Training: My Wish List

My perspective on training has certainly shifted since coming to LA. Everyone here is taking classes. Now, maybe you think that is because people are taking advantage of the poor actor and extorting him/her for all he/she is worth. There will always be people doing that, especially in this town. HOWEVER, there are some freaking amazing teachers in this town and you are either penniless, too timid or too proud if you don’t take advantage of learning from the best of the best. In this town, it seems like everyone takes specific or ongoing classes in leu of a bachelors or masters. Hey, I have a lot of affection for my little theatre program and the people that I met there, but I have to say that there is so much more that I need to know for my career than what I learned there.  In Seattle, it seems to me that ongoing training is not highly valued. Of course it can’t hurt, but I never got the idea that it was necessary. As long as you get cast, neither the need nor the expectation was there. Last year, because I wasn’t getting cast where I wanted to, I started to desire more training. These are the options that I found in Seattle.

  • Charles Waxberg with Theatre 9/12. He hosts an ongoing class (the only one I know of in Seattle) which uses scenes as a means by which to study the Stella Adler technique.
  • Freehold. They offer a wide range of classes from Voice to Meisner. If you have a specific aspect of your craft you want to work on, you can probably find a class that addresses it there. Often the faculty there offer coaching too.
  • David S. Hogan, Angela DiMarco and Tony Doupe with Mighty Tripod Productions. They now offer on-camera classes for adults and children. I am sure they have some other courses up their sleeves as well, so stay tuned. They are committed to raising the bar in Seattle!
  • Steven Anderson with Actorswork. Steven teaches in LA on a regular basis, but travels up to Seattle every few months to do weekend intensives.

These are the main places, that I know of, where a professional actor can study outside of college in Seattle.
In LA, I learned very quickly that ongoing training is an expectation. Agents and Managers ask you who you are studying with. The name of the teacher is less important than the fact that you are studying and improving your craft. The competition is so fierce here that there isn’t room for laziness or complacency. “YOU MUST TRAIN” is the motto. Athletes train. We should be held to just as high a standard.
As for the teachers here, I don’t even know where to begin. I have barely scratched the surface of all the acting teachers here. However, I have had the chance audit and visit a few. (If money were infinite)… Here is my acting class wish list in LA:

  • Lesly Kahn. She offers a Triage session to assess where you are at and what you should work on (with her or with other teachers in town for Improv or Commercials). Lesly is keenly perceptive and will not shy away from telling you exactly what’s wrong, even if it isn’t your acting, but some other facet that might keep you from getting cast. I left feeling like she would be able to address my specific bad acting habits and mental traps and be able to steer me in the right direction. Can’t wait to take classes from her!
  • Annie Grindlay. I visited a free workshop she offers, which explains a bit of her methodology. She addresses the acting technique through the lens of your audition experience. This seemed especially helpful to me because how to do we get work? By auditioning. If you can’t audition well, you can’t work. I loved her!
  • Stephen Book. He offers a free seminar every time he accepts new students (only every 18 months or so) to demonstrate his methodology. He approaches acting through the lens of improv and spontaneity. Over the course of two years with the same students he teaches exercises, tools and structures by which to approach scripted work. I was fascinated by this idea, very tempted to sign up for the class, but not ready to make a two year commitment. I hope to be able to in another 18 months.
  • Anthony Meindl’s Actor Workshop. I was able to audit his class and was fascinated by what I found. He teaches in almost the complete opposite way of the traditional 20th century acting technique because he bases a lot of what he teaches on science. From watching the class I am not sure what the basics are, except that he doesn’t encourage memorization and wants you to create in the moment. It seems taking the basic class is necessary to learn how he goes about his technique. It seems really intangible the way I’m describing it, but I left completely fascinated. I want to read his book: At Left Brain Turn Right. This I think will give a better idea of what to expect.
  • Improv!!! Every comedy casting person has said that improv is a must. I am currently taking an introductory class at UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade) and LOVING IT!!! The other main schools in LA are Second City, iOWest, and Groundlings.

I know there are MANY more teachers I should visit and audit, but so far theses are my top choices. Now, to make the money to pay for them…. it’s all in the priorities. One thing is for sure. I want to keep training!

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