Every year thousands of aspiring actors move to Los Angeles hoping to break into the thriving entertainment business. There is so much information out there that it becomes overwhelming for the aspiring actor. I thought it might be useful to interview some of the top acting instructors in town and get their take on it. I have interviewed three different instructors that are currently teaching three distinctly different types of acting classes in LA.
Bruce, originally from New York City, has over 25 years teaching acting and working as an actor himself. He has taught acting in California since the year 2000, and has been at the Stella Adler Academy since 2006, where he teaches Shakespeare, and the plays of Anton Chekov. The Stella Adler Academy has a comprehensive two year program of study available that includes many fields of study including, voice, movement, musical voice, scene study, on camera, improv, rehearsal, and the Adler technique, among other things. Students may sign up for the two year comprehensive program, or may take the courses piecemeal. Some of the courses, such as the Shakespeare or Chekov classes that Bruce teaches, are for more advanced actors. Actors may audit classes, and auditioning is not required to get into a class, though actors are interviewed by the school before admittance. A full list of prices, policies, and other pertinent information can be found at the Stella Adler Academy LA website.
I asked Bruce what advice he has for new actors coming to LA for the first time, in terms of finding an acting class that is right for them. He said there is no one right answer – different approaches work for different people.
He suggested that actors new to LA should do their research online, as well as talking to everybody they come in contact with. “Get personal references and recommendations. Audit every acting class you can. Individual actors should try to find an instructor that they connect with.
Not every acting instructor is right for every actor,” said Bruce. I asked him if there were things that actors should avoid when it came to acting classes, and red flags to watch out for. He hesitated answering that one, but said actors should avoid “gurus” or acting instructors that are abusive or demeaning.
“People should realize that the craft of acting is hard work and may take years to master. Yes, some people still get discovered at the drug store, but those stories are few and far between. Becoming an actor and being successful at it usually takes years of study and sacrifice. Craft comes before artistic brilliance. Without craft there is no art. Even plumbers need years of training before they master their craft, and acting is no different.”
Carole currently teaches two classes a week at the Complex on Santa Monica Boulevard, and she does private instruction at her home during the rest of the week. She teaches a singing performance class on Tuesday from 11am to 2pm, and an acting class on Wednesday from 11am to 2pm. Carol as been studying and teaching acting for over 35 years. She taught acting classes at the Carnegie Hall in New York City, and she has studied under the great acting coaches, Lee Strasberg, and Stella Adler, among others. In her classes, Carole utilizes some of the techniques she learned from others, and implements exercises she has developed on her own.
I asked Carole what advice she would give aspiring actors looking for an acting class. “Google the types of classes you are looking for. Make sure the instructor has long term experience and a good reputation. Read testimonials from former students. Get all of the information you can. Many of the acting instructors are in it just for the money and they make extravagant promises that sound too good to be true. Run from those people,” Carole said.
Carole added that most reputable classes allow auditing. “Make sure they allow audits. That is a way you can see if a class is right for you, before spending any money. Do not put your wonderful sensitive talent into the hands of an instructor who teaches from ego and denigrates your process. An acting teacher should be there to empower the student and not his or her self. Trust your instincts,” Carole added.
Carole warned that there are red flags to watch out for. “Be careful of any instructor who says he can get you an agent or jobs. Many promise the fast track to casting directors and agents in Hollywood. Be wary of those people. “Carole stressed that hard work and dedication are key. ”There are no short cuts to learning a wonderful and exciting craft. The audition opportunities will arrive, once the artist is ready,” Carole said. This is Carole’s website: http://www.caroledandrea.com/
Gregory is a working actor who also teaches acting classes. He has been teaching classes off and on in Los Angeles for 12 years. He briefly shut down his class to focus on his own acting career, but after much demand began teaching again. He wanted to establish a class that would be affordable for the average actor in LA and therefore he holds his classes in host houses, apartments, and condos of other actors in the class. His class does not have one established space, but the system has worked well, and has been a hit with his current students.
Gregory’s class does not focus on any one acting technique, but instead borrows from various schools of acting depending upon the project. “I approach my acting classes the same way I approach my acting roles. In terms of my class, the main focus is in the name: ACTING ON ACTION. That is, when they call “action,” whether in an audition, or on set, you must deliver,” said Gregory.
Gregory’s class is for more advanced actors who have already learned the basic building blocks of acting. He tends to focus on the business of acting and dealing with the demands of being on the set. Therefore, his class tends to focus on filmed/taped performance, rather than stage productions. Gregory encourages students to tape their performances in class. Gregory also does private one on one classes for any actor, whether they are members of his roving class or not. This may be especially helpful to actors who need help preparing for an audition or part.
Gregory offered some advice to students looking for an acting class. “I think it is important for actors to find a class where they are both nurtured – without being coddled – and challenged – without being torn down. They need to find a safe space where it is alright to fail. I don’t believe in teachers tearing students apart. There is no value in being denigrated for your efforts, but I also believe that teachers should be honest and pragmatic with their students,” said Gregory. He also added that students should find a class that they can afford.
Gregory stressed that students should look forward to going to the class, and that is a good way to tell if they are in the right one. Also, he added, the environment should be respectful, professional, positive, and caring. “Art isn’t math. There are no right or wrong answers. There are simply choices. Some choices will resonate with a larger audience. Some choices will resonate with a smaller audience. It is the instructor’s job to ensure each student is recognized for what they, and only they, bring to space, to the scene, and to this stage we call life,” said Gregory. This is Gregory’s website: http://actingonaction.com/