Thursday, February 12, 2015

What kind of training did I have?

I sometimes get asked this question. At first I didn't think it would be a good subject for this blog because we all have different teachers and methods that work for us. What may get my creative juices flowing might not work for someone else, but here's a brief outline of my training:

I took theatre arts in college and did a few plays in Northern California. I then got interested in improv and joined a troupe that performed at all kinds of different venues. And I wasn't very good because I didn't have any real training - although I had lots of fun with the troupe.

I moved to Los Angeles, and knowing that I needed to get some real training, I auditioned for The Groundlings theatre company - and didn't get in.

So, I started taking classes with a woman named Dee Marcus at the old Off The Wall theatre. There I got to do improv scenes with Robin Williams, Andy Goldberg, Paul Wilson, and a host of other really talented people. Although I had my moments, overall I was a novice, but I started learning from some good improvisors.

I also took regular scene study acting classes at another theatre, while continuing to do some plays.

After a year, I auditioned again for the The Groundlings theatre company, and got in. There I studied with some great teachers, like Tom Maxwell, Gary Austin, Tracy Newman, etc., as well as had a chance to work with fantastically talented people - some of whom would end up on shows like SNL. I learned a great deal about improv, sketch work, and building characters.

Then I decided that I wanted to learn about directing, so I went to film school and started doing more directing and tech work, both in theatre and film.

After a whole bunch of years behind the camera, I decided to seriously go back to acting. I took improv at several different schools, and got into acting classes that used the Meisner technique. The combination of improv and Meisner was what worked for me. I also took some advanced comedy classes with the wonderful Richard Kline (of Three's Company fame).

I had one more step to take to really feel confident in my work. And I got that step by way of advice from a really unexpected source. I was doing some regular scene work at a small theatre and a substitute teacher was there one night. She was really young - like just out of college - and I was a middle-aged actor who was starting to make a living from acting. I had a bad attitude about her - what could she teach me? Well, as creative people, we always need to listen and be open. Sometimes what we hear doesn't help us, and sometimes it can really kick our butts onto the next level.

And that's what happened one night after I did a scene for this young teacher. She said one thing to me that changed the way I approached acting, and it moved me into a much more personal level of acting. 

Sorry - I won't tell you what she said for two reasons: (1), because I would need to write a whole blog about it (maybe a future blog), and (2) because it was really aimed at me personally, and not a general note. But that is why we need good teachers - ones that can zero in on what we need as individuals - not just treat us all the same, as if we all had the same issues that are holding us back from doing our best work.

I still take occasional classes - especially if there's a long gap between jobs. Most of us will get rusty if we don't keep exercising those acting muscles.

So, there you have a somewhat brief background on my training. It's been a long road, and I'm still learning, but if you're passionate about acting, there's always something new to explore that will help you grow and deepen your craft.



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