Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I want to be an actor but.....

Listen up. Professional acting is tough. Tougher than you can even imagine. So anyone who has any excuse for not being able to pursue it should forget it. You just can't be a professional actor if you can think of any reason why you shouldn't be one. You have to have great self confidence, not ego, but assuredness that you can do it. You can't be shy. Actors have to be dynamic and charming, not shy and unsure of themselves. You can't be too poor. Acting is a business and takes financial investment. So go earn some money. You can't be disliked by your school play director. If you have messed up that relationship,you are a big time loser! It is very important that an actor make no enemies, ever, anywhere. It only takes one enemy passing on bad reports about you as an actor to tank the whole operation. You have to care whether people like you. You have to be liked to be successful. What actors do you admire and look forward to seeing again? Why do you admire them and want to see their work? BECAUSE YOU LIKE THEM. Which actors do you think are no talents? Why do you think that? Because you don't like them.
Professional acting is very very very tough. It demands a great personality and a great talent. You want to act? Then act. Find a way to do it. You are not going to succeed at it is you give yourself any excuse not to succeed at it.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

An actor writes about the Business of being an actor

I am pleased to present here some ideas about what an actor must do to succeed that were sent to me by a former student of mine who has been an actor in NYC for over 35 years.

" The overwhelming majority of actors here in NYC will miss the point that this is a business. The business requires extensive marketing by the actor. The onus falls upon the shoulders of the actor himself. He learns his craft and makes every attempt to bring this to the attention of anyone who is in the position to help his career. He sends postcards. He sends his 8x10 photograph to anyone and everyone who might help his career. He tries to appear in as many plays as possible. When he is cast in a play, he invites agents to his performances. He is oblivious to the admonitions that he should not contact these people except by specific invitation. He gets on the phone. He tries his best to sell himself. He will have to compromise his obligations to his straight job. He may have to leave the office to attend an audition which has come up at the last moment. Or he may have to appear on set on a weekday that he is not technically authorized to take off. He has to take big chances. Acting is his first priority, and this is more significant than his parent's opinions or his girlfriend or anything else. He has bet his life, as Gene Frankel would say. Your students must be dead set in these regards or they may as well forget an acting profession, to begin with. Believe me. When you have selected this profession you have agreed to become a snowball in hell and you had better be extreemly determined. There are no ifs ands or buts. You are either committed to these ideas or you are not. General desire for success will not work by itself. Everybody in the world has the general desire to become movie stars but everyone of these people or most of them will not supply the requisites that I have listed above. I do not care about what their innate God given talent may be or where they have studied or who they know. Take it from a veteran. I know whereof I speak."

This actor continues his quest for roles in the most difficult of all careers. It takes the kind of life-time devotion and adherence to ones love for the work that he embodies. As he says, if you are not ready to take on this lifestyle, forget about becoming an actor.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

College and Acting

Most young people who want to become actors attend college because their parents insist on it. I am sure the parents are hoping they will find something else to be interested in besides the uncertain and unsavory field of acting. The young people go ahead and do this because they are too immature to strike out on their own and try to become actors. I wil always admire a former student of mine who, after a year and a half of college, dropped out and went to NYC where, for the past thirty five years or so he has pursued being an actor. That takes guts. Becoming an actor takes guts. I only recommend college for the aspiring actor who is weak on experience or maturity. If you are well experienced and mature enough to support yourself, why waste the best four years of your youth on college? College will always be there. You can go to college when you are sixty years old. There is no rush. But your youth fades quickly. It will not always be there. So the sooner you can get at acting, the better. That's why I generally do not recommend college for the aspiring actor. Of course someone can become an actor at any age as well, but most young people want to play leading roles which are often for their age group. Then there are the aspirants who have been brainwashed to believe that they need to have 'something to fall back on.' The problem is that if you have something to fall back on, that is exactly what you will do--fall back on it. And that is because acting is so terribly difficult to make a living at. My former student in his over thirty-five years of pursing acting in NYC has never earned a living at it. The aspiring actor always needs a 'day job.' But the day job doens't need to be a career. It needs to be something flexible that will allow the aspirant to go to audiions and take time off to go to filming for a couple of days as needed. That is why so many aspirants are waitstaff or bartenders, or do other things that have shift work that they can trade time slots with other employees. Also it is why many actors are also self employed in their own businesses. In my book, The Tao of Acting, I explain about going to college and acting.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I often see questions about stagefright and here's my take on that. It is natural to be a bit nervous because you want to do well, but it is not natural to be so frightened that you cannot perform. An actor enjoys performing, looks forward to it and jumps at any chance he has to do it. He or she usually does this performing without being nervous about it. Although Geraldine Page, a noted actress of the past century, was said to be so nervous before each performance that she vomited. I still have to say that freedom from stagefright is part of someone's inborn talent. Yes, I have been in situations that my stagefright affected my performance, therefore in spite of my being a very good actor, I do not have the inborn talent to be really successful as an actor. What I am missing is the personality to put myself forwand and to always be composed in every performance situation. I never experienced stagefright in any of the professional work that I did. My most noteable experiences with stagefright were in class finals or in auditions in which I was asked to do something without a script. I still do not like improvisation and do not recommend it as acting training. Experience has pretty much cured me of any stagefright regarding acting, and experience will end many people's stagefight. Sound preparation also combats fear. In severe cases, I have recommended hypotism, but most everyone who has severe stagefright will not be successful at acting.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Where can I find auditions?

Here is another overly common question. Lately the auditions being sought are for the Twilight series of films or for Disney. First of all everyone needs to know that they are not going to be cast in a major film or TV show without vast experience and training. Then they need to know that there is hardly any work for anyone under 18. Producers do not like working with minors as they can ony work half a day compared to adults,so they often cast youthful looking adults to play teens. Then everyone needs to know that you have to live near where the auditions are being held. You are more likely to win the Powerball lottery than to be selected bcause of your head shot and resume by some casting director to be in their film. It just does not happen. And suppose you live in Indiana and the auditions are in LA or Oregon. How do you think you are going to get there? In these hard economic times, do you really think one of your parents is going to drop everything and take you to the auditions, and then the call backs and then the shoot, if it came to that? NO WAY. I actually have had more than one starry-eyed young girl tell me that her parents would move to LA if she got a role. Yeah, right! They probably told her that to shut her up about it because they knew full well it would never happen. Let's stay firmly grounded ont he matter of becoming a professional actor. Read the rest of the posts in this blog. It just does not happen to enough people who try to make it a probable outcome.
God bless, Doc
PS Those Disney and Nick audtions you hear being advertised on the radio are bogus come-ons by swindlers after your money. Just like the casting web sites. Stay away from those.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Acting for Fun and Profit

It was Aristotole who first said that acting (imitation) is fun. The fun is why we act in the first place. I haven't heard of a single person who has said that he or she wants to become an actor because it is hard work. No, everyone agrees that acting is fun. Of course becoming a professional actor is hard work and doing an outstanding job of acting is hard work. But hard work that has a positive result is also fun.

Whenever an actor says he or she is nervous about auditions or has stage fright, one of the things I point out to them is that they are doing this because it is fun, so concentrate on that and the nerves and fear will subside. I tell them to use this mantra: "Acting is playing and playing is fun, whenever I act I am going to have fun."

Now, we mustn't concentrate so hard on having fun that we do not seriously approach any acting that we do. It isn't just a lark, It is a way to help make the production as good as it can be. Being fun does not mean that it is not important. Of course it is important. We always insist that anyone doing any acting work hard to do it well.

