Your First Acting Class

Matt Dearing

Taking your first acting class is scary… but is the fear real?

There’s something inside you that wants to see if you have what it takes to be an actor. Maybe you want this to be a career, a new hobby or just make a checkmark on the old bucket list. Either way, you’re about to be taking your first acting class. 

Whatever the reason, the same fears creep up in all of us.

Am I good enough?
What will people think when they find out I’m in acting class?
Am I crazy?
What if they tell me I’m not talented?
Why am I doing this?

Taking an acting class can feel like forcing yourself to dive head first into the middle of an ocean without a life preserver. In this post we will discuss the truths about acting class and how to overcome those fears no matter your situation. I’m going to share my own personal experiences in the hope they may help you realize that you can do this and that there are good people out there willing to share their life boat as you navigate the open water.

Let’s Set the Stage (Dad Pun Intended)

Before I move forward here, let me start with a quick introduction. My name is Shea Toepel and I’m the director of operations as well as an instructor at the best acting studio in Phoenix, Arizona, Dearing Acting Studio. And I’m not just saying that to get the SEO optimization for writing “best acting school in Arizona”, but because my acting journey took me many places and I have the experience to make that statement with confidence. Also not for nothing but our studio has won AZ Foothills Best of the Valley for Best Acting Studio five years running.

My story is unique and the journey to being a great actress is far from over but in the process of getting to where I am now with a bachelor in fine arts, tons of theater credits, an acting agent, commercial credits, becoming a casting assistant, acting coach, etc. The list goes on but the truth is that all I have become and all I will become is a reflection of my belief system. And THAT is what I got and what you will get from an acting program like we have here at Dearing Acting Studio.

My Acting Story – The Abbreviated Version

**Side note** Why is the word abbreviate so long? A question we will have to come back at another time.

First off, know that there is no right or wrong time to start acting. At the Dearing Acting Studio, we have students from 4 yrs and up. We have several stories of students who began acting for the first time in their seventies, and who now have full-time careers! In fact, the benefits of learning to be an actor later in life are remarkable. And at the same time, we are home to kids, teens, millennials, etc. You get the drift. The point is that acting is for everyone!

OK, back to me.

Speaking of child actors, I was one of those kids who began dreaming of becoming an actor early. Somehow at 12 years old I just knew this was for me. No plan B. No clue as to how I was going to do it, but that never mattered, acting was just something I had to do. So I jumped in headfirst (which is the right way to do it by the way, but I was lucky since at the time I didn’t really know any better) and got to work. Our family had just moved back from Hawaii to Arizona. My go-to audition move was to sing 32 bars of the Hawaiian state song. Totally worked. I landed a few lead roles with a unique song most people hadn’t heard before and a mindset that wasn’t self-defeating. Huh… maybe 12-year-old me was on to something.

Moving forward

I promised the abbreviated version so here you go. Trained in AZ at a community theatre for a while, 4 years of high school thespian troupe. Almost fell for an agency talent scam and left for college. (Read this article written by Dearing Acting Studios’ studio director, Matthew Dearing on how to avoid these acting industry scams) I attended California State University, Fullerton as a theatre student, and learned from great coaches there about Stanislavski, Meisner, and Uta Hagen. Then came back to Arizona and finished my last year at Arizona State University earning a fine arts degree Summa Cum Laude.

The point here is that I had by this time quite a few hours logged in as an actress.

Soooooo… Now What? Right? What do I do?

The truth is that when I moved back to Arizona I brought some major FEAR baggage with me. The fact that I was not on a major television show by now and had no clue as to what to do next felt embarrassing. I felt like I had failed at my dream.

Finally, with some hard mental work and tough love from those who cared most about me, I got back on the horse. My mindset began to shift. Although I had legitimate training under my belt, I knew deep down that I needed more. I desperately wanted to get myself back to that magical 12-year-old girl inside who was going to do this no matter what anyone said. Oh, and also who didn’t know that she had to pay the bills. And this is what I believe; when you’re ready to find that magic and really want to work on yourself in more ways than you think are even possible, that is when you will find your way to the Dearing Acting Studio.

The Magic of Dearing Acting Studio

Since I was now a college graduate, I was able to ask an expert for advice on what to do next. I googled “best acting school in Arizona” and Dearing Acting Studio was right at the top of the list. I called the number and signed up. And here is where I want to take a second to sympathize with anyone who has ever hesitated to join an acting class even if you know with everything inside you that it’s the right thing to do. I can still remember the week ahead of my first class; I had knotted myself into a nervous wrecking ball.

I kept asking myself:

Am I good enough to make acting a career?
Have I missed my shot to be an actor?
Will this studio be everything I want?
What do I even want?

Take a Breath Shea

Looking back I can see now that I was at the wrong place to get what I thought I wanted. Like many novices, I thought I wanted:

  • Validation
  • To book an agent (blog post about this to follow)
  • My instructors and peers to think I was “good”.
  • Someone to tell me that my plan to be an actor was going to work out.

Finally, the day of my first acting class at Dearing Acting Studio arrived and although I had all these years of experience, I was still somehow terrified. I showed up 45 minutes early just to sit in the parking lot watching the other students walk inside. Admission – I even called my mom and talked her ear off about how nervous I was, and she replied, “Shea, get out of your car and go be an actress”. (Thanks for the tough love, Ma!) So I did. I grabbed my sparkly gold notebook (that 12 year old was still in there) and walked in.

Let’s Wrap This Up – Plot Twist! Taking your first acting class is actually not that scary

Walking into Dearing Acting Studio I was given none of what I thought I wanted. Instead, I have received so much more that it’s hard to describe. The vibe that first night was electrifying. They didn’t care about me being in California. Didn’t care that I had a degree or that I was scared out of my mind. They didn’t care any more than they cared about the person next to me who had no experience and too much confidence. It was clearly stated and then demonstrated that the only thing this studio cared about was making everyone in the room a better version of themselves.

That first night was amazing. The students were laughing and encouraged one another from beginning to end. The instructors were able to push each of us right where we were ensuring that everyone in the room got better no matter where they came from or what they had done. I was looking for magic, and I found it.

On my way home, I unpacked the class in my mind. The black and yellow Dearing sign loudly illuminated like a neon dream. There was something so different about this place. They cared for us and for each other. I realized the magic was that this acting studio wasn’t just a training center for aspiring artists. It was a training center for inspired humans looking to be better, and that was a place I wanted to be at.

How Does This Story End?

The cool part is I have no idea and thanks to this studio I’m good with that. My frame of mind has shifted and allowed me to let go of the death grip I had on getting to point B. Instead,  I allow myself to see the beauty in the process of point A to point B. I now get the chance to help others who have their own story and reason why they’ve been pulled into this place. I’m doing what I love every day and working with people who demand growth. I work with those who want only the best from one another each and every day.

Our leader Matthew Dearing holds our team, our students and himself to the idea that we must constantly be moving our floor. Essentially, we are working to continually grow. We are expected to fail and celebrated for doing so. He reminds us that the only way to learn is to try, fall and get back up.

The Truth

At our studio, there is no perfect beginning and there is no finish line. If you are looking for the certificate and for someone to tell you you’re good even when that may not be the truth then our place isn’t for you. But if you sincerely want to develop yourself both as an actor and a human being, then show up. We are your people. If you are on the fence in any way, then jump. Jump with two feet and don’t look back. You can do this and we will help as a guide to your success.

I’m so grateful to be a part of this amazing studio team and family of students. We have so many amazing adventures ahead of us. I look forward to growing right along with each one of you.