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What Can I Do To Excel In My Acting Class?

Welcome to the Andrew Wood Acting Studio, where we’re dedicated to helping you unleash your full potential as an actor. In this post, we’ll explore actionable strategies to excel in your acting class and take your performance skills to new heights. Strategies for Success:

1. **Commitment and Consistency:**

  • Show up to class prepared and ready to fully engage with the material.
  • Consistently practice your craft outside of class, whether it’s rehearsing scenes, working on monologues, or exploring character development.

2. **Openness to Feedback:**

  • Embrace feedback as a valuable tool for growth and improvement.
  • Listen actively to your instructor and peers, and be willing to implement constructive criticism into your performances.

3. **Fearless Exploration:**

  • Push yourself out of your comfort zone and be willing to take creative risks.
  • Embrace vulnerability and authenticity in your performances, allowing yourself to fully embody your characters.

4. **Collaboration and Support:**

  • Foster a supportive and collaborative atmosphere within your class.
  • Offer encouragement and constructive feedback to your fellow actors, and celebrate each other’s successes.

5. **Continuous Learning:**

  • Stay curious and never stop seeking opportunities to learn and grow as an actor.
  • Take advantage of workshops, seminars, and additional training outside of your regular class schedule to expand your skills and knowledge.

FAQ:

Q: What if I feel nervous or self-conscious in class? A: It’s natural to feel nervous, especially when stepping outside of your comfort zone. Remember that your classmates and instructors are there to support you, and that growth often occurs just beyond the edge of your comfort zone. Embrace the challenge and trust in your ability to rise to the occasion.

Q: How can I handle rejection or criticism in class? A: Rejection and criticism are inevitable parts of the acting journey, but they can also be powerful opportunities for growth. Instead of viewing them as personal failures, try to reframe them as valuable feedback that can help you improve. Stay resilient, stay open to learning, and remember that every setback is just a stepping stone on the path to success.

Q: What if I don’t have much experience in acting? A: No prior experience is necessary to excel in our classes. Our instructors are experienced in working with actors of all levels, and our curriculum is designed to meet you where you are on your journey. All you need is a willingness to learn, a passion for the craft, and a commitment to giving it your all.

What Can I Do To Excel In My Acting Class?2024-02-26T19:25:14-08:00

Mastering the Craft: How You Can Learn Acting Technique in Acting Class

Welcome to the Andrew Wood Acting Studio, where we’re committed to empowering aspiring actors with the tools and techniques they need to thrive. Today, we’ll explore how our unique approach to teaching acting techniques combines diverse methods to unlock your full potential on stage and screen.

 

Exercises that Elevate:

  • Dive deep into the foundational principles of acting through hands-on exercises designed to sharpen your skills.
  • Hone your craft through a variety of engaging exercises tailored to challenge and inspire.
  • Develop your acting prowess through a series of carefully curated exercises that target specific aspects of performance.

Lectures that Illuminate:

  • Gain invaluable insights from seasoned professionals through engaging lectures and discussions.
  • Explore the theories and methodologies behind various acting techniques, from Stanislavski to Meisner.
  • Deepen your understanding of dramatic structure, character arc, and storytelling principles.
  • Learn practical tips and strategies for auditions, rehearsals, and navigating the industry.

Scene Study that Transforms:

  • Put theory into practice through immersive scene study sessions.
  • Collaborate with fellow actors to analyze scripts, develop characters, and bring scenes to life.
  • Receive personalized feedback and guidance from experienced instructors to refine your performance.
  • Cultivate empathy and emotional depth as you explore the nuances of relationships and conflict within scenes.

FAQ:

Q: Do I need prior acting experience to join your classes?

A: Not at all. Our classes welcome individuals of all experience levels, from beginners to seasoned performers. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to refine your skills, there’s a place for you in our studio.

Q: How do you ensure individualized attention in your classes?

A: Our class sizes are intentionally kept small to ensure that each student receives personalized attention and feedback from our instructors. We believe in fostering a supportive learning environment where every actor can thrive.

Q: Will I have the opportunity to perform in front of an audience?

A: Absolutely. At the end of the course, you will have the opportunity to perform your scene in front of a live audience of friends and family.