An advisee pointed out to me that the fun of acting should be part of the aspiring actor's motivation for continuing to attempt to be an actor, even in the face of the negative odds of succeeding because he or she can always act just for fun, even if acting for profit fails. This is related to ideas in my book, The Tao of Acting, in which I point out that an actor acts. It does not matter if the acting is professional or amateur. It only matters that the actor is acting in something. The fun of acting supercedes all other motives. It is something that you can do your whole life.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Don't just sit there, do something

I have lost my temper with a couple of people recently because they keep telling me all the things that they do and are doing and are planning to do and yet they do nothing at all. These are the classic dreamers, the people who have no chance of ever becoming anything. They write to ask me how to get started,and when I tell them, they don't do it or they explain why they can't do it. That is the right path for failure all right. Someone who wants to be an actor, really wants it, is already acting in everything they can find to act in. Likewise, someone who really wants to be a writer is writing, not just dreaming about it. I have had a few advisees who have made the mistake of reading about acting instead of going out an acting. They will never be actors, because it is just something interesting to them. Those that succeed are reading a little about acting, but they are acting without anyone having to tell them to do it. So. You wanna be an actor? Then get acting, anywhere, school, church, community amateur theatre. Put on your own shows in your livingroom or basement or garage or whereever. Noone had to tell Heath Ledger to hop in his car at 16 and drive across Australia to become a movie actor. He knew he had to do it and he did it. So don't tell me what you are planning to do or thinking about doing. Just go do something and then tell me about that, Or if I send you my free book or tell you to read this blog, you will find lots of things that you need to do to become an actor. Go do some of them.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


First, I must express my irritation and bewilderment at high school directors who ask for monologues for tryouts. What a huge waste of time! Especially when a competent director at all levels from school to Broadway and Hollywood, has people in mind for the roles of a show when it is selected. There is no point in planning a show you don't have the resources to do.

Well, back to monologues. All monologues for auditions or class work should be speeches or edited scenes from plays. Original monologues should be discouraged and avoided in all instances. You teachers stop assigning your students to write monologues, they are not studying playwriting. A monologue,like any other part of the dialog of a play is a character's emotional (and physical) reaction to that moment in the play. Without a play to surround the monologue, it has no dramatic meaning. The dialog of a play moves the story along and thus since a monologue is part of the script, it moves the story along. We can judge the effectiveness of the presentation of a monologue only on the way the presentation moves the story along, delineating the character and the character's emotional response at that moment of the story.. Thus actors who do monologues must always read the entire play. Most monologues are long speeches from a play, but they can also be constructed from the dialog of a scene by omitting the other characters' lines and stringing one character's lines together into a solo speech. This takes some art so as not to make the solo speech awkward in any way. Now the selection of monologues is always a great problem, especially for beginners. Beginners have not read many plays and often do not realize what is required of their selection. Too often, I see inexperienced people ask for help in finding a monologue and they put all kinds of requirements on it. "I want it to be really dramatic, like someone going crazy," they will say. No, no. Bad idea. A monologue must fit the actor like a glove and be especially right for his or her age and type. No sense in the little sister type trying to do a speech by a prostitute and no sense in a 14 year old trying to do the lead in "Same Time Next Year." An actor must always pick a character that they could actually be cast as in a film so they have to be just exactly right for the role. It can take years for an actor to find the best monologues for him to do. All I can say is, anyone thinking about acting had better get reading all the plays they can get their hands on. Good selections of monologues are speeches from roles one has done in a play at school or somewhere. By and large it is too bad that beginners are asked by incompetent directors to audition with a monologue. Fortunately, all of Shakespeare's young women are teens, so his plays are mother lode of monologue material for the beginner as well as for the experienced actress. And there are various supernatural roles like faeries in Shakespeare's plays as well. So very young children can also use their speeches for monologues. Most of Shakespeare is male, so there is no problem for the actor to find a speech. I have addressed how to read Shakespeare earlier in this blog, so there I will stop for today.

Best wishes, and break a leg!

Saturday, December 5, 2009


I'm not going to repeat all the info about headshots here but another misunderstanding of the inexpereinced beginner is that they think if they have a head shot they can get professional work. Nay, nay. This is but another urban legend about acting. An actor needs a head shot. A kid dreaming about being an actor but not really pursuing a career (that is, his or her parents are not active pursuing a career for him or her) needs experience in school and community plays not a headshot. Then people always want to know how much they cost and where is a good, cheap photographer. The first thing to consider is that acting is a business and if you are not ready to invest a few thousand in getting prepared to compete, you probably are not going to compete very long. The second thing to consider is that until you are ready to really invest in your acting, you don't need to spend a lot of money on headshots. A beginners headshot can be home made, if care is taken to make it look as good as possible. I have guidelines for headshots, professional or home made at Finally, consider that once you are signed by an agent he is going to want you to get new headshots. Also you are going to have to have new headshots done every couple of years so they look like you. It is not something to go cheap on.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What about my weight?

Several aspiring actors have asked me lately about taking off some pounds before they began trying to break into actin. No all of these people were female. First of all, there are roles for Plus Sized Actresses and Actors. Drop Dead Diva on Lifetime was a great summer series with an overweight lead, now they have another series with an overweight lead. So if you are talented and have the personality and an interesting look, you can find a role even if you are over weight.
Second, if you wait until you lose weight, you are never going to try, because I know how hard it is to lose weight (I weigh 270). But I am also very tall,so I played villians in western films. There were lots of heavy actors auditioning. Third, you need to be comfortable with who you are and if being heavy is part of that, great. That's you. Love you and be happy with you. There are so many roles for plus sized actors and actresses that there may be one waiting for you.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Not only do a great many people actually believe that you need no experience to become a professional actor, just about as many believe they can write play even though they haven't any idea what a play is. I keep reading questions like, "I am writing a play for my class, can you help me?" Now this is a double problem. First the teacher has no idea what a play is or he or she would not have called the assignment a play. Most often such assigments are for skits or scenes And no real teacher in his or her right mind would assign the writing of a "play" without having given their students extensive instruction in playwriting. The problem is that very few people, few actors, directors, teachers, etc. truly undersatand what a play is. They have forgotten that plays are not written,but they are 'wrought'. The person who writes a play is a playwright, not a playwrite. Plays are fashioned, created. What a playwright writes is not conversation. A playwright tells a story by fashioning a plot, a series of actions that the characters commit that conludes with a resolution to a problem that has been set forth by something the main character does early on in the story. A play is a way of telling a story through action, not through conversation. Fashioning the plot, or series of events of the story, is what the playwright has to do first. Once the story is set as action, then the playwright can translate that action into what the characters say while they are doing those actions. The dialogue of the play is litereally the action of the play expressed as the emotional responses of the characters to the situations as they occur in the story. I wish teachers and students alike knew that. It really helps actors if they know that as well.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Stupid Questions

As a teacher, I encourage students to ask all the questions they can come up with and that there are no stupid questions. Well, that is a misstatement. There are stupid questions such as "Are there any good talent agents in NYC?" Believe it or not, but I have seen that questions several times. It is stupid because of course there are several. But I think the asker really wants to know something else, such as "Are there any talent agents in NYC that are legit that might be interested in representing me?" That is not a stupid question. And young people always want to know what is going to happen at an audition they have, but they fail to include what the audition is for. Most of the time when they do say what it is for, they don't say who is holding the auditions So what it boils down to is that the stupidity of the question is determined by how well it has been asked. People need to include all the info needed for the answerer to give a good answer. The askers need to ask precisely what they want to know and avoid over generalizing. And they could be polite. I got one today which was to the point and not really stupid, though it was 'way too broad a topic, but it was curt and ended with a demand that I answer. Well, I am happy to answer, even when the question is stupid because I want to protect kids from scams and help them when they need help. I don't really approve of homework questions, either; especially when they can be answered if the kid reads the assignment. But once in a while a homework question is so intriguing that I can't help answering it. One last irritation I will add here is that I really don't like to answer a question that can be answered if the asker will just google the topic. That's what I would have to do to answer it, so again I think it is a stupid question if the the asker is just avoiding putting out any effort on his own to answer it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Things that are artsy and have nothing to do with acting

