm-ups, and activities.
If you are actively auditioning new content every week, you won’t have the opportunity to get guidance and feedback on that content.
You aren’t working on your individual content the entire time and so there is time spent where you aren’t personally actively working on a scene.
Some cool things about Private Coaching are how flexible it can be, both to your calendar and your needs as an actor. You might be working with a really specific challenge in your acting process or career, and private coaching assures that whatever you are hungry to work on will be covered and that your needs come first.
Because you aren't sharing this training time with a group of other actors, you get an assurance that you will receive private attention & know that whatever you hope to learn can be explored.
If you are an actively-auditioning actor with an agent, Private Coaching guarantees you will have dedicated time each week to navigating those auditions and polishing up material you provide.
So here are some of the pros & cons of Private Coaching.
PROS OF PRIVATE COACHING:
You will have more flexibility with scheduling sessions to your own availability.
The content can be more personalized to you as an individual.
If you are actively auditioning new content every week, you have the opportunity to get guidance and feedback in real time for those auditions.
The content you work on week-to-week can be adjusted or changed.
You are actively working on content the entire time.
Privacy to work alone means you have the comfort of not being observed by others while you are learning.
You can provide and/or name your own content to explore.
CONS OF PRIVATE COACHING:
You don't have the opportunity to watch others work (and learn from your observations).
You won’t have a scene partner to work with and bounce off of and respond to.
You can’t practice listening and connecting to another actor in the scene, as most of your work will be with your coach, who is splitting focus as a reader and director.
You won’t have the opportunity to work as a team and build a community with an ensemble.
Private sessions are almost always more expensive.
If you don’t already have a foundation for acting and training, coaching won’t ever replace that weekly group practice and process work.
Private coaching tends to be 1 hour per week and is less training time than most group classes.
SO WHICH IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
Ideally, where cost and scheduling is not an issue: do both. Why should you pick between one or the other, when both complement the other so awesomely. The most essential thing is that you fully understand how Group Classes and Private Coaching serve different needs. They work beautifully in tandem to help an actor build their process and polish individual auditions.
Are the core of your training as an actor. They help you build your toolkit and help define your process. Group Classes help you learn in an ideal environment and, because it requires you to work as a team, learn to foster connection and live response to another actor. Whether you are just starting out as an actor or a veteran performer “returning to the barre,” group classes will always be an invaluable resource to honing your craft.
Is really designed for the already working actor. For an actor who's already been training for a few years, who's actively auditioning and booking work. Private Coaching is the best, most on-going resource for actors to get their auditions polished before going in to tape or attend an in-person audition. It's adjustable, flexible, and awesome for any actor who knows they want a weekly tune up and get outside eyes on their upcoming project they might be filming. Unfortunately, private coaching can never (and will never) replace group training. It won’t ever give the actor that irreplaceable experience of deep listening to a fellow actor or tap them into connecting to a collaborative ensemble.
Clare Lopez is an Actress and Director of Education and Outreach at Book From Tape Acting Studios in Orlando, FL. She is deeply passionate about supporting fellow actors in their craft, and loves using storytelling to educate, elevate, and empower others. Email Clare