Acting for Non-Actors

How performing arts training can help anyone become a better listener, overcome uncertainty, and bolster confidence. No acting dreams necessary.

Despite the blockbuster films, our binge-worthy TV shows, and sold-out Broadway shows that saturate our social psyche, when someone announces they plan on taking an acting class, the response can often be,

“Couldn’t you do something more useful with your time?”

In fact, training in any aspect of the performing arts can be some of the best way to spend your time. Acting classes can help anyone become a better listener, overcome uncertainty, and bolster confidence.

Whether you are looking to be a working actor, get over a fear of public speaking, or a way of connecting to clients or patients on a more personal level, acting classes are immeasurably helpful. Performing arts training can help anyone in any facet of life.

Sidney Eden, author of the book, Acting for Non-Actors, highlights the importance of anyone in participating in acting classes, no matter their background:

“[It’s] not about becoming an actor, it’s about learning from acting techniques in order to better present yourself and prosper in today’s world – no matter your age or origin.”

For so many people – actors and non-actors alike – a major challenge to overcome when communicating with others is being able to get out of their own heads. Many acting techniques focus on how to be active and present in the moment, truly listening to others as opposed to merely waiting to speak.

“When we’re in our own heads, we aren’t truly present. We might be hearing the other person, but we aren’t listening,” says Actors Training Center Founder and Executive Director, Carole Dibo. “Listening and responding appropriately in the moment is how we communicate honestly and genuinely."

When you do the work of peeling back the veil of self-consciousness, it becomes easier to truly listen to another person and communicate from a place of honesty and understanding. Think about how you communicate with your partner, your friends, your family: How would a moment be impacted if you gave your biases a backseat, and focused on actively listening?

Example: A: “I am angry that you didn’t do the dishes like I asked.”

B: “I didn’t do the task you asked me to do. I understand why this would make you upset.”

Improvisation has its own take on listening and encouraging collaboration with a partner. One of the tent poles of improvisation technique is the concept of “Yes, and…” This ideology means that whatever is presented by Person A is immediately agreed upon by Person B and then expanded on with another idea. In this way, Person A’s idea is heard, accepted, and celebrated by Person B who then builds on the initial idea before contributing something of their own.

This concept of “Yes, and…” can be applied to the boardroom as much as the rehearsal room. How could a manager use the “Yes, and…” tactic to make their employee’s ideas feel heard and understand, while contributing ideas of their own?

Example: A: “We need to increase our client retention next quarter.”

B: “Yes, we need to increase our client retention next quarter – and we will do this by offering a discount to previous clients!”

This exercise of how performing arts applies to other spheres of our lives isn’t a hypothetical one. In fact, many teachers, lawyers, doctors, public speakers, etc. have sought acting classes in order to improve their communication skills and confidence.

In San Francisco back in 2016, a group of psychiatrists and their patients participated in a joint group session called, “Unscripting: Using Improvisation Theatre to Move Beyond Personal Limitations.”

“Improv involves increasing your uncertainty tolerance,” says Dr. Jeffery Katzman, the workshop’s leading physician, “It’s about two people listening to each other, reacting to each other, and ultimately regulating one another” (Source).

When we feel listened to and our ideas are celebrated, there emerges a sense of accomplishment and pride in ourselves. Acting training goes a long way to building both ensemble and personal confidence.

As you interact with others in class, sharing in exercises that can be silly or outrageous breaks down social barriers and can help relieve anxiety about interacting with others. This can build and improve one’s social skills.

Outside of the successes working with an ensemble, many students of performing arts find a lot of their own confidence from the freedom of self-expression. It can be liberating to discover your sense of self in a judgment-free zone - a place to take risks and test boundaries, where failing is recognized as an important part of learning and growing, can promote higher self-esteem and emboldened you to seek new challenges.

You do not need to daydream of stardom to take something away from an acting class. Acting is beneficial to anyone looking to discover unique ways to improve themselves. Be you a future Oscar-winner or a dentist looking for ways to calm your patients before a procedure, a class in the performing arts will help get you where you want to go.

-The ATC Team

Because of your interest in this post, we recommend the following class(es):

Acting for the Camera

Tuesdays, 7pm-9:30pm / October 15 - November 19 / Adults (18+)

A successful on camera career requires savvy improvisational skills as well as feeling confident to make bold & truthful choices. This essential class provides a complete overview of on camera audition technique. Students will shoot in our professional studio, work from actual industry copy, & analyze their work as it if played back each week.

Power of "If"

Saturdays, 10:15am-12:15pm / October 12 - December 14 / Grades: 7th-12th

Designed for aspiring young actors who are ready to work fearlessly from their personal experiences of the past by saying "what if..." to their character in the present. The Power of "IF" creates a foundation for future training. (No class: November 30)

Contact ATC to register now.

847.251.8710 |

By ATC Guest Writer, Rae Lindenberg

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