This is stuff that really irritates me and I have just run into it a couple of times today, "I can't relate to my character," or "this role will make me explore the dark side of myself". Yeah, right. Have these people never heard of 'acting?' Oh, well, maybe they have heard the word, but have no idea what it is all about. Relating to my character? Hello? Why do you have to do that? No one who plays Hamlet needs to 'relate' to him. Perhaps they are very happy with both parents alive and still married and they don't see ghosts, etc. How are they supposed to 'relate'? Well they are not. They are supposed to portray the role as Shakespeare presents it in the play. An actor is not the character. Any 'exploring the dark side?' Ha! Again, Hamlet contemplates suicide, commits accidental homicide and premeditated homicide. So is the actor supposed to do those things? No, of course not. He is supposed to represent the character. Statements about relating to characters or exploring one's personal dark side have nothing to do with what actors do. Actors react to stimuli in the imaginary circumstances of the play in a way honest to the time and playce and which communicates to an audience. They don't relate and they don't do psycholanalysis. They react. If there reactions are open and honest, they may reveal feelings that the actor generally does not care to reveal, but they do not do any harm. Let's cut the crap, people, and stick to what acting is about, not the artsy garbage of The Method and that sort of phony baloney/

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I must repeat myself.

Everyday I read about someone who has been scammed. They have taken classes from Powers or Casablancas or they have signed up and paid websites that claim they will get them in the movies or on tv. All these things are only interested in your money. Too many teens and pre teens are trying to become professional actors without ever having acted or without the knowledge and help of their parents. If someone wants to be a professional actor,it would be a good idea to be an amateur one first so as to prove they can act and to offer some proof of how well they can act. And it is quite impossible for a teen to become a professional actor without their parents making it happen for them. Child labor laws require someone to be 18 before they can sign a contract. Parents have to attend auditions and work calls with their minor children. If someone has never done any acting at all or is a teen without the interactive help of their parents, they just ain't gonna be a pro.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why we act.

It is time to talk about why people act, and, thusly, why they don't. People participate in amateur plays because they are great social centers, they are fun, and they get noticed by their peers. It is also great fun to act. Aristotle noted that 2000 years ago. Many people find it exhilerating to be in the spotlight and they have egos that respond to the attention associated with acting. Some are compelled to be actors. They may not be able to explain it, but they have to be actors. All of these reasons may drive these people to attempt to become professional actors, and a very few of them will succeed. Some may have reasons other than those I have mentioned here, feel free to comment.

People do not act because they fear being closely observed by their peers, or they do not think it a worthy activity. Others simply have no desire to do so. Yet, many who want to act, do not act because they have lifestyles that prevent them devoting the necessary time for it, or they have doubts about their ability to do it well. It is really easier not to act, than to act; and therein lies the reason most who say they want to act do not act. Acting requires real devotion and determination on top of talent. It also requires a pleasant and even attracting personality.

The sum of all this is that it is up to the individual to act or not to act. It is a personal choice. So if you say you want to act, get acting, there are always places like community theatres that need actors and there are things to do to become a professional if you are quailified.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Where do I go, how do I get started?

Even those with some experience acting in plays or modeling are unsure about how to move into professional acting. For most actors it is not something that happens all at once. It takes a while, even several years, to get prepared and move into the professional acting circles. Usually a person doesn't have to go anywhere at first. Most actors can start preparing right where they are by being in all the local plays they can. And if there are opportunities to be in indie films and to do extra work, that can help as well because the first thing an actor needs is a resume that documents their talent and their training. The roles one has done documents talent and the professional classes taken at acting studios documents training. But if you are in some acting wasteland, like Minnesota, Main, or Kentucky (there are lots of other states that are not conducive to becoming an actor), when you have exhausted the local opportunities you will have to move to where the action is. Now I don't mean LA or NYC, for while they have the reputation of being the acting centers of the the country, they are really very poor places for the beginning professional actor. Both are in economic turmoil as of the present time (Nov, 2009), and it is very difficult to earn a living there, let alone get an acting job. But there are places where films are being made and where there is lots of theatre to keep one's resume improving. They include, but are not limited to Atlanta, Dallas, San Antonio, and San Diego. So you get started by acting in all the local plays where you are. That's it in a nutshell. Read earlier posts on this blog for additional information about becoming a professional actor. God bless, Doc

Monday, November 16, 2009

Everybody is wrong.

I keep getting email in which the writer notes that "everybody" says this or that about acting; and I am yet to see an instance where what "everybody" says is correct. The general public hasn't the slightest idea what professional acting is all about. I think it is really important for all people who are thinking about becoming actors to ignore what "everybody" says. It does them no good to get bad information. The same thing happens on Yahoo Answers where the blind try to lead the blind all the time. Someone asks a question about acting or becoming an actor and they get all kinds of answers form their peers who, in most cases, know no more about the topic than the asker. Would "everybody" just shut up? That would be more helpful than giving misinformation to people. And people, stop listening to "everybody!"

Friday, November 13, 2009

Getting into character

I am often asked how an actor gets into character and finds the emotional responses that are proper to the character for a monologue or role. Understanding what the acting process is , what a playwright writes when he writes dialogue, and how to be an effective actor will help an actor 'get into character'. The acting process is what an actor does to become the character. The actor does not create the character as the playwright or screenwriter has already done that. What the actor does is to stand on stage or in front of the camera in place of the character. He represents the character. He does this by first establishing the physical character. Using the information in the script and any other sources about the way this character would look,, the actor adopts the posture, walk, gestures, voice, mannerisms, and dress of the character. This however is not the acting. This is merely providing the physical 'vessel' in which the character resides. It may take lots of creativity and imagination and research to do this, or it may take none at all because the vessel of the character is exactly like you physically. No matter. Becoming the physical character is the first step in the acting process. The acting of the role is the responding to the stimuli of each moment of the scenes of the role. This is done without pretense or artificiality. The actor allows him or her self to emotionally respond fully and without inhibition to the stimuli of each moment. These responses are guided by the script. The lines of a play or filmscript are indications of the emotional and physical responses the character is having to the stimuli of the scene. So while the actor is emotionally responding to the scene (with his or her own emotional response), he or she is saying the dialogue. The character's physical response is also in the speeches. The lines tell the actor what to do physically. This is why Shakespeare says to "suit the action to the word, the word to the action." Following this process of 'acting', the actor is most likely to be effective in his or her acting. Today's effective actors react, they do not 'act' which is to say they do not pretend. Thus they are most creative, and vulnerable. They have gotten into character.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


I have been advising hundreds of 'aspiring actors' from all over the world for about three years now. I am the top contributor to Yahoo Answers Theatre and Acting forum and a frequent contributor to All Experts theatrea and acting forum. Of all those I have advised, of the scores to whom I have sent my free book on preparing for a professinal career, only about a dozen are doing anything much to further their desire to become an actor or actress. Most of them just disappear, especially the preteens and teens, and that is a good thing. We don't need any more teen actors. If you have watched Disney or Nick lately, you know we have more than we should have. Of those I advise who are actually preparing for professional acting and actuaIly doing some acting, I only hear from two or three regularly, and from about a dozen occassionally. I suppose this is also a good thing, as we have tens of thousands of aspring actors that we do not need. But those two or three are getting somewhere, and the dozen are trying.

