Monday, March 28, 2016

Try Your Hand at Acting: Where It’s “A Ton of Fun” and You Can Play Like a Kid Again

Teacher Richard Soto works with an acting student.
Students work on a scene.
Richard Soto.
Adult students in Richard Soto’s Basic Skills acting class are excited when they talk about how he created an unmatched classroom experience.

“He was perfect, enthusiastic and made the class a ton of fun!” one student shares.

Soto—an acting professional and one of the faculty members in South Coast Repertory’s Theatre Conservatory—says that while students learn from him, he finds delight in how much he gets back from them.

“I love acting!” he says. “It’s such a transformational experience, so I love it when my students open up—trusting themselves and their fellow students. That is a real emotional moment, when we all are moved and forget that we’re in a classroom. I never forget the look on their faces when they realize what they’ve done.”

What’s the classroom experience like for your students?
Overall, I’d say they have a fun experience. It’s a time to learn about the craft of acting and the storytelling of the human condition. So they learn, discover and express. It’s a sharing and friendly environment.

How do you create the environment for your Act I: Basic Skills class?
This is an introduction to the craft of acting and its process. I try to make the class friendly, encouraging and supportive. I encourage them to play like a kid again, using their imagination to believe in whatever they used to pretend without judgment or without being self-conscious. They can do no wrong, as long as they play. To help rediscover those instincts, we play games and do exercises that allow them to use their bodies, voices, emotion and imagination. They learn about making choices to create a character and what motivates that character, much the same way we wonder what motivates any person. Along the way, they learn about people and, hopefully, about themselves.

What’s your best classroom memory at SCR as an instructor?
My favorite memories are anytime students open up and reveal themselves through a character. It’s really a cathartic experience when they share themselves.

What’s most challenging for an adult who takes an acting class?
I think the biggest challenge is to believe in yourself. Everyone has a right to have fun and to be creative, if they want. Acting, like life, involves risks and I tell my students that their fear is like standing on the edge of a cliff, afraid you’ll fall. I tell them jump! In my class, in our world of imagination and trust, you won’t fall!

What do you hear from students about how acting changed their lives?
I have seen many students grow in confidence—their spirits soar! They continue taking classes at SCR, where they have found a creative home, and I have many who have begun careers as actors both locally in Orange County and in Los Angeles. I’m happy and humbled to have been a part of their growth and creative freedom. Many of us stay in touch and continue to provide encouragement to each other.

What students say about Soto
  • “He’s a raw nerve, totally in the moment. His love for acting and the craft is clear.”
  • “The class was fast-paced, interesting, challenging and fun! An excellent class and an excellent instructor.”
  • “I absolutely loved the class, it felt like exercising muscles that hadn’t been used in forever.”

Learn more about adult classes in SCR’s Theatre Conservatory.

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