Class boosts confidence, helps people de-stress

Once a week, when Shannon Kelloway, 18, wants to wind down after her lifeguarding shift at a Halifax-area pool, she pulls on a pair of sweats and heads downtown.

Not long after, Kelloway finds herself clambering up the side of a steep mountain. About 10 minutes later, she’s cruising around in a car with a friend. Five minutes after that, she’s on a leisurely horseback ride.

The entire time, she’s taking part in an amateur acting class at Neptune Theatre, where improvisational games allow young, wannabe actors to practise their craft, and others a chance to break out of their shells.


“What I get out of this class is a lot more confidence in myself,’’ says Kelloway, standing in a rehearsal studio moments after completing a boisterous, two-hour class.

“You almost have to learn how to be natural with yourself. Just to, like, come to class and literally have fun and not care what anybody else thinks.”

Kelloway is among more than a dozen people enrolled in the eight-week, introduction to acting class taught by a local actor.

The students play theatre games, which often involve acting out short, on-the-fly scenes without props or scripts.

Kelloway — who was bitten by the acting bug after seeing a production of the classic musical Cats — says she hopes to study theatre in university and pursue a career as an actor.

But not everyone is interested in making the leap from the rehearsal studio to centre stage.

For Kyria Olshefsky, a first-year student at the University of King’s College, the acting class simply beats spending another evening in the library.

Alexis Milligan, who teaches the introduction to acting class, says a musical theatre course has become the latest thing among young people, thanks to Disney’s popular High School Musical franchise.

But she agrees her classes do more than just improve students’ acting chops. Performing in front of others teaches people how to communicate efficiently and with confidence.

“There’s a lot of stuff (like) not getting into a panic when you have to do something in front of people, say you’ve got a speech or a presentation,’’ says Milligan. “How do you breathe through an event like that? How can you manage your thoughts? Eye contact, focus ... All of those things are extremely useful tools.’’

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