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CLASSY CLASSES: Students take to the stage in TAPS 20: Acting for Non-Majors

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Theater and Performance Studies (TAPS) 20: Acting for Non-Majors, welcomes Stanford students from any acting background to learn how to act.

The class, which can be taken for one to three units, is taught by professor Kay Kostopoulos, who in addition to teaching acting, voice, speech and Shakespeare in the Department of Theater and Continuing Studies Program is a professional actor.

The class, graded on a satisfactory or no-credit basis and fulfilling the Creative Expression graduation requirement, has seen a rise in popularity in recent years.

“It’s become enormously popular — there is always a waiting list,” Kostopoulos said. “I teach it four times a year, every quarter; I have two sections because there was so much of a demand.”

The course came into being when Kostopoulos realized that many people at Stanford had an artistic calling but lacked the outlet or confidence to express it.

“I know people all over the University who want to have creative expression, and this class gives them their first opportunity to do that,” Kostopoulos said.

This idea frames the focus of the course. As an introductory acting class, it emphasizes developing self-awareness and communication skills through creative expression. As a result, the course hopes to present to students novel and stimulating challenges.

“The challenge is stepping out of you comfort zone, doing something you’ve never done before,” Adorie A. Howard ’17 said.

Students come into the class with varied skill and levels of experience. However, the course has value for students of all ability.

“Everyone’s at different levels,” Howard said. “Some people come in with no experience while other people were on Broadway, but Kay is working to make everyone better.”

Christina Medina ’15, who was inspired to become a TAPS major after taking the class, shared similar sentiments.

“It’s not just one group, it’s a diverse collection of people,” Medina said. “Kay can take even the quietest person in the room and work with them.”

The course’s main assignment is a five- to eight-minute scene performed and organized by the students, who get into pairs. In preparation students take part in a series of exercises during the course of their study. For example, one exercise that many students found memorable required them to stare into a partner’s eye for two minutes.

The course includes other similar exercises.

“We were paired up and asked to describe personal stories,” Suraj B. Bulchand ’18 said. “I talked about the time I had to enlist in the army in Singapore [and] my partner told anther story.

“When we had a discussion about what that felt like and how we remember the story, a lot of it had to do with non-tangible things like emotion and demeanor that I picked up on and conveyed,” he added.

Students taking TAPS 20, despite the substantial workload involved, see the class as a refuge from the hustle and bustle of regular Stanford life.

“The work is something I want to do. It’s a fun class, it’s stress-free and it teaches you more than you think it will,” Bulchand said.

Each week, The Stanford Daily will be spotlighting a unique, popular or otherwise interesting course for the recurring series called Classy Classes.

Contact Zachary Brown at brown ‘at’ stanford.edu.