Mastering the Craft: How You Can Learn Acting Technique in Acting Class2024-02-26T19:26:22-08:00

The Impact of Acting Class: How It Can Transform Your Life

Welcome to a journey of self-discovery and growth through the transformative lens of acting classes. Let’s explore the profound impact of these dynamic learning environments on personal development and enrichment.

Confidence:

  • Shedding self-doubt and embracing vulnerability.
  • Amplifying presence and owning your voice.
  • Cultivating conviction and unwavering confidence.

Communication Mastery:

  • Elevating verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
  • Active listening and empathetic engagement.
  • Conveying emotions and intentions with precision.

Creativity Unleashed:

  • Igniting imagination and embracing ambiguity.
  • Fostering innovation and originality.
  • Breathing life into characters and narratives with flair

Empathy Cultivation:

  • Bridging understanding through empathetic exploration.
  • Breaking barriers of identity and experience.
  • Fostering compassion and connection with the human experience.

Resilience Reinvented:

  • Embracing setbacks as opportunities for growth.
  • Navigating adversity with grace and tenacity.
  • Cultivating resilience in the face of challenges.

FAQ:

Q: Do I need prior acting experience to enroll?

A: Not at all. Our classes cater to individuals at every stage of their journey, from beginners to seasoned performers. Each class offers a unique opportunity for growth tailored to meet you where you are.

Q: Can introverts thrive in acting classes?

A: Absolutely. Acting classes provide a supportive environment where introverts can flourish, leveraging their strengths to cultivate confidence and presence on their terms.

Q: Will I be pushed out of my comfort zone?

A: While growth often requires stretching beyond comfort zones, rest assured that you’ll never be pushed beyond your limits. Our instructors prioritize your well-being, encouraging you to embrace challenges at your own pace.

The Impact of Acting Class: How It Can Transform Your Life2024-02-25T21:41:34-08:00

What are the Best Acting Classes in Los Angeles?

In a city renowned for its thriving entertainment industry, aspiring actors flock to Los Angeles in pursuit of their dreams. However, with a plethora of acting classes available, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one. To help you navigate through the options, we have compiled a list of qualities that make a good acting class, drawing inspiration from the renowned Andrew Wood Acting Studio.

Best Acting Classes in Los Angeles

 

I. Experienced and Knowledgeable Instructors:

  • Skilled teachers with extensive experience.
  • Instructors who have a deep understanding of various acting techniques and methodologies.
  • Mentors who are passionate about nurturing talent and guiding students on their artistic journey.

II. Comprehensive Curriculum:

  • A diverse range of courses that cover various acting techniques, including Meisner, Stanislavski, and Method acting.
  • Classes that focus on character development and scene study.
  • Workshops and seminars that provide insights into the business side of the industry, such as marketing and networking.

III. Small Class Sizes and Personalized Attention:

  • Limited class sizes that allow for individualized attention and constructive feedback.
  • Opportunities for one-on-one coaching sessions to address specific needs and challenges.
  • Instructors who foster a supportive and collaborative environment, encouraging students to take risks and explore their creativity.

IV. Performance Opportunities:

  • Regular showcases and performances where students can apply their skills and gain practical experience.
  • Opportunities to work on scenes, monologues, and group projects to develop versatility and stage presence.

V. Supportive and Inclusive Community:

  • A welcoming and inclusive environment that fosters a sense of belonging and support.
  • Opportunities for collaboration and networking with fellow actors.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

Q1: How do I choose the right acting class for me?

A: Consider your goals, preferred acting techniques, budget, and the reputation of the class.

Q2: What if I have no prior acting experience?

A: Many acting classes cater to beginners and offer introductory courses. Look for classes that provide a strong foundation and focus on building confidence and skills from the ground up.

Q3: Can I pursue acting as a career?

A: Absolutely! With dedication, perseverance, and the right training, many actors have achieved successful careers in the entertainment industry. However, it’s important to approach it with realistic expectations and a willingness to work hard.

Q4: Are there any age restrictions for acting classes?

A: Acting classes are often available for various age groups, including children, teenagers, and adults. Look for classes that cater to your specific age range and needs.

