When the Most Secret Method walked on stage at the Black Cat on Saturday night, singer-guitarist Marc Nelson took a few moments for sentiment. Amid various thank-yous and shout-outs, he sprinkled a little wisdom: “If you’re doing something you hate, stop.” Then the band ripped into its final set until next year.

After four years of recording and touring with the D.C. band, Nelson is turning his performing energies elsewhere. For 13 hours a day, he’ll be studying at the Shakespeare Theatre as part of its inaugural yearlong master’s degree program in classical acting. And though Nelson’s participation means he must quit the live shows that every band feeds on, he is eager for the opportunity to act.

“I’ve wanted to immerse myself completely in theater,” says the nascent acting scholar, who takes his temporary rock hiatus in stride. “Everyone’s sacrificing something; even the professional actors are being asked not to make public appearances. People are changing their lives to participate.” Which is necessary because the classes are intense—the program covers both Jacobean and Shakespearian acting schools in a relatively short time frame.

For the record, Nelson’s “not putting any sort of rock on hold” (the band is still in the middle of mixing its latest full-length album), but he is curtailing his singing duties. He’s been told not to sing at all unless it’s part of a class—a stipulation carefully spelled out in his acceptance letter. “I feel like the band will be able to play,” he says. “We’ll continue to compose, but we just won’t be able to do some shows.”

School for Nelson may also mean change for the Most Secret Method. “One of the many reasons that this program appeals to me is that I can learn how to use my voice much more effectively,” croaks the rocker, who, by the way, sounds a little more like Kathleen Turner than he did four months ago.—Mike Kanin