When he’s not appearing on stage as an actor, Richard Soto can often be found teaching one of the beginning acting classes in the Youth Conservatory.
Because he’s been teaching acting for more than 15 years, this is as much Soto’s natural habitat as the stage. To him, along with all of SCR’s Conservatory staff of professional working artists, teaching acting starts with one fundamental lesson.
“At SCR, it’s all about the process,” Soto explained. “The process equals life skills. In order to do a play, you have to collaborate, you have to listen, you have to focus and you have to apply that every day in rehearsal and on the stage. You develop the confidence and we nurture that confidence to make creative choices that are required for every individual.”
In Soto’s classes, that begins with games. He opens with games designed to break the ice and reduce tension. In turn, that release of tension opens up communication. From there, Soto puts his students in groups and asks them to find five things they all have in common.
“I was teaching a group of fifth and sixth graders and I asked them this question and told them to be creative,” he said. “One said ‘We’re all single.’ Everyone’s eyes got wide. And I said that was good to know. Another kid said ‘We’re all alive.’ When they’re using answers like that, it’s above and beyond ‘We all like the color blue.’ We’re moving in the right direction.
“We have to learn about each other. You’re going to be working on a scene together. You have to make the audience believe your relationship is real. But before that, you have to trust them and trust yourself.”
Soto teaches Kids Year 1—Exploration to 5th and 6th graders Tuesdays from 4-6 p.m. He also teaches Teen Year 1—Tools of Acting to 7th-through-9th graders Wednesdays from 4-6 p.m. Classes are grouped by age and every class is led by an instructor who brings knowledge, passion and a desire to create a strong foundation for students that goes beyond the stage.
“I enjoy teaching because I found my voice in sharing what I love as an actor,” Soto said. “Revealing to people who are curious about what that world is like. What we’re thinking about when we’re trying to create our characters. What we’re thinking about when we’re in the middle of a scene. The challenges an actor has in acting. It’s not simply taking a piece of paper with lines on it and reciting it. It’s creating as believable a character as possible, a living breathing human being with intellectual and emotional contact.”
Youth Conservatory classes begin Jan. 11 and run to March 19. Give your child or grandchild the gift that keeps giving, one that helps them discover hidden abilities while it builds creativity, self-confidence and communication skills. All with the byproduct of making new friends that often last a lifetime.
“I tell them ‘I’m their biggest fan.’ I’m the biggest kid in the room and you can do no wrong,” Soto said. “When you go to a theatre and see a play, it’s that. We play. It’s serious fun.”