Q5: How long does it take to become a proficient actor?

A: The journey to becoming a proficient actor is unique for each individual and depends on various factors such as talent, dedication, and opportunities. Consistent training and continuous learning are key to honing your craft and improving as an actor. Remember, finding the right acting class is crucial in your pursuit of a successful acting career. Consider the qualities mentioned above when researching and exploring the options available to you in Los Angeles. Break a leg! Note: This blog post is a general guide and does not mention any specific acting studios or schools.

What are the Best Acting Classes in Los Angeles?2024-02-26T19:31:21-08:00

some rehearsal techniques

Here are some rehearsal techniques that I use in scene study class at the Andrew Wood Acting Studio:

Eyeball-to-Eyeball

I teach this on the first night of class, and it’s good to do at the outset of a rehearsal process. Two partners sit opposite each other. The rule is: no one speaks without eye contact. What this means, effectively, is that when it’s your line, you need to look down at your script, memorize a short bit of text, resist the urge to start speaking while looking at the page, look up and make eye contact with your partner, find the impulse to speak in the eye contact with the partner, resist the urge to look down to get more text while you’re still speaking, STOP speaking, look down to get more text, etc until you have completed your line and it’s your partner’s turn to speak. If you embrace the rigor of this, you can learn a lot about the scene, and you will start to feel a connection with the partner through the eye contact. However, the reading will proceed at a slow tempo, nothing close to a performance tempo, and this is normal. Also, to be clear, this is a rehearsal technique. It is not the intention that this leads to a performance in which you maintain eye contact all the time. It’s just an exploration.

Throwing the ball

For this, you’ll need something to throw. A playground ball or a dodge ball is ideal, but you can also use a cushion or you can knot up a (zipperless )sweater and use it as a ball. You’ll also need to know the lines in the scene. In this exercise, you speak a sentence of text and throw the ball to your partner on the last word of the sentence. Not after the last word has been spoken, not on some operative word in the middle of the sentence, but on the last word. If your speech is more than one sentence, then your partner throws the ball back to you without saying anything, and speak your next sentence and throw the ball again on the last word. Then when it’s your partner’s turn to speak, she does the same thing: speaks a sentence (only one!) and throws the ball on the last word of the sentence, and so on. This exercise is great for practicing targeting and impacting the partner with your words, and also being targeted and being impacted by your partner’s words. It’s great to do at the start of a rehearsal, to warm up and re-establish the connection with the partner.

Repeating the last line as a question

In this exercise, before you say your line, you repeat the last sentence of your partner’s line back to him as a question, changing “you” to “I” and vice versa. Suppose you had the following dialogue in a scene:

A: I want you to stop that.
B: Why should I?
A: Because I said so.
B: That’s not a reason
A: It’s reason enough.
B: I don’t think so.

Doing the exercise, it would look like this:

A: I want you to stop that.
B: You want me to stop that? Why should I?
A: Why should you? Because I said so.
B: Because you said so? That’s not a reason.
A: That’s not a reason? It’s reason enough.
B: It’s reason enough? I don’t think so.
A: You don’t think so? …

The great thing about this exercise is that it forces you to really listen to what your partner is saying, since you have to repeat it back to her. Listening is the essence of acting. Doing this exercise helps to cultivate the habit of listening.

rehearsal techniques

Inner monologue

In this exercise, you use the inner monologue technique described in a previous post. Before each sentence that you say, you say aloud three to five stimuli that you are encountering in the moment, and then you say the sentence. Your partner does the same. Then you can reverse it: you say aloud three to five stimuli after each sentence that your partner says, and you partner voices stimuli after each sentence that you say.

Improvising the Dream Come True and Nightmare

Suppose we have two characters in a scene, Character A and Character B. They are played by Actor A and Actor B, respectively. In this exercise, Actor A and B switch roles, so that Actor A is playing Character B, and Actor B is playing Character A. Actors A and B proceed to improvise Character A’s Dream Come True, that is, the best way that the situation of the scene could turn out for Character A. What is great about this is that it gives Actor A control of Character B, so that Actor A has to get really specific about what he most wants Character B to do. Then Actors A and B improvise Character A’s Nightmare, that is, the worst possible way the situation of the scene could turn out for Character A. This forces Actor A to get really specific about what he most fears Character B will do. Then both actors do the same for Character B’s Dream Come True, and Character B’s Nightmare. This is a great exercise for exploring the stakes of the scene in an experiential way.

