SCR isn’t just a great place to see live theatre; it’s also a great place to learn about different aspects of theatre. On a year-round basis, SCR’s Theatre Conservatory offers acting classes for kids, teens and adults in the safe environment of our Tony Award-winning theatre. Led by experienced professional artists, students engage in lively instruction and deepen their understanding of the craft of acting, all while developing important life skills. Students can select from various classes including the Summer Acting Workshop (kids and teens), musical theatre, playwriting, acting for the camera, Improv and much more. In this ongoing series, we’re introducing some of the instructors. Meet Emily Heebner.
Who was the teacher that inspired you in your acting studies—and in what way?
Robert Schenkkan (Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, actor). I had always acted in plays throughout my school years, but didn't understand acting as anything more than showing off. Then, as a freshman at Cornell University, I took Intro to Acting with Robert Schenkkan—It changed my life. He was an MFA student there at the time and teaching lower-division classes. And I remember seeing him play Quentin in After the Fall and Satine in The Lower Depths. On stage, he was unrecognizable from the slight, modest teacher of our class. In the plays, he was tall, handsome and dangerous. In class, he seemed small, non-descript-looking and encouraging. I remember panicking before the opening of The Real Inspector Hound, in which I was playing Felicity. I was suffering from an acute case of self-consciousness because I really had no control over what I was doing. Sometimes it worked, but often it didn't. He counseled me to forget everyone else and do it for myself. That stuck with me all these years.
What should students expect when they walk into class?
I try to help create a safe space for people to be creative and explore the acting process together.
What’s your best class memory of an “aha!” moment for a student?
Numerous, but I guess I'm not comfortable singling people out. It happens pretty often.
What do you learn from your students?
Humility. How much courage it takes to act—and how much grace it takes to accept and implement notes.
Are acting classes only for folks interested in acting? What are the other benefits?
The other benefits to taking classes at SCR include the opportunity to explore creativity with other motivated adults, to explore communication techniques outside one's comfort zone, to stretch imaginatively and cognitively. The classes can help enthusiastic audience members understand and appreciate the work they see on stage and film. They will likely view the acting and writing crafts at a deeper level.
How would your students describe your teaching style?
That I do my best to meet individual needs. There are multiple skill levels and varying types of previous experience in every group. Plus, folks sign up for the classes for myriad reasons. So I try my best to meet the varied needs while balancing the class as a whole while trying to stay on schedule. I always wish we had more time. Eight weeks goes by fast. You get to know each other and develop wonderful working relationships within the class. I always want to keep going.
Why might acting classes be scary for some folks and how can they overcome that fear?
Like anything, the more you do it, the less scary it becomes. I try to reward myself when I push myself to try something new. Some people sign up with a friend. I think it's wise to let the instructor know you're frightened, but have always wanted to try acting or writing or whatever the class is that you've signed up for. Most of us teach because we love students and want to help. If I know someone's scared, but has always wanted to try an acting class, it helps me remember to say something special to that person at the end of class. Encouragement can go a long way to helping someone overcome fear. Encouragement and practice.
What’s your favorite dessert?
Anything, not much of a foodie.
Learn more about year-round acting classes at SCR's Theatre Conservatory.