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  • Writer's pictureIan Soares

How We Create a Safe Space

Acting training requires an exploration of your vulnerability. Learn how we make our space safe for your growth.

Student performing their original one-man play
Student, Henry Ainsworth performs his original work for the first time.

Emily Firth, one of our acting faculty members explains Berridge to be a "coming of age experience" where students can "find and express their voice through the medium of acting." This is a perfect description of what a student's first time at Berridge might be all about. Acting may largely be a new experience for many of the students enrolled in our summer programs. For someone that is just getting introduced to the world of conservatory-style arts training, it is important that they be placed in a safe, judgement-free, and nurturing atmosphere. The term "safe space" has been adopted by many collegiate-level arts programs around the country to describe their supportive teaching environments. At Berridge, we believe in developing and maintaining a safe space. It is important to note that the definition of what a safe space is is always changing and therefore, we are always learning. We strongly encourage feedback from our students as to how we can better suit their needs during their time with us.

The benefits of Safe Space

By default, we should treat our fellow students and instructors with respect. Hopefully 'respect for others' is a concept that is already well engrained in many of us but it is worth emphasizing as it is the first step towards creating a safe space. Additionally, it is necessary that students trust each other as well as their instructor. Trust can be a difficult thing to earn. At Berridge, we allow as much time as necessary to build that trust between our students and instructors in the first week on our grounds. As students get acclimated to our space after arrival, faculty will host daily activities with the goal of building trust and more importantly, trying something new! Once students and faculty develop that all important trust bond, our regular classes will begin and we can get to work. A safe space in an arts classroom ensures productivity and paves the way for creative expression. With everyone on their side, students will feel encouraged to push their limits and explore their personal unknown. Take a look at our video below to see how instructor Emily Firth structures her classes at Berridge to promote creativity and safe space!

Uncomfortable Versus Unsafe

There is a difference between discomfort and being unsafe in an acting studio. Discomfort is necessary- it means a student is in their growing stage of their training. It is natural that trying new things will be uncomfortable and while we will push you to explore your most creative and vulnerable self, we promise that you will be safe and supported. The magical thing about acting that attracts so many people to the art form is that actors are able to live in the reality of the story on-stage and then revert back to their personal reality post performance. The transition from discomfort to unsafe can occur when the two realities of an actor begin to intermingle. An actor will have the responsibility of handling emotionally complex and intricate characters that will require a significant amount of rehearsal time. To successfully detach from the work after rehearsal, it is necessary that instructors demonstrate the importance of a warm-up and cool down. Having a ritual that works for you will allow you to grow and absorb the material taught in class without experiencing the pain and frustration that might come with poor process.

Musical Theatre student singing a solo on stage
Student, Pia Ysobel Cruz performs her solo Musical Theatre piece in her final showcase.

The definition of safe space will evolve and every acting student holds the term to a different standard. Feedback from acting students at Syracuse University show that their instructors are even moving past the term "safe space" and transitioning to what they call "brave space." The intention behind the modified title is to encourage students to take bigger risks in their work. While the word 'safe' can be applicable in a literal sense, it shouldn't give students the idea that no risk is involved in learning to act. Vulnerability is risky and uncomfortable at first, but it must be practiced to achieve truth in your work.

At Berridge, we believe in an atmosphere that promotes creativity. We will introduce our students to what working in a safe space means to us and guide them in discovering what it means for them.

Applications are now open for all programs. Students will be admitted to Spotlight, Generate, Summer in France, and Creative Semester programs on a rolling basis following completion of all application materials. We hope to welcome you to the Berridge family very soon.

For information on our new scholarships, please click here!


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