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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Returning student Liz Gates ignites a passion for acting at City College

Alloy Zarate
Liz Gates on April 15, 2021 outside of the Garvin Theatre at City College in Santa Barbara, Calif. “Every minute I spend at City College in the Theatre Arts department is a win,” she said.

After Liz Gates’ mother died six years ago, she started to re-examine her life and look for a passion to channel her emotions into.

She tried yoga, drums and ukulele. Then she signed up for her first acting class at City College’s School of Extended Learning.

“I took to it like a fish in water,” she said.

For the first time, Gates had access to a craft that could fully absorb her emotions.

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“For an actor, our currency is our emotions,” she said.

She was nervous for her first day of class being amongst younger students until she made friends with another older student in the class.

“He was in the back row and I was in the front row,” she said. “He moved his seat from the back row to the front row to keep me company”

From that moment, Gates fell in love with acting classes at City College and has been a part-time student for two years.

Acting instructor Katie Laris said acting draws people from all walks of life. Her classes generally have a wide age range of students, from 14-year-old dual enrolled students to 80-year-old returning students.

“What happens when you’ve lived fully is you become a much better actor,” Laris said. “All of those are experiences that you can bring onto the stage.”

Gates calls herself a “film geek.” She is fascinated by observing actors of all kinds and said she’s seen every play at the Garvin Theatre.

“I usually get really good seats but afterwards I’ll go to the very back of the theater and sit there while everyone is leaving and just digest the set and the lights and everything that’s happening,” she said.

In one of her recent jobs, Gates did a professional table read of a screenplay. She was enamored with the variety of actors she met and learned from.

“I met people from everywhere,” she said. “We’re all together for this one day.”

Laris said acting is a field that can create strong connections because it requires vulnerability.

“It’s one of those disciplines that allows you to meet people and forge really deep relationships with the class,” Laris said. “Acting is the work of a lifetime.”

In addition to taking part-time classes and working a full-time job, Gates actively does auditions.

Around 11 p.m. she’ll get on her computer to submit her profile and audition tapes.

“Sometimes there’s a lot of dry time where I’ve submitted maybe 20 audition tapes and I’m not getting a bite,” she said. “And I think, maybe I shouldn’t be doing this anymore.”

But what keeps Gates motivated is knowing that the right job will come for her in due time.

She also does free acting work to consistently “exercise” her acting skills.

“I feel that if I do my job well and show up for the audition, what will be mine will come,” she said.


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