I occasionally get a reply from a kid somewhere that I was discouraging. Some thank me for my honesty. Ocassionally, I am amused by some very egocentric brats who have even resorted to calling me an obscene name, usually not too creative a one. I think it disturbs the teens alot when they learn their parents have to make things happen for them and they can't do it alone. Many continue to try, and sadly for them and happily for the industry, they will fail. I say happily for the industry partly out of the fact that it takes a realistic view of things and a willingness to follow directions to succeed. Kids think that if their mom says, "yes, dear, if you find something, I will take you to it, pay for it,or something similar" that their parents are supporting their becoming professinals. Not so. Poor dears do not realize their parents are only patronizing their fantasies, and hoping like mad they will not find any thing. Too many find scams and they waste their parents' money on them. But that is why the scam exists. It feeds off of the overly eager, naive dreamer.

I cannot encourage anyone to attempt an acting career if he or she is not really doing something about it. And I don't mean writing for advice on Yahoo Answers as the most recent spoiled, self-centered brat was observed having done this morning asking the very question she had asked me. I was very amused. But to be an actor, on must act as often a possible in something, amateur theatre, as an extra, indie films, something. And they must follow a plan that really will help them, such as The Tao of Acting sets forth. And that includes teens who just won't believe what he truth about profssional acting is. Most who get my book, zip through it (it is a very easy read) and report to me that "it was very helpful", but they never have a questiona about what it says or if I asked them probably could not tell me how it was helpful.

Sometimes I wonder, "Who is discouraging whom?"

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Visiting LA for Spring Break and I Want to do Some Auditions

I get quite a few variations on this idea all the time. It is a really bad idea. A stranger to LA who has no connections to the film industry is simply not going to find any auditions that they can attend. No one will want to see a 'visitor' anyway. Often auditions require call backs which might be a couple of weeks later. If you are back in Ohio or whereever, how are you going to get to the callbacks? You are not going to get auditions in LA unless you have an agent in LA. You are not going to get an agent in LA unless you live in or near LA. People who assume they can just walk into LA and start auditioning are just showing their naivete. It just doesn't work that way. Acting is not like other work, where you can get up one day and say, "I am going to apply for a job at Walmart." That you can do. What you can't do is wake up one day and say, "I am going to apply for a role in a movie." It often takes many years for a really good, well experienced and trained actor to get a role of any size in film or TV.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Is it important to attend a highly regarded acting school?

Here is a topic that I have recently changed my mind about. And I have not yet incorporated my newest thinking into my ebook. But there does seem to be some value in having a 'big name' studio amongst your training on your resume. This is especially true in NYC where snobbishness about several areas of acting still exists. But in the everyday business of casting roles, casting directors are more concerned if you look right for the part and if you can act it well. Any training you may have had is of little consequence. But just to cover the bases, here is what I recommend: while you are building your resume take one class or a summer workshop or some other short course at one of the 'big name' schools. That will get the name on your resume and that is what counts. For example it might mean something to somebody that you attended The Strasberg Institute, but they will not be able to tell by your acting if it is "Method" or not. Effective acting is effective acting and that is the goal. Just watching, no one can tell how you got there.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

How to understand Shakespeare

In my book, I suggest that all aspiring actors have three monologues ready to go at all times. One of these is to be classic which is usually Shakespeare. But I get lots of questions about how to understand and play the Bard's plays, so I thought it a good time to discuss just that.

There are some plays which are much easier to understand than others. As You Like It, Twelfth Night, and MidsummerNight's Dream are pretty straight forward though the last is pretty complex with all its sub plots. So the first thing to do is to pick a play that is pretty easy to understand. Then you will need an annotated script of the play that has plenty of footnotes or marginal notes to explain archaic words and expressions and contemporary references. Also keep a dictionary at hand just in care there are some words you don't understand that are not explained in the notes.

Now the real key to reading Shakespeare is the punctuation. If you are having a problem understanding the meaning of the speech, I suggest you approach it sentence by sentence. Periods, question marks and exclamation points indicate the ends of sentences. We never endstop reading verse because that interrupts the flow of ideas. (Unless, of course, there is a period, question mark or exclamation point at the end of the line.) Once you have the sentences separated, follow the commas, semicolons and colons to learn the meaning and to speak the line naturally. Commas indicate pauses and denote items in a series or set off a parathetical expression. Semi colons indicate that a related idea or further explanation follows, also giving the reader pause. And colons indicate that explanation follows which could be a series or a restatement of the idea at hand. Colons indicate pauses longer than commas and semicolons and shorter than end of sentence punctuation. Sometimes just reading the line following the punctuation will make it understandable.

Finally, after figuring out what it all means, you have to act the speech. Remember like all speeches, a monologue (or long speech) contains the emotional and physical reaction of the character to what has just caused him to say it. And, as it is a long speech, often what the character himself says will be the stimulus for what he says next. Suit the action to the word, the word to the action and you are performing Shakespeare like a pro!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I am begining to think they really do not want to be actors

There are so many who say they want to be actors and most have wanted to "all my life" (average 8 years). A good half have never done any acting at all. Many only want to be film actors and don't want to do theatre. None of them know what to do about it. Oh, they have picked up the wrong ideas from somewhere, but they really don't know how to go about it.

It seems to me if someone really wants to be an actor, that they would have been and would be acting--somewhere. In school, church or the community. And a few, to their credit are doing that. But except for having heard that acting is hard to get into, they have no idea of what the business of acting is or how professional acting is different from amateur acting.

I think most are like I was, they want to get into acting because it doesn't seem to involve any hard labor. And for the most part they are right. I am living proof that a complete sloth can become a professinal actor. Oh, I have done a few hours of manual labor in my lifetime, but I was always the weakling and inept when it came to physical things. But film and tv actors don't seem, for the most part and excepting action films for which they use doubles unless the principle actor insists on doing his own stunts. to do anything much physically. That's pretty cool considereing what film acting wages are rumored to be.

But film and tv acting is not what we see on the screen. What we see is illusion. Optical tricks created by editing and special effects, lighting and music. Somewhere back a few posts, I go into more detail on this, but here my point is that about 90 percent or more of the people who think they would like to be actors, would not really like it, even if they were suited for it, which 90 percent of them are not. It is just too hard to get a job and too boring to put up with.

I advise many of them to become accountants where they can really make some money without physical exertion.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How do I get started as an actor?

Here's a question that comes up a lot. People take it into their heads that they want to be actors. Of course they know nothing of acting, amateur or profesional. They just think it looks like an easy way to make money. This question is realted to another that comes up a lot "Are there any legit agents in NYC?" I mean really! The answer to both questions is: if you have to ask the question, you are not suited to become an actor. Actors are people who act, therefore to get started I guess you should start acting somewhere. And as for legit agents anywhere, I guesss you have to be old enough to read the yellow pages and smart enough to separate the good from the bad. It you are none of these things, give up acting and go look for work.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Adult Aspiriants with no Experience

Actually, there is a different approach to becoming a professional actor if one happens to be 18 or older without any acting experience. Of course the best thing is for that person to get some acting expereince in community theatre or by going to community college and participating in the plays there. It is not necessary to major in theater, just choose a school that will let you tryout for the plays even if you are not a theater student. You can major in food serivce or accounting or public realations, something that will get you employed when you finish school and want to pursue acting. The principles for becoming an actor remain the same at any age: 1.get business cards and post cards and network all the time, 2 build a great resume, 3. take a couple of clases, 4. get great head shots, 5, try to get an agent while continuing to network and to build your resume via community theatre, indie films, extra work, etc. Remember, it is not who you know , but who knows you that counts. Do everything you can to become recogniszed as a member of the acting community where you live, and by networking become recognized as a terrific member of the acting community where you live. Use a mentor. I am available an at your serivce at

Saturday, October 24, 2009

No easy way. You have to work years for it.

