Continuing Education

“Never Stop Learning”: José Amador Talks About Acting Essentials and a Life in the Theatre

CE Acting Essentials Instructor José Amador says the best indication of a student’s success comes when he hears one say, "I never thought I could do that." Image

Amador has been a theatre artist his entire life, but first started practicing the discipline seriously while in junior high school. “Since then, I've almost left it behind twice, only to come running back immediately,” he says. “My college education was at a program that stressed the importance of the mantra ‘never stop learning’ and I've been living up to that motto ever since. Teaching performance is just the latest iteration of that mantra. I've been performing in Seattle for 25 years now, a listing of all my credits would take up the rest of this space.”

Considering the extensive life experience Amador has in practicing theatre, it comes as little surprise no one particular theatrical discipline is his favorite. “It honestly depends on when you ask me. In recent months, I've been focusing on the acting and directing aspects of my career...perhaps it'd be better to explain why I appreciate each facet of the discipline: Acting because I like embodying a character, the more different than me the better and because I like bringing a playwright's words to life. Writing, the sheer power of creation, of crafting situations that represent our complex lives and how to get through them. Directing is similar to acting in that I am solely responsible for bringing a playwright's world into being. All decisions flow through this position and that is where the fun and stress reside. Producing, probably the one discipline I do least, because it is such an important role in a theatrical production. Nothing gets seen without someone to produce and an audience to see it.”

Why, you might ask, is a creative pursuit that pays so little (if at all), offers no job security and been decried as a dying art form since before the rise of cinema such a great passion for ImageAmador? “You may as well ask why oxygen is important to me,” he says. “Honestly, I see theatre as an extension of me, though I think that applies to everyone whether they're conscious of it or not. Seriously, the arts are an important part of being able to express ideas and new emotions. That importance only increases the more one practices doing it.”

Amador first considered the value of teaching a beginning acting class after repeatedly faced with directing actors suffering a lack of actual stage experience. “Most of their experience came from working in front of a camera,” recalls Amador. “These folks didn't realize that there was a world of difference (between stage and film) and that there was a discipline that made their job much easier to maintain while truly highlighting their talent.”

When it comes to teaching Acting Essentials, Amador says he most looks forward to creating a group of talented actors who leave the class that much more aware of their capabilities. “I’m in pursuit of creating a group of talented actors who are now just that much more aware of what they can do with their instrument, their body,” he says. “Also, the group performance at the end of the scheduled classes; that's where we find the proof in the pudding.”

Teaching an acting class is not entirely about guiding students in finding a character’s intention and learning their lines. It also has much to do with establishing a supportive creative space. “(W)e start every class with a group warm up,” says Amador. “This allows everyone to get on the same page. It also helps all to realize that, regardless of expertise, we are all in this venture together. This is important because theater asks the actor/actress to take risks.”

Amador points out an actor’s process goes far beyond learning lines and following blocking. “It takes a lot to allow yourself to be in front of a group of strangers, whether that means playing a slightly different version of you or someone completely alien to your present self. This is achieved through incremental immersion into the discipline (e.g. the discussion of Imagetheatrical concepts like ‘super-objective,’ ‘sightlines’ and the like) while treating the classroom like rehearsals for the final performance. I essentially become the entire class's director as I ask the students to practice these principles with their fellow classmates and among themselves during and outside class—all while having fun.”

Amador looks forward to guiding students through a new realm of self-discovery while watching them discover they are far more capable of mastering acting than they think. “I hope students take away new appreciation for the amount of work and thinking it takes to create a theatrical experience and beauty of losing yourself in the performance. I hope they discover the confidence it takes to sign up, and show up to an audition and accept the outcome, regardless of what it may be.”

Learn more about Acting Essentials.

Photo credit#1: Ian Johnston
Photo credit #2: Andrea Sassenrath
Photo credit #3: Bruce Tom