Getting/Not-Getting

For this exercise, you need to have found an underlying objective. Let’s suppose your underlying objective for your scene is respect. You want to win your partner’s respect. Then you play the scene, and after every sentence that your partner says, you say alound either “Getting respect”, if in that moment you are getting respect from your partner, or “Not getting respect”, if in that moment you are not getting respect from your partner. The idea is that every time your partner does something, she is either giving you what you need or not giving you what you need, and you need to make that evaluation in the moment each time your partner says something. You can also do it after each sentence that you say. ‘

These are some of the techniques we use in class at Andrew Wood. Enjoy!

some rehearsal techniques2024-02-25T22:21:20-08:00

the trellis of acting technique

 

A frequent question that aspiring actors have is about technique.  If acting is a matter of instincts and impulse, as it surely is, at least in part, then why study technique?  Isn’t it going to put you in your head?  Isn’t it going to block the flow?  After all, technique, by definition, means there is a way of doing something, a right way and a wrong way, and isn’t that the opposite of doing what comes naturally and following your instincts and intuitions? Evan Yionoulis, the chair of the acting program at Juilliard, proposes a great way of thinking about this in her fantastic new book Listening and Talking A Pathway to Acting:

Some actors fear that technique will rob them of spontaneity and freedom and be a kind of straitjacket that will block them from their instincts and some sort of unexpected magic. On the contrary, technique is what allows an actor to be truly and consistently open and available. Think of technique as a trellis. (A trellis is one of those, often wooden, frameworks that support vines and other plants as they climb up the sides of buildings. The crisscrossing strips of wood usually form a pattern of open diamonds.) Technique provides a structure through which the intuition may freely move. If the intuition is flowing—if the vine is climbing—technique, like the trellis, doesn’t interfere. But if, at this rehearsal or in this performance or for this take, intuition seems to have abandoned you, you’ll have the structure of your technique for support until it returns.

So technique is there to support you in moments when you find yourself at sea, when your instincts seem to have abandoned you.  It doesn’t (or shouldn’t) impede the flow of intuition and impulse when it is not needed.

There’s also the matter of consistency across multiple performances or takes.

Some people might think that working in film or television is easier for the actor. After all, you only have to get it right once. The reality on set, however, is that there’s rarely time—because time is expensive!—to do a scene over and over until a particular actor—or every actor—manages to do their best work. When working on camera, you have to give a full, truthful, and seemingly effortless performance on demand. There’s no way to rewind a sunset or crash another car or two to accommodate blunders or an “off” performance. You have to get it “right” the “once” when it counts! And when several angles of a particular scene are filmed, you have to do so in a consistent way in every take so that the editor can fashion the various shots into a coherent whole.

So technique can support you in having to provide a consistent performance across many repetitions.  I once spoke to a student of mine who had just come off his first experience playing the lead role in a feature film.  I asked him what surprised him about the experience.  He said he was surprised by how many times he was required to repeat things, and that the director wanted the same performance in every repetition.  In these kind of situations, technique is invaluable.

Acting will always be both an art and a craft.  To the extent it is an art, things like instinct, intuition and impulse are indispensable.  Technique is there to help us consistently access our instincts, intuitions and impulses.

the trellis of acting technique2024-02-19T01:51:18-08:00

What Are You Listening FOR?

In the excellent new book Listening and Talking A Pathway to Acting by Evan Yionoulis, the chair of the acting program at Juilliard, Evan explores at length the concept of the underlying objective. I also teach this concept in my acting classes at Andrew Wood Acting Studio. It’s a sophisticated way of understanding the character’s motivation, and it’s quite challenging for students to learn.

She defines it as follows:

a longing for something the character can’t survive without because it proceeds from a deep void or gaping hollow in their lives. We call the quest to fulfill this need the character’s underlying objective.

