Kathryn Rae Zeigler.
Acting for Your Life
By Kate Barry
Entire contents copyright © 2015 Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
Choosing the life of an actor doesn’t always mean you’ll be living in a cardboard box. Sure, you get an acting gig here and there but does it pay the bills? Are the regional theater gigs worth the years studying Shakespeare, Stanislavski and Pinter? With the right guidance and advice, the life of an actor can be successful and smart. Like any field, an actor’s life can have it’s up and downs. Many factors play into a successful career. Talent, for sure, but what about having the know-how to figure out health insurance, contracts and fair pay? If only there was a place where actors and theater artists could gain these tools from someone who knows first-hand what it’s like to have an acting career.
Enter Kathryn Zeigler. In 2005, Ms. Zeigler created an acting class for students to work on their craft. She noticed that these actors all shared similar struggles and used her class to voice their concerns. She knew what she had to do. The class transformed into a sharing place as well as a provider for valuable resources and tools. With that, Acting For Your Life (AFYL) was born.
Kathryn wears many hats as the creator of AFYL, but also has the overwhelming support of her husband and business partner, Todd Zeigler, who entered the program in 2010 as a student. Todd manages the communications and content areas of this small business while Kathryn teaches the classes, all while raising three daughters. In the past year, this team has increased their online presence to include podcasts, a YouTube channel and a blog. According to Kathryn, the weekly podcasts have seventy-five thousand weekly listeners stretching all over the world, including a huge following in Ghana and South Africa.
As former students, Kathryn and Todd can personally testify that Acting For Your Life classes are effective. The most impactful, says Kathryn, is the Life and Career Intensive, the course all beginners must take before moving into other classes. “This course provides tools to help artists balance their personal and professional life,” says Kathryn. The intensive is one part life coaching littered with basic life skills and one part acting career advice. This particular curriculum features one of Kathryn’s favorite exercises. Each actor answers a series of seven questions that are randomly drawn from a hat and presented as monologues. Often these presentations raise common issues like rejection and self-doubt. According to Kathryn, this exercise shows students that their situations are not “impossible for change”, and “barriers are broken” between students. AFYL also offers courses on Becoming A Working Actor, Moving To A New Market and Stage Parenting for young actors. With each class, a one-on-one, private coaching session is included for each student.
The Zeiglers offer other unique opportunities for those who do not want to enroll in classes but still want to experience what AFYL has to offer. Wise Words Wednesdays and Actor’s Roundtable allow for professionals to discuss and share from their experiences through podcasts. Motivational Mondays is another podcast where artists address topics that up and coming artists might be afraid to address and other unpleasant situations. Online technology has worked well for Acting For Your Life. Through these channels, says the Zeiglers they are “able to reach a community” to show artists of all kinds that they “have the choice to not suffer for their art.”
Kathryn and Todd hope to set an example for their local theater community, worldwide listeners as well as their own family. “Every actor has a challenge”, says Kathryn, and that is, “figuring out what each actor in particular needs.” Future plans include working with cast members in Kentucky Shakespeare Festival 2016 summer season as well as many extensive college tours.
For Todd and Kathryn, Acting For Your Life works wonders. Having gone through the program during a tough divorce a few years ago, Kathryn says that through these classes, an actor, “must take ownership of their career” and “learn from your failures.” As an actress, Kathryn maintains, “your scars don’t define you, they serve purpose.” From the Zeigler’s successes and failures, Acting For Your Life proves that as an actor you “don’t have to forsake life for art – you can have both”, says Todd. And as two actors who have had long careers in the arts, it’s clear they know what they’re talking about.
Kate Barry earned her Bachelors in English with a Theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has written for Leo Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. Thanks for reading!