WHILE NO LOCAL professional would contend that Washington has the resources for actor training (particularly for on-camera work) of New York or Los Angeles, there is training -- and good training -- here. Studio Theatre, for example, offers a three-year program, which aims, says artistic director Joy Zinoman, "to turn out working actors."
In any case, more choices do not necessarily mean better training, claims director Dorothy Neumann. "Anybody can hang out a shingle and say they teach acting," she says. "Just because someone is in New York or L.A. doesn't mean they're good. There are a lot of hacks there, too."
So where to start to find an acting class locally?
One place is the Actors' Center, a nonprofit Washington organization founded in 1981 as an information clearinghouse for actors, according to staffer Ginger Moss. Their hotline provides members news of auditions, jobs and classes -- mostly for stage training. Moss says local community theaters and smaller professional theaters such as Source, Studio and Round House are good sources for classes.
For on-camera experience, actor Beau James, a veteran of numerous acting classes, suggests starting with a course in acting for commercials, where dialogue is limited. "You'll get on camera right away -- maybe three or four times in the course of the workshop -- and get a taste of what it's like."
"Finding the right teacher is like finding the right therapist," James says. "Because acting styles are so different, someone who is a good teacher for one person may be awful for another."
His best advice is to ask actors whose work you admire where they have studied locally, and then go observe those teachers' classes.
And check out a teacher's credentials. "If someone tells you they're the casting director for 'The Guiding Light,' " call CBS and find out if they really are," says Keith Clark of Actors Comprehensive Training.
In choosing training, Neumann adds, "An actor is really at the mercy of his or her own intelligence." ACTORS COMPREHENSIVE TRAINING - ACT offers a variety of on-camera workshops for film and television. Call 703/960-4337. THE ACTORS CENTER Serves as a clearinghouse for information on the local theater community. Besides its hotline, the center offers a monthly newsletter for members, weekly
Saturday-morning workshops and two annual showcases of scenes. Membership is $45, $30 for students. Call 202/638-3777.