In contrast to the underlying objective, she defines plot objectives:

Plot objectives are so called because they are connected to and may have fulfillment in the plot or sequence of events of the play.

I like to say that plot objectives can be thought of as plans that the character has to get the underlying objective met.

Understanding the relationship between the underlying objective and plot objectives is a significant undertaking, and I recommend reading the full chapter in Evan’s book to begin to understand this. But I wanted to call attention to two things from her discussion. First, the title of this post, which is also the title of the chapter on objectives from Evan’s book: “What will you listen FOR?” It’s a commonplace that acting involves listening, but one of the reasons that learning to work with the underlying objective is worthwhile is the way in which having an underlying objective sharpens the actor’s understanding of what she is listening for in a scene. If I know that I am listening for security from my partner, that will sharpen my apprehension what he is sending my way. I won’t just be listening to him, I will be listening FOR a particular kind of energy from him, an energy that gives me a sense of security.

What Are You Listening FOR

And this brings us to the justification for the underlying objective apparatus that Evan gives us. After all, wouldn’t it be easier to just pursue plot objectives and call it a day? Plot objectives are much easier to identify than the underlying objective. What makes learning to operate with an underlying objective worthwhile:

Many actors—and teachers of acting—speak of objectives solely in terms of plot. While plot objectives inarguably give the actor something to pursue that is concrete and doable—that’s why they’re helpful and necessary—without an
underlying purpose, the actor isn’t compelled to engage in the deeper listening that makes the character human.

An underlying objective compels us to engage in the deeper listening that makes the character human. That makes it sound worthwhile, no? But to be honest, I think she undersells it a little. An actor who has embodied an underlying need compels our attention through their vulnerability, in fact, through their visceral vulnerability. When an actor has embodied an underlying need, we understand in some mysterious way, at the level of our nervous system, that they are undertaking something worth watching.

Keep in mind that it’s a long road from being able to identify an underlying objective to being able to embody one, but as a wise man once said, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

What Are You Listening FOR?2024-02-20T03:16:12-08:00

on personalization

“ When we speak of personalization, we mean the process by which actors seek to connect to a character’s circumstances and needs as if they were their own.”

That was Evan Yionoulis, the head of the Juilliard acting program whose book I wrote about in my previous post, defining the vital process of personalization for the actor.  When an actor encounters a script, she strives to extract the vital given circumstances from the script, the facts of the character’s life, that are provided (given!) by the author.  The question is: how do these facts which are extracted become experientially available to the actor? How does the actor become acquainted with these facts and connect to them as if they were the facts of his own life?  That’s what the process of personalization is about.

So what does personalization actually involve?  Here’s what Yionoulis says in Chapter 3 of her book:

Through our homework, we connect sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and sensations to the touch to what is laid out in the text.  In this way, we develop a personal relationship to each circumstance, allowing us, when activated by events in the play, to respond as if it were part of our own experience.

So personalization involves specifically imagining the given circumstance in question, and mining that circumstance for sensory stimuli (things which you can see, hear, taste, touch or smell) which help that circumstance become imprinted on the nervous system of the actor.  I once taught at an acting conservatory where there was another acting teacher named Fabiana teaching (I don’t know her last name).  Fabiana’s students told me that she would often say:

If the senses believe it, then the body will believe it.  And if the body believes it, then the mind will believe it.

Our five senses function as a gateway to the imaginary circumstances, allowing us to “experience” them for ourselves in a manner which is specific and vivid.

And what of transference or substitution, which are both terms that the great Uta Hagen has used to describe a process where the actor identifies experiences in her own life which can help her connect to the given circumstances?  Well, in conversation with Yionoulis, she has said that substitutions or transferences arise automatically as we dwell on the given circumstances, but at a granular level.  Thus, if I’m playing Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire,  I don’t try to find a single transference to use for Belle Reve, the family estate which was recently lost, but rather I imaginatively develop (that is, personalize) my experience at Belle Reve through various images and episodes, and as I do that, transferences will arise virtually involuntarily as part of that process.