I suppose it is inevitable that youngsters in their preteens and teens and even a few adults will always think there is a quick and easy way to become a professional actor. "All I need is an agent." Well, no. You need superior talent, personality and looks-if not beautiful, then interesting. "Where's a good web site for casting?" They are all schemes to get your money. Until you are well expereinced and mature enough to choose the right ones, stay off the web. No preteen or teen is going to become a professional unless their parents make it happen for them. "Where are auditions in Podunk, Arkansas?" There are none. If you are going to be an actor you are going to have to live where theatre and film is produced. That means in or near a large city. Sorry, if you live in the boonies with no way of getting to the city to take advatage of things, you are screwed. Maybe you can go to the state college and major in theatre. Neither is an inexperienced adult is going to become a professional until he or she has paid the dues of performing in many amateur theatre productions, taken a professional class and worked the years needed to build a strong resume, and they need interesting looks, superior ability and personality as well. Our 'me' generation which expects everything handed to them just for the asking is going to run into a brick wall of reality when they try to become actors without puting in the time and effort needed. Slow down, take it easy. Make sure you are an actor before trying to become a professional one.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Theatre Career without being a Professional?

Let's start by defining our terms. 1. Theatre career--a lifetime of work in one or more areas of the dramatic arts. 2 Professional--in the dramatic arts, the only professionals are union members working for union wages. The rest are either semi-professionals who make some money at it, but not at union levels;` or amateurs who do theatre because they love it, rather than for money. OK? Swell. Using these definintions, of course it is possible to have a theatre career without being a professional. In some ways it may even be prefereable. It has more flexibility. You can work in many areas. And you can often do what you want to do rather than what others want you to do. I spent thirty seven years in educational theatre as a teacher, playwright,producer, director, designer and actor. I spent another ten years as a playwright, producer, and director of my own theatre companies, and squeezed into all of this I also owned and operated and wrote and directed for a dinner theatre, acted in semi pro dinner theatre, and spent ten years acting in professional films as a SAG member. I also had founded and operated and acted and directed for a theatre while I was in grad school. And since I stopped producing and directing theatre, I have continued to teach acting and I have written a book on preparing for professional acting. But, I know, and I think it is obvious from this brief run down of my experience, that I have had one heck of a career in the theatre even without any of the professional work.
It has been the best career I could have had, even though my employers rarely kept their promises and I had to make do as best I could for all the years of my career. It was a creative challenge that I enjoyed and look back on fondly. Best of all, and one reason, no doubt, why my employers sometimes did not support me, was that I did it MY WAY. I even eschewed the possibility of changing jobs to "better schools" because I cherised being my own creative boss. I loved it and I recommend it heartily as a career to those who also love the theatre.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Look before you leap

If you want to become a film actor, you go to LA, right? Not necessarily. LA is wall to wall unemployed actors, and right now (Oct 09) the rest of LA is mostly unemployed as well. Yeah, they are still making movies, but not necessarily in LA. There are films being made all over the place, with the US Southeast being one of the most popular places, along with Texas (because the economy is not too bad there), and Vancouver and on and on. I think it is much better to become established as an actor somewhere other than LA and not to go there until you are signed to do work there. LA is also the most difficult place to get an agent. A big city such as Dallas or Atlanta is probably a good choice, because there will be lots of stage opportunity there as well as film production. Other problems with LA are the cost of living (which I heard about a year ago was five thousand dollars a month), and the enormous distances to places. You cannot go without a place to live and a job. So think about it. Look before you leap. Remember the song,"Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" which talks about all the would be stars are parking cars?!!
Don't get in a hurry, acting is a lifetime endeavor.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Oops! Seems I have been short changing the acting profession. Let me take this opportunity to correct misinformation in previous posts. The average earnings of a SAG member in 1997-09 was $5000 a year, not $1000 as I have been saying. In 1997-98, the average Equity member made $15,000 a year. Sorry about the mixup. Doc

Thursday, October 15, 2009

How not to succeed as an actor

This will be brief, but I had an experience with a couple of people today asking for help with monologues. If you have read this blog, you know how I feel about that. But I try to be helpful.
First of all most people wanting help with monologues or auditions never give enough information. They should always include what the audition is for (specifics, name of agency or show and producer, etc.). It could be my uncle Fred or it could be a terrible scam. They should always include their vitals, age, height, weight, eye color, hair color.
Today a young 'lady' asked for such help. Didn't include anything but female, and age. I asked for the other info and she gave me part of it. I informed her she was not thorough following instructions but went ahead and gave her great advice. She answered haughtily that she always followed instructions well, but forgot the item I mentioned. I told her why I wanted it. She replied more haughtily that there was no reason for my concern. I know a couple of things about her from her correspondence. I know she is not going to be an actress, because she has a bad attitude, for example. Now a younger fellow asked me for the same help, gave me everything I needed but I didn't check his name for gender, so he had to correct me, but he did so off hand and with out attitude, so I know something about him as well. He has a better chance of success than the other person. This is the kind of stuff that I have to put up with. LOL>

Should an aspiring actor do extra work?

Now here's a topic that there is a difference of opinion about. Some say that someone wanting to be an actor should never do extra work because they don't want to get known as an extra player. I disagree and think it can be very advantageous to be an extra. First of all, it familiarizes you with the film making process. Three or four extra jobs can beef up a resume. I know of two people that got their first extra jobs bumped up to day player and qualified for SAG. And I heard of another who went from extra on a soap to a recurring role. Nowadays a person can qualify for SAG by doing three extra jobs on SAG films and collecting the vouchers that they did the jobs. Extra work pays pretty well these days, about ten times what it paid when I started professional acting thirty years ago. $150 a day is not too shabby. Barely living wages, but not bad. So let's not be snobbish about being an extra. Subscribe to Something may turn up nearby that you can be an extra in.
Extra work pays well in Canada, too. You can earn ACTRA membership if you collect 24 vouchers for being an extra on ACTRA films and commercials in one calendar year. ACTRA extras are paid far more than non union extras.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Networking for Success

