UNCW prof expands local acting school

Shelby Purvis | Staff Writer

Over the decades Wilmington has earned a simple title: Hollywood East. Taking advantage of a growing population of actors, longtime UNCW professor Beth Becka opened Insight School of Acting in November. After almost a full year in business, Becka is transforming her studio, growing her class size and living her dream of teaching performance.

When the school first started out in November, 2011, they only offered two classes and had about 14 students in all. Now, for the upcoming fall semester, Insight will have 50-60 students enrolled.

From “One Tree Hill” to “Matlock,” from “Safe Haven” to “Iron Man 3,” the TV shows and movies filmed here just keep coming, and so do the performers. Whether they’re well-known or just starting out, actors flock to Wilmington, NC–Beth Becka included.

Becka has an extensive background in the world of performance. She performed off-Broadway in New York, pursued acting in LA, and even snagged a role in the 2012 film “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” in a scene opposite Jennifer Lopez. Becka also has an academic background with an M.F.A. in acting and directing and a B.A. in communications and theatre.

But acting was never her ultimate goal. In fact, she’s been teaching at UNCW for over 15 years.

“Even back when I was in college, what I really wanted to do was start a two-year conservatory of the arts,” Becka said.

She got the idea to open up shop in August, 2011 when she realized there were many new film and TV projects coming into town that lots of beginning actors would be auditioning for.

“There really was no school in town, other than the occasional workshop and some private coaches in town- all of whom were excellent,” Becka said. “But there was no ongoing acting program (outside of UNCW) for film and television.”

So Becka came up with a business plan, started her search for instructors, raised the funds and had the doors opened that November.

At the moment, Insight offers an acting class for kids and teens, as well as three separate levels for adult students, depending on their level of experience. There are six instructors, including Becka, all of whom have extensive acting experience.

“Not only are we professionals who are extremely educated, but we also love teaching and we love our students,” Becka said. She said that she believes students will be drawn to the school not only for their teachers but also because of their unique perspective on the acting business.

“One of the things that I want to make sure we do is that it’s not about becoming rich and famous,” Becka said. “It’s about understanding that you’ve been given a gift and to use it with integrity. What we want to do is help people understand that acting is really about having a servant’s heart. The best actors out there, the big names, are people that get this, that understand that it’s not about me–it’s about you.”

Becka also said she encourages students not to be uncertain about an acting career because they think they’re not glamorous enough.

“The perception is often that it’s all about how beautiful we are, how wonderful we are, how white our teeth are and it’s really not,” Becka said. “There are real parts for real people who need to look like real people. So there’s nothing wrong with being a real person with real talent who looks exactly your age, who has exactly your teeth, and all that sort of thing.”

Insight instructor Nick Basta agreed that looks aren’t everything.

“Actors gain confidence at Insight,” he said. “That’s really the core of acting–confidence. You have to know you’re good. Or you’ll die trying.”

The ultimate goal is to transform the school into an accredited two-year conservatory of the arts. But Becka has no intention of the school competing with UNCW.

“I think it would be a great complement to what UNCW is doing, both in their theatre program and their film studies program,” Becka said.

Insight instructor Anthony Reynolds agreed with Becka regarding Insight’s relationship with UNCW.

“I feel that ISA offers a great complement of study to UNCW, for actors and directors,” Reynolds said. “At ISA we delve to various aspects of script analysis, scene study, on-camera acting and the business of the business.”

Katelyn Farrugia, a graduate of UNCW and now, a student at Insight, said that the school was much different from a university classroom.