Katie Riffey was always interested in perfoming, but she never allowed herself to explore it. Last fall the 25-year-old executive assistant signed up for a class at DC Improv’s Comedy School.
“It’s a great escape,” Riffey says. “Cubicles and desks can be soul killers.”
Joy Zinoman, founding artistic director of Studio Theatre, sees a variety of motivations among her students. “Perhaps they’ve always had a secret desire to try acting but never did,” she says. “And speaking through a character often helps those who have trouble communicating in life.”
Zinoman believes that how a class is taught is more important than what is taught: “The only thing that matters in acting training is the devotion of the teacher.”
The area’s most respected acting schools are associated with Studio, Shakespeare Theatre Company, and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.
Studio’s Acting Conservatory (1501 14th St., NW; 202-232-7267; studiotheatre.org) offers a three-year curriculum but accepts everyone at the entry level; beyond that, students must be admitted on the basis of an evaluation. Classes such as “The Actor’s Process” and “Principles of Realism” teach fundamentals. At semester’s end, participants perform before an audience. One- or two-day workshops such as “Stage Combat” ($125 to $175) can give a taste of what the 18-week courses ($375 to $500) offer.
The Shakespeare Theatre (516 Eighth St., NW; 202-547-5688; shakespearetheatre.org) offers classes taught by the company’s actors. Some are Shakespearean, while others, such as “Acting for Business Professionals,” have a more practical focus. The two-hour classes run 10 to 12 weeks and cost $325 to $375.
Woolly Mammoth (641 D St., NW; 202-289-2443; woollymammoth.net) is known for new, edgy plays. It brings that approach to classes, including the beginner-level “Acting A to Z” and “Acting for the Camera,” in which students work with video equipment. Classes don’t include a performance. The eight-week courses cost $260 to $280.
For a different kind of experience, consider improvisational comedy at DC Improv (1140 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-296-7008; dcimprov.com) . Using no written scripts, classes promote quick thinking. A six-week session costs $215. A second-level class culminates in a student show, free and open to the public.