Many aspiring actors give up because they believe that only the people with connections can succeed, that if you don't know the right people you cannot become an actor. Well, what I say is that it is not who you know; rather, it is who knows you. Becoming known in the business is how one really sets him or her self up for success. And an actor gets known by networking. Networking in acting is a little different than it is for other businesses, but not much. And it is much different than most aspiring actors think it is. Brian O'Neil, author of the industry standard, Acting as a Business, calls it infiltrating the business rather than networking. When you read Cohen's Acting Professionally, and learn how close knit and small the acting profession really is, you realize that the only way to succeed is to infiltrate that small group of people who actually make money at acting. Most of us call the process networking, and it is an on-going 24 hour a day job for all aspiring actors. Networking is getting yourself out there, so you will be seen and known. It involves a bit of chutzpah, bold nerve, as well as great organization and planning. You have to be able to go up to people, famous people, whom you have never met and introduce yourself, say something nice about their work and express your interest in working with them. You have to leave them your business card and get theirs if possible. Then you have to leave them alone. You never come on as though you are begging for a job. Just make contact, and get on with the rest of the room or event or day. Will they remember you? Maybe. Industry professionals are remarkable for remembering everyone they meet. If you are going to succeed in the industry, you, too, will have to become superb at remembering everyone you meet. Details on how to network are discussed in Rock and Riddle's How to Be a Magnet for Hollywood Success and in my book The Tao of Acting. Beginning actors have to spend much more time networking than acting to get ahead in the business. You have to be known if you are to succeed.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Ah, agents! You gotta have one to be a professional actor. But when do you get one? Most youngsters believe that if they can just get an agent, they will magically become the next lead in the Twilight series or on Disney. Not so of course. When preparing for an acting career, getting an agent is pretty far down the list. First you have to have lots of acting experience. Amateur plays are a great place to get that. And then a couple of indie films and/or extra jobs is a good idea. Then you need some training. I don't think a talented actor needs to do two or three or four years at a conservatory or a college, but it is a good idea to have a few acting classes on your resume, including at least one from a highly respected studio, But you still are not quite ready for an agent. You still need a great head shot. You can make your own, but it will have to be pretty darned good. Then you need business cards and personal post cards so you can start networking, because networking is one way to get an agent. Well, you are just about ready for the agent now. But go at it in a sensible way. You have to live withing an hour or two travel time from the agency so you can get there for auditions. Your agent should be SAG or AEA or AFTRA franchised and a member ot ATA (The Association of Talent Agents). Then,. following the advice of Brian O'Neil in Acting as a Business, you can start working on getting a talent agent.
This whole process probably will take a couple of years or so. But you don't want to get in a big hurry to be an actor, because that is how people get scammed. Acting is a tough business, you have to go about it corectly to even have a chance. Take your time. Get ready for an agent before you try to get one. Then when the agent gets you an audition there is a chance you may get the part.

Friday, October 9, 2009

You have to be prepared

I just read the story of an English actress, thirty years old, who quit acting and joined the Royal Navy! She had starred in a teen series in the UK and in the American version as well as several other UK series. But just after three years in LA, which she called "demoralizing" she decided the chuck it and do something else.

This story just emphasizes how terribly difficult it is to maintain a career as an actor. The problem, of course, is that we are so inundated by unemployed actors that even a seasoned, talented actor cannot find work.

What is an aspiring actor to do? First, I recommend making sure you are ready to pursue acting as a career. You have to underatand the business and how it works. And I recommend staying away from LA unless you have a contract to work there. There are plenty of other cities to pursue being an actor. Finally, the aspiring actor needs to understand that it is most likely that they will not ever make a living at acting. Acting will have to be a sideline and the actor will have to support him or her self by other means while pursuing acting jobs.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Play's the Thing

I am forever seeing questions by youngsters asking, "what part shall I tryout for?" or "do I have a chance for the lead?" Then others are asking, "how do I become a famous actor?" And even experienced actors are saying what role they want in the next audition they are attending. Finally, I get questions from actors in plays in which they want to know how to deal with personality clashes amongst the cast or how to deal with some cast member who is difficult or who is incompetent.

All of these questions are egocentric and should not be the concern of the person asking them. If a person is going to audition for a play, he or she should do so with the intent of helping the show be a success. It is the director's job to determine how that can be done. If you will be most helpful as the lead, swell. If you can do that by being in the chorus, great! be the best chorus member ever and make the show terrific. If all you are concerned about is being famous, you have no business trying to be an actor. Fame is not such a good deal anyway -- with papparazzi following you everywhere sticking cameras in your face, with people writing fake stories about your supposed abnormalities of taste and behavior, and generally your not haveing any sort of private life at all, having to hire body guards, etc. Can't be any fun.

I write in my book, The Tao of Acting, about actors being the worst judge of what roles they can play. Take it to heart. It is only an ego thing to think you can be great as any role. The proof is in the doing, not in the thinking. It is the director's job to cast the show,not yours. It is also the director's job to prevent conflicts amongst cast members, to make sure that someone is not undermining the play with gossip and back biting, and to make sure that every actor in the show can give an effective performance. These things may worry you as an actor, and if they are not resolved by the director before the performance of the show, you might want to reconsider before working with the offending actor or the director again.

It all boils down to ego. We want to look good when we are in a show. We want to be seen as worthy and competent. We always will run into difficult situations and difficult people as we continue to work in the theatre and cinema. It comes with the territory. The best thing you can do is not be a difficult person and do your job well.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hints for aspiring actors

First you need to act. A lot.--as much as you can while you are in High School at school and in the community.

Do not get in a hurry, it takes a lifetime to become an actor.

Watch out for scams. The scammers prey on the over eager.

Learn about the business of acting. It is just like going into any other business; it takes money, experience and a good product which is you as an actor. It must be promoted properly to be a success.

What you see on the tv and film screen is not the acting, that is not what the actors do all day. Mostly they sit around and wait, Film acting is not that exciting. Everything is rehearsed and done over and over until it is right, then a small clip of it is edited into the film with sound and music to create the illusion that these things are happening to the characters.

Learn to be humble. The business does not like strong egos.

Experience is more important than training.

People who succeed are not necesarily the best actors, they may be the best self promoters, or the best personalities, but they must have enough talent to do the job or they wouldn't get it.

Don't try to do anything professional while in High School, plan to start working on being a professinal after you graduate, unless your parents make something happen for you.

Until you are 18 you cannot sign a contract or do anything professional without one of your parents being there. Your parent has to get you an agent if you are to have one before you are 18,

Read and study my free book. Reread it and study it some more. Learn all that is in it and put it to use.

To really succeed at acting takes LUCK more than any other thing.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Every budding actor faces the threat of being scammed. The scammers know that wannbe actors are so enthralled with the idea of being a professional that they are very easy to cheat. Therefore, the ocean is full of sharks. If it weren't for the fact that there are so many wannabes, the "acting business" would have more scams per possible sucker than any other area. If you look on the web, and I don't really advise doing so until you know what you are looking for, you will find perhaps hundreds of Casting Agents who for a small fee will get you in the movies! Except they really won't. Or they will send you notices of films you can audition for. Except they turn out to be in LA and you are in Kansas or somewhere. There are even places that say they will make you a star just by signing up and paying their fee. Never happens. The worst are those who say they are holding auditions for Disney and Nick, but really are just trying to sell suckers acting classes at exhorbitant prices. The best are the talent fair showcasese for actors, singers and models. For an enormous amout of money, they will put you in front of the leading talent agents and casting directors in the business. Well, they do that(sort of because the very top people often do not make up the panel of judges), but unless you are very very very talented and very very very photogenic and very very rich, AND unless you live in the city where the agents and casting directors are from, mostly LA or NYC, there really is not point. How are you to take advantage of an opportunity on the coast when you live inland a thousand miles? So be careful, for heaven's sake, and do not fall prey to these scams. To be sure, you can always ask me about something before you put any money down.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Read, read, read

So you wanna be an actor? Films only? No matter. Every aspiring actor needs three monologues and should have them prepared and ready to go at all time. Where do you find a monologue? Simple. In a published play. A monologue is a long speech. Shakespeare is full of them. So are lots of other plays, but you really need to read a lot of plays to find your monologues. You see, they must fit you exactly. Be your age and your type and something you could logically be cast as. There for it is pointless to ask on a site like Yahoo Answers what monologue should you do or where can you find one or does any one have one with these qualifications? You alone know, sort of, what age and type you are and only by reading lots and lots of plays will you ever find roles that are suited to you to a T. So start reading. Go to the library and get with it. If you are in a school that offers a dramatic literature class, take it. But go, get started. it's gonna take some time. If you are going to be a successful actor you are going to have to be a good self starter and a tireless worker. This is just an intermediate step.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The actors nightmare=ego.