So let’s consider how I might go about personalizing Belle Reve.  First of all, I might do a quick Google search of plantation estate homes in Missisippi, and select one that conforms to our image of Belle Reve, perhaps something like this:

House in Usa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we might use our imaginations to think up images and episodes connected to the house.  I will put sensory stimuli in bold, and transferences or substitutions in italics.

  • Been in my family for generations (like Auto-Chlor, a family business in my own family for multiple generations)
  • Memories of Christmas tree with Mother and Father and little Stella, the smell of pine
  • Elegant parties that my parents hosted for the elite of Laurel (like in the Sound of Music), with a string quartet
  • Playing hide and seek in the house and on the grounds (like I did as a kid)
  • Housekeeper (like the servant on Ms Scarlet and the Duke) and a cook  (a large, jolly woman like the cook on Downton Abbey)
  • Hosting gentleman callers in the parlor, with a grandfather clock and a Japanese folding screen
  • Leaky roof, we had to use buckets in the attic  to collect rainwater

And with that, we’ve begun the process of personalizing Belle Reve.  Belle Reve is a place that is dear to Blanche’s heart, it’s the home she grew up in, so we probably want to continue to imaginatively explore and develop, that is to say, to personalize Belle Reve, further.

An important episode in Blanche’s past is the loss of Belle Reve.  That’s something that we definitely want to personalize.  So we might do so as follows:

The loss of Belle Reve:

  • The departure of the housekeeper and the cook, both fixtures of the household for a long time
  • The notices and warnings arriving in the mail– the FINAL NOTICE OF FORECLOSURE
  • Packing the trunk with my most precious belongings (which?)
  • The knock on the door, the arrival of the bailiff(Balding, slightly overweight, mustache, in a uniform “Ma’am, I have to ask you to vacate the premises”)
  • Calling a taxi
  • Leaving the house for the last time with the trunk, looking at the house for the last time as the taxi pulls away

And with that, we have imprinted the experience of the loss of Belle Reve on ourselves, giving ourselves access to it as part of our own “experience”.

Yionoulis’ mantra when it comes to personalization is:

“Specify, specify, specify.”

And she also says:

“It’s work that’s as joyful as play—necessary work that’s, unfortunately, too often neglected.”

As actors, we want to embrace the imaginative work that personalization entails.  Connecting to the given circumstances of the character as though they were our own is vital successfully embodying the character.

 

 

 

on personalization2024-02-19T03:32:45-08:00

the only acting book you’ll ever need

Evan Yionoulis taught acting at the Yale School of Drama for twenty years, and since has become the head of acting at Juilliard.  She is also a world class theater director.  She was also my mentor when I was at Yale.  I assisted her for three summers with the Yale Summer School Acting Program, and it was the greatest educational experience of my life.

She has just published a book on acting, called Listening and Talking  A Pathway to Acting.  It is, quite simply, THE definitive book on acting. Yionoulis writes in a straightforward, approachable way about the finer points of the actor’s craft.  She covers concepts like the underlying objective, plot objectives, given circumstances, personalization and destination in a manner that does justice to the complexity of these topics but is also eminently concrete and practical.

It’s hard to overstate how down-to-earth she is in approaching her material.  He’s an anecdote from the first chapter, when she is making the case for technique:

“Once I directed a musical play whose cast consisted primarily of amazing musicians—singers and guitar players—most of whom had never acted before. After an early performance, one of the youngest came up to me and said, ‘This acting thing isn’t so hard. All you have to do is learn the lines and be that guy.’ In the moment, I think I was a bit amused by his answer. But as I’ve pondered it over the years, I’ve come to think that his definition of acting is as good as any I’ve heard.

All you have to do is: Learn the lines. And be that guy.

Or, I might say: Learn the lines. And do what that guy does.”

So even as she is embarking on the explication of a sophisticated and eminently challenging approach to the craft, she is grounded in the miraculous simplicity that acting entails.

The book is a remarkable achievement, and belongs in the libraries of actors everywhere.  (As of this writing, it may be that only the Kindle version is available.  I attempted to order a hard copy and was eventually told it would be delayed indefinitely.  But anyone can read the Kindle version with the Kindle app on their phone.)

 

the only acting book you’ll ever need2024-02-20T02:33:51-08:00
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