My Teaching Credos:
I believe it is impossible for a student to make a mistake in my class.
I believe a strong foundation in technique and the fundamentals of acting provides support for an entire career across all three mediums: stage, film, television.
I believe in the power and worth of Socratic release.
I believe how you talk about your work is how your work will be.
I believe how you visualize your work is how your work will be.
I believe all questions in acting are answered in the doing.
I believe in liberating the “intuitive self” in the work.
I believe in the power and worth of teachers doing what they teach.
I believe there are many different acting techniques that help actors grow.
I believe growth happens when actors move out of comfort zones.
I believe that it takes just a little more courage than fear to be an actor.
I believe acting classes need to be small enough to provide individualized attention to each pupil and that each actor should act each class.
I believe in training for adversity, not for the proverbial “sunny day”...
I believe it takes a minimum of 10,000 hours to begin to master the craft of acting (specifically working on aspects of the craft that are outside of the student’s comfort zone)
I believe that if you have a “Plan B’, you will use it...
I believe that talent is overrated, and determined practice is the road to success...
Detailed Philosphy of Actor Training:
I subscribe to the J. F. Genung’s definition that “Science is systematized knowledge . . . Art is knowledge made efficient by skill.” By “knowledge” I believe he means one’s unique and total sentient comprehension of the human experience.
I also subscribe to the theory that all art is autobiographical and imaginative.
Every artist, no matter their medium of expression, reveals some aspect of their individuality – even unintentionally - through the conscious manipulation of form. Creating a work of art is therefore an act of autobiographical will, revelation, imagination and vulnerability.
Therefore, it follows that art is, at its most base, the willful expression of the individual via a chosen form. Consequently, we, as teachers of artists, can fruitfully work on one of two areas:
• The artist’s instrument and experience of the world – what they want to say about it. = Self.
• The “how” - the form, the means, the craft - they will go about doing that = Skill.
Hence, my philosophy of actor training embraces and parallels my global view of art. I specifically, thoughtfully and systematically work on two primary aspects of the actor:
• Work on “Self”- Freeing the actor’s instrument. Creating an open free channel through which to express, then building technique upon it. Developing, enhancing and encouraging the individual’s imagination.
• Work on the role – the acquiring a specific “Skill” or craft, be it Shakespeare, Restoration Comedy, Sitcoms, Psychological Verisimilitude, Anton Chekhov, etc.
Art is not sloppy; it is precise, demands skill, ability and expert demonstration of craft to succeed.
I work under the assumption that all acting, no matter the form, medium, style or genre is some sort of imaginative communication.
Once a common acceptance of this principal is reached I present the syllogism that there are three areas of human communication that the actor can train:
1. What we say = text = the head.
2. What we feel = emotions = the heart.
3. What we do = behavior = the will.
These are the three areas that I focus on, both in the classroom and rehearsal. Within each of these three areas there are two aspects that all exercises and or techniques are aimed at dealing with:
1. The actor’s Impulse
2. The actor’s Expression
From here I work moment to moment with each individual actor to discover what stirs his or her creative subconscious. Once I have divined this element, I begin to find ways – through established techniques - to open them up and push them out of “comfort zones”. Once this has been done, usually over the course of their first semester of study, I then begin to layer on technique.
The standard progression after “work on self” is to begin by learning the technique of “playing action.” This technique, as developed from Stanislavski’s system by Paul Mann of the Group Theatre, causes the young actor to put the target of their attention outside of themselves - freeing them of self-consciousness – and then to create an emotion in their scene partner. This in turn produces the dramatic conflict required by what Alexander Pushkin called the “Given Circumstances” of the fiction, and then whittled to fit the stylistic demands of the piece, and the form called for by whomever is helming the production as director.
Once this is accomplished I can layer in a variety of specialty skills to meet the demands of style and medium.
Although there are a wide variety of meritorious other methods of physical based actor training, some of which are culture specific, I am not a specialist in these areas. Nor do I believe that they should formulate the foundational training for young American actors. They are all, in my opinion, supplemental training. Given the specific demands placed on working actors across all three major mediums – theatre, television and film - from New York to Los Angeles it is my belief, and first hand experience, that the psycho-physical techniques which are covered by the wide umbrella of Stanislavski’s system are not only the most efficient and necessary for truthful, believable and simple work as an actor, but that a solid training in this school of practice will provide the young actor with all the essential tools to enter the professional world: ability, confidence and a chance in hell of making it. Upon graduation the nascent actor can then supplement their foundational training with any of these other approaches.
Within the Stanislavski construct, my teaching philosophy is fluid, adaptable and structured around what I call the “tool box theory.” That, as creative beings, we need to accumulate as many tools in our craft as possible, not blindly clinging to any one method of study. Rather as teachers we should help our students learn as much as they can about the vast landscape of different techniques - and life in general - and how to best approach a creative problem; and to help them discover what works best for their individual artistic expression.
I also believe one of the strongest attributes I bring to my work in the classroom is the fact that I am still a professional actor who works in the business. My philosophy is that of a practical application of the art form. Of this I am certain, for I personally use what I teach on stage and in front of the camera, even to this day.
“Only artists hate this slovenly life in borrowed manners and loosely fitting opinions and unveil the secret, everybody's bad conscience, the principle that every human being is a unique wonder; they dare to show us the human being as he is, down to the last muscle, himself and himself alone even more, that in this rigorous consistency of his uniqueness he is beautiful and worth contemplating, as novel and incredible as every work of nature, and by no means dull.” – Nietzsche