If someone asked me what the major hinderance to success for an actor or actres was, I would say it is their own ego. Thinking too much of yourself is a sure way to sabotage your career. In my 50+ years of teaching acting, I have seen more young actors ruin their own chances for success by being on some ego trip or other. Recemtly a most tragic story has occurred. A young woman went to NYC to seek her fortune as an actress. She was attractive, but had a very weak resume. She asked me for advice on where to study and I recommended my favorite NYC studio. Just a few weeks after having completed a workshop at this studio, she met a famous NY agent and producer quite by accident. He was very impressecd with her, and she had no trouble getting an appointment to meet with him in his office. He wanted her to get new head shots and recommended his office assistant take them. The price was reasonable and she agreed. But when the pics came back, they were not the best and slightly flawed for really good headshots. Even though the agent thought the pics were ok and was ready to begin working with her, the young lady was so disappointed in the photos that she said she didn't like them and would have a friend of hers take new ones. It took three weeks for the new photos to be ready, and neither were they the greateest as far as head shots are concerned. But the young lady liked them very much. The young lady tried to get an appointment to see the agent with her new headshots but he office manager said that the agent was intereviewing new people and they would call her if they were interested. The young lady was stunned at the coarseness of the situation. She thought that the office assistant would not give her an appointment to see the agent with ther new headshots just because she did not like the photos the assiatant had taken. Only partly true. She had also left the agent hanging for three weeks when he had been eager to get started and work with her. Thus, a golden, perhaps once in a lifetime opportunity, eluded the young lady. And why? Because of ego. Hers and the office assistant's egos. She should not have been so vain about the first set of photos. If the agent liked them, they were no doubt fine, and they would have been cropped or touched up before distribution, but the young lady was young and naive and egocentric. The office assitant who had her photography rejected by the young lady, also allowed her ego to take its revenge. The difference is that the office assistant is out nothing, and the young lady is out in the cold, perhaps out of the buisness. The theatre world is small and it is easy for one agent to mention to another agent that so-and-so is very attractive, but a bit of an ego. The famous man had been ready to start work with her, and she put him off because of her ego.
Aspiring actors, be careful. humility, not ego wins the day. If you have a golden opportunity, do not destroy it. Nuture it, and let it work for you. Never, ever, do anything to make an enemy in the business as word travels fast and it travels far.

A career like no other

God, am I tired of seeing teens write on Yahoo Answers about their "acting careers." Of course they do not have a career as an actor, they just think it would be nice to have one. There are quite a few adults who feel the same way. None of these people have any idea what having an acting career is all about. I recommend that all of them see the Anthony Franciosa movie of Career, a play by Lawerence and Lee. Then they all need to read all the posts on this blog and finally read Acting Professionally by Robert Cohen. Bur , ya know what? Most of them will not be interested enough in what it is like to be an actor to do any of that reading. Most of them are just fantasizing. Well, as I have said, they have been seduced by the images on their TV and movie screens and think that acting is want they see there. And they are so wrong!

Acting is a career like no other. Of all the people who are professional actors (those are the members of Screen Actors Guild and Actors Equity Association and some are members of AFTRA), of all those people only a handful actually earn a living at acting. Fewer yer are those that are stars, who have earned enough money to live lasvish lifestyles for ever. Does this mean it is not a good idea to try to become an actor?

Yes and no. Yes it is a bad idea if you think you are going to be a star and/or earn a living at it.

No it is not a bad idea if you love acting and are willing to devote your life to it and do it on the side as you earn a liviing doing something else. Acting as a career, you see, will not fill your pocketbook, but will fill your soul. If it is something you have to do, then by all means do it, but don't expect too much of it. Become the best actor you can, arrange your life so you can take advantage of auditions and occassional work. Make your career in acting an avocation. Work you do on the side of what work feeds and houses you. Be very good at this.

There is always the possibility that luck will find you and you will join the few who are made rich and fanous Just don't count on it. It is such a longshot and it takes so much luck for that to happen.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Acting without Method

I have long been anti-Method, pehaps stemming from my visit to The Actors Studio in NYC in the mid 1960's and watching the members who included many well known professionals savage a young man who was auditioning for membership. Later reading about Strasburg and The Method shaped my opinions that Strasburg was merely a good PR man and a fraud as an acting teahcer, and that The Method was created from a misinterpretation of Stanislavsky, does not represent Stanislavsky's teaching on acting, and is a fatally flawed approach to acting.

The major problem with The Method is that is lives on in a constant flood of PR. Articles are written that 75% of Oscars since the year 2000 have gone to Method actors. So how does one identify a Method actor? You certainly cannot tell by watching their performance. Effective acting is effective with or without The Method. Even if someone has taken a class or classes in Method acting, that person may not be a Method actor. I think the only way you know if someone is a Method actor is if they say they are and there is anecdotal evidence to prove it. But an actor may use Method technique in one role and not in another. It is widely acknowledged that Method acting is not the most effective approach to Musical Comedy, Classical Theatre or Comedy in general. Finally there are the 25% who won who were not Method, by whatever meansurement. Therefore, we have to conclude that Method acting is not the reason why people will Oscars. It is more likely Politics that determines the winners.

One of the problems with Method acting is that if purports that actors create characters when , in fact, characters are created by the storytellers, the playwrights, novelists and screenwriters whose stories are being presented, What an actor does is stand in lieu of the character on the stage or before the camera. David Mamet is quite adamant on this topic in his book "True and False." The actor may, with the help of wardrobe and make up, create the physical appearance or 'vessel,' as I call it for the character. This includes posture and mannerisms, voice and dialect, and other part of the physical being of the character. But the vessel only holds the character that the playwright (or other writer) has created. The actor has no part in the psychology, enviroment, and history of the character. Method exercises which have the actor invent these things, filling in information that the playwright has not included in the script are not only truly useless in being faithful to the script, but may be in conflict with it or with the director's interpretation of it.

A recent email I received from a Method student was asking help in "letting go and throwing herself more completely into her acting" because her teachers said she was holding back in her perforamces. I explained to her that she was waiting for her Method technique to supply her with her responses and that that wait was obvious in her performance Method acting doesn't aways work. Affective memory sometimes gets stale and does not produce an instant emotional response as needed in a given moment of acting. Affective memory may also not give the proper response as if the affective memory is of the death of a pet and the actor is doing a scene in which the character has lost his dearest love. Not the same response. My solution to this student's problem was to stop acting. The more modern acting teachers, Tony Barr, Eric Morris, Harold Guskin, myself, and many others, favor non-acting. What the non-actor does is react rather than act; give an honest response instead of a pretended one; and , instead of creating a character, uses his or her own emotional responses to the immediate circumstance of the script rather than trying to call up some childhood memory to respond. This eliminates holding back and creates an honest, individually unique, and vulnerable performance of the role.

This is new territory for the Method actor. It it actually what Stanislavsky originally favored, that the personality of the actor be the actor's creative contribution to the play. That the actor has to rely on him or her self instead of Magic If's and Affective images. It takes the Magic If of Stanislavsky at its word. "What if this were really happening to me?" That is how the actor responds, as him or her self in the given circumstances of the play. And because the actor must use the playwright's words to accompany the responses the actor and the character become one in the performance.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I know.....

