07 Apr ARTICLE: It’s the Last Day of Class. What’s Next?
“But Ms. Gayla, why can’t I take class here every Saturday for the rest of my life?”
“Ms. Gayla, I’ll ask my parents if I can take class here every Saturday for the rest of my life?”
Gayla Goehl – Assistant Director, Gary Spatz’s The Playground
Excitement! Anticipation! Sheer Giddiness! Followed by jumping for joy! Screams of happiness! Hugs!
However, this wasn’t caused by getting holiday presents, spreading yuletide cheer or even ringing in the New Year. This was the atmosphere of the very last day of our Professional Preteen acting class on Saturday December 17th. The class was a combination of two preteen classes that uncharacteristically merged together. They had been in class together every Saturday for a long time, and at The Playground even longer. Today was their very last class.
Over the course of the year, we literally watch these young students grow up. Coming into the Professional course is different than advanced and beginning classes. We call the course Professional because we run the classroom as close to a working professional set as possible. With four teachers, Sarah Holstrom, Danielle Hobert, Darcy Martin and myself we were able to find new ways of grouping the kids to make sure that each student was working on what they had prepared. Often breaking off into four groups so each child got much more individual working time. Over the course of a year the students have learned everything from becoming more open and free while doing improvisation to really believing they are experiencing the situation and emotions of their scene work and monologues. They memorized thousands of words. Did hundreds of tongue twisters.
(You try to do these three times in a row)
- A box of biscuits, a box of mixed biscuits and a biscuit mixer.
- Some shun sunshine, do you shun sunshine?
- Licorice wristwatch.
Did improvisation. Learned to focus. Learned to relax. Learned to commit before they began. They learned to ‘Breakdown’ a script and asked themselves questions like: What genre is this? What is the atmosphere? What is my Relationship with the person I am talking to? What is the Antecedent or what just happened before this? What is my Opening Emotion? What is my Intention? Reason? What is the Conflict going on? Do I have a secret? Am I lying or telling the truth? What is my Sub- Text (the stuff I’m thinking but not saying)?
They learned how to listen for cues. Hit their marks. Listen to their scene partners. Take re-direction and emotional adjustments. They improved. They learned to act. And we had SO much fun learning.
Daniela N., a spirited young girl who recently got her braces off said
“I think acting is a fun way to express yourself and it teaches you a lot of new things!” then added “I thought acting was going to be easy and simple but now I can see that acting takes a lot of hard work and you must fully commit.”
Rose E., a bright, shy young girl told me
“I liked that the class wasn’t pressured at all and it was fun. I learned that acting wasn’t as easy as I thought it was and I learned to gain confidence. Acting was something that was fun because you could be someone else, someone you weren’t and toy with that idea. On the first day, I felt nervous because I had very little confidence, but on my last day I felt confident because my teacher taught me so much and I felt like I could really express who I was now.”
Then it hit them, all, almost at the same time. This was their last class. This group would never be together again. And then it happened. The screams got louder. The hugs got tighter. Everyone started exchanging emails and cell phone numbers. And suddenly the happiness turned to tears. (Me included)
Along the way many students got agents. A dozen booked commercials. And every single one found friends for life.
Graduation – Early this Spring those students whose Professional classes have ended this year will be having a graduation ceremony. The Playground rents out a theater at the Century City AMC theater. There is a huge red-carpet event. Last year it was hosted by The Playground’s very own (and I still coach her) Ashley Argota from True Jackson V.P. and now Nickelodeon’s new show Skinner & Bucket’s Epic Adventure. (Also starring Tiffany Espensen who just recently had her last day and will be at graduation this year)
What’s after that?
Junior Varsity/Varsity – Due to the demand to continue classes here at The Playground we created both a Junior Varsity and Varsity Acting classes (which I will teach). Junior Varsity combines both preteen and children graduates and Varsity is for teens, fourteen and over, who have finished the two year program. Both classes focus on audition techniques, more complex and harder emotional challenges, more layered comedy techniques, harder scripts, longer memorization, more advanced skills.
Matthew Kramer, a Tom Sawyer-esque preteen with energy to spare just instant messaged me on my Facebook page as I was writing this.
I’m writing an article for the website about the class you were just in. Want to have a quote in it?
What is something that you learned? Loved? or thought was going to be easy but was much more difficult? What will you miss?
I will miss ALL my teacher’s! But mostly my favorite teacher of all Gayla because she is SO nice and made acting class really easy for me!
Ah thanks. But HOW or WHY did I make it easy for you? How did you learn stuff from me?
I learned from you because I payed attention. And you made it easy for me because you Urn treated me nice and didn’t make me feel embaressed in front of the whole class!
After this eschange he proceeded to tell me that twenty minutes earlier he and his Father were in a car accident where their car spun around seven times. However, even though he was shaken up, he had noticed I was online and had just wanted to say “hi” because he missed class so much. The he wanted to know when his Dad could call me about joining Junior Varsity.
I’m going to really miss this wonderful group of kids.
After each class ends I always ask myself the same question. What did I learn from them? For me as a teacher? I learned that every single student dreams of doing their best work when they come into class. Even if they don’t, they do want to. Teaching them to be free enough to at least try to do their best work is more important then if they did.