Art Brueggeman, left, working with actor Daniel Reichert during an Acting Intensive Program summer class.
Art Brueggeman is retired. He started taking acting classes in SCR's Theatre Conservatory in 2019. We asked him to share with us some of his experiences.
“What on earth prompted you to do that?”
“Did you ever do any acting before, like in high school or college?”
“I could never do that.”
…that is what I heard from friends and family when I told them I signed up for acting classes.
To which I said…
- On a complete lark.
- No, never.
- No, I’m not, unless the bar for brave is very low.
- You not only could. You should.
I retired from a career in finance and accounting years ago. Although I thought my creative and art-appreciation side was alive, in retrospect I can see it was undernourished and underdeveloped. My left brain had basically dominated my life, though there is nothing inherently wrong with an over-developed left brain. I could have lived out my years, happy…and oblivious…to what I was missing. My outside interests, mostly reading and playing guitar (the latter which I also took up late in life), kept me entertained. My family and friends are a continuing joy. Yet, there was a longing that I couldn’t put my finger on. One thing I did know: I wasn’t done learning and growing.
"How the Hell Do Actors Remember All Those Lines?"
On a “lark” I signed up for Acting l at SCR in the fall of 2016—three hours every Tuesday evening for 8 weeks. I was anxious before walking into class, thinking that I might not be able to engage without embarrassing myself. I’m self-conscious. I like to be in control. Besides, how the hell do actors remember all those lines anyway? Finally, what am I going to do with “acting?”
It turns out, a lot. But it isn’t what you might think.
There is a dichotomy in people’s impression of the craft and skill of acting. Fear of doing it is rooted in the same rocky soil as the classic No. 1 fear—public speaking, which is, after all, performing in front of an audience. Subjecting oneself to being “judged.” Well, take public speaking up a few notches and you have acting.
Then I heard this: “But, as long as you’re not afraid of being the focus of attention and you remember your lines…the ‘acting’ part itself must be pretty easy, right?” Not.
If it was easy, anyone could do it and it wouldn’t be any more remarkable than mastering walking upright. The only people who think acting is easy are those who don’t know how to do it. Acting is a craft. Developing the skills to appreciate and hone the craft is worthy of the same dedication and focus as any other. It is in the process, in the learning, where joy and fulfillment live.
I walked out of that first class exhilarated. Whatever worries and concerns I had about the world situation and other things going on were at least temporarily pushed to the background. It was fun and eye-opening. The teacher was an enthusiastic, supportive and experienced actor. The class included students in their early 20s all the way up to retirees. Some had acting experience, mostly from high school and college, though quite a few had done community theatre as well. Very few were complete rookies like me. The evening flew by.
In the ensuing months, I signed up for Acting II, Acting III and Improv, repeating each several times along the way. I treated my new endeavor as I would any other skill-building path. We focused at first on acting games and exercises and monologues, eventually moving to scene-study work, (i.e. acting with a fellow student as a scene partner, in character, from a selected play.) This required memorizing dialogue, outside-of-class rehearsing, presenting it in class and getting “notes” from the teacher (think: what to do differently), then doing it all again the next week. It became clear why the best definition of acting is: Living Truthfully Under Imaginary Circumstances.
The Acting Intensive Program (AIP) two summers ago came next—7 weeks, six hours per day (plus outside work), under the direction of Matthew Arkin and numerous other experienced, working actors, directors and skill coaches. We worked on multiple scene studies, auditioning (under the direction of Joanne DeNaut, CSA, SCR’s casting director), acting for camera, voice and movement, and more. What a ride! The culmination of all the summer work was a full-on production of selected scenes from highly regarded plays, with invited friends and family in the audience, on the Julianne Argyros Stage.
I enjoyed the AIP so much that I did it again last summer and benefitted from it even more the second time around.
So, what did I get out of it? I spent seven weeks getting to know and work with delightful, high-energy human beings of all ages, most with significantly more acting training than I had. I grew and witnessed stunning growth in my classmates. I stepped outside myself and I’m the better for it. I sweated, but held my own, giving me a sense of accomplishment. My respect for the craft and skill of acting grew by magnitudes. It has informed and deepened my awareness of and appreciation for live theatre performances and film. If I want to, I can certainly audition for theatre anywhere, but I don’t feel compelled to do that for this to have been a rich and worthy life experience.
There's an acting class for you in SCR's Theatre Conservatory—any time of the year. Check out the upcoming class schedules for kids, teens and adults to learn more.