This is a phrase I see a lot in my email and on Yahoo Answers, 'I know..." . Usually the people writing this phrase have no idea what they are talking about and do not know. For instance, "I have never been in a play, but I know I am very talented." Yeah, right! Or, "I want to be an actress, and I know I need a talent agent." Well, if it comes to that. But first be an actress. Talent agents do not want inexperienced wannbes. They want actresses and actors who have evidence of their talent (a resume), and who they can make money from by representing them. Talent agemts do not make actors out of non-actors, nor do acting schools or colleges make actors out of non-actors. And to return to the first example, one that all too frequently is expressed by the hopeful youngster, upon what evidence do these dreamers base their conclusion. "I fool people all the time," or "I act all the time at home." I'd say that they probably are fooling themselves and have no idea what acting is really all about. It is too bad that we cannot have a disclaimer on all the Disney shows, "Do not try this at home, these are trained professionals under the guidance of experienced directors." Ah well, the consolation is that it is most likely that non of these people will ever become actors. The pity is that they might just try.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I have decided to tell the unvarnished truth

Well, I know I will not be able to stem the flood of youngsters who have a burning desire to be actors, but recent email assures me that the best course of action is to tell them the truth about having an acting career, even if it shatterns their dreams or breaks their hearts. If someone has not had a great deal of experience and training by the time they are 13 or 14 and at least one of their parents is not working hard to make a career for them, they just are not going to have a teen professional career. If someone has not been in a lot of plays and playing really good roles by the time they are 17, they probably are not going to be an adult professional. The past is prologue. It is a rare, very rare, instance when someone with absolutely no background in acting luckily tumbles into the profession. The aspiring actor who has a strong history of acting and training is more likely to 'be lucky.' Generally it takes extraordinary talent, wide experience and some training to be qualified for professional acting. It is unreasonable and unrealistic for anyone to assume they are talented without experience or to assume they can be an actor without experience and training. Experience in amateur theatre is a bellweather, telling us what we can expect from someone in the professional theatre. But one has to be born with the extraordinary talent to be an effective actor. Only one in a hundred aspiring actors even comes close. If you read my earlier posts, you will learn that acting is not like most professions. You cannot just decide you will be an actor and go learn how and do that. Not only is the native extraordinary ability required, but also there are so few jobs in relationship to how many actors want each job that it is very very difficult to ever get hired as a professional. When someone understands what the nature of professional acting is really like, they can better decide if they want to pursue it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Debating my stance on acting careers.

Well, it has come down to this. Do I continue to be mostly encouraging and posititve about people who want to become actors or do I take a tougher stance on the reality of the situation side, that most of them are never going to do anything? There is nothing dishonest about encouraging people with strong motivation and talent to go ahead a give it a try, but the reality of it all keeps popping up and saying to me, "There just are not any jobs for these people. They are not qualified nor are they likely to become qualified." A former actor of many years asked me yesterday to help him get started as an acing teacher. Now there is another dilemma. Do we really need more acting teachers encouraging young not quite good enough aspiring actors to continue on with it? Of course we don't. That is the problem.
Actors cannot earn a living at acting, so they become teachers who teach people to become actors who cannot earn a living so they become teachers who teach people to become actor who cannot.....And on and on ad nauseum. What shall I do? I always felt that since I got into professional acting rather easily, that others, equally well qualified, could do it as well. But can they really? IT makes sense to me that most professionals are never going to earn a living at acting, but they may make a few dollars now and again. Does that make it worth while to pursue? What is the necessary ingredient, the persoality trait, the psychological that would make someone devote his or her live to a part-time professional endeavor? There must be a middle gound where I stand, between those who say it is hopeless and those who say it is well worth it. Is it an ego trip? I am thinking of revising my book to include the reality of ever "making it" being mostly a matter of luck for a miniscule percentage of those who try.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What's the real deal?

Professional acting has about as many myths as ancient Greece. Today I got the "How can I get an agent or a SAG job when you have to be SAG to get an agent and you have to have an agent to get a SAG job?" Ok. This is all myth. You do not need to be a SAG member to get an agent. And it is possible, though not probable, that you could get a SAG job without an agent. If you work extra in three SAG films and get the vouchers, you can qualify for SAG. The other way to qualify for SAG is to have a speaking role, even one word, in a SAG film. It is important to get the facts and not listen to "they". You know "They say" and "they said". Get the facts about things. There are a few of us around who will help. But be careful.

Monday, September 21, 2009

What do actors and actresses look like?

There is a misconception among a great many people that only goodlooking people can become actors. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many homely people have become professional actors. What an actor needs, besides extraordinary talent of course, is to have a personality quality known as charisma. Charisma is personal attractiveness and charm. It comes from the actor creating in the audience a desire to see them perform again. They create a link to those who watch them act. This quality cannot be learned, it is a natural in born quality of a person like his or her talent. One either has it or they do not. If you have a great deal of fun when you act and do so with energy and excitement, with honesty and communication, you may have charisma. Charisma is star quality and very rare. It is what talent agents and casting directors are really looking for, not beauty. It matters not if you are fat, thin, muscular, athletic, svelt or pot-bellied. You can have a little turned-up nose or a great bulbous one. Warts, wrinkles, and all. If you can charm the talent agent and casting directors with the effectiveness and uniqueness of yourself and your acting---now that is what an actor or actress looks like.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Is there an acting profession?

This question came to mind while I was reading the first chapter of 'Acting Professionally' by Cohen, a book I have begun to recommend to all who thing it would be great to become an actor. I was especially struck by his statement that acting is more a boutique career, like being a Senator. In the US Senate there are only 100 jobs and only 1/3 of them are open every two years. Likewise, there are a very limited number of people actually earning a living as an actor. We can usually crowd them all into one auditorium for the Tony or Academy Awards. At least all the stage actors for the former and all the screen actors for the latter, I mean. And among all of those, many will not be earning a living at acting the next year. Now, if acting is in your blood and you just have to be an actor, fine, Cohen and I have written books on how to go about doing that. But you really should not count on earning a living at it. There just isn't enough work. The flooding of the acting market with new actors for whom there are no jobs is the fault of our colleges and universities and professional training conservatories who have found an endless supply of revenue from people who want to become actors. These institutions fail to teach their students that they will most probably not earn a living at acting; and in most cases do not even teach their students how to go about finding employment as an actor! Yes, Virginia, there is an acting profession. But it is a very closed one mostly open just for part time participants. Only one in a million or more aspiriants will actually make a career of acting.
Should you just give up on being an actor? Certainly not if you are extraordinarily talented and willing to dedicate yourself to it. If you are the rare person who is born to act, it will not matter to you if you every make a living at it, as long as you can do it. Contact me if you are this kind of person, I will be happy to help you at no charge.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

No magic way to success

Lately I have been getting email from young people wanting to be actors who beg me to help them to fame and fortune. Unfortunaely, I cannot do that. I can only give them advice about acting as a career. There is not quick, magic way to suddenly be the next Miley Cyrus. I read a treatise on acting as a career lately that opined that the one thing that made an acting career happen was LUCK! And I have to agree that luck is a big big factor. There are so many aspiring actors and acresses and so few parts that it is only by being the best prepared, most talented and right type for the part that anyone ever gets a role. The first roles that most actors and actresses get are very very small and they often go unnoticed in the industry and often do not even get a screen credit. It takes years of experience and training to get that far and it take more years, maybe a lifetime, to get better roles and screen credits. The lucky few will become known actors. It is the most difficult way in the world to try to earn a living.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What is taught in acting classes?

If actors are born and not made and talent cannot be taught, then what is taught in acting classes? Not very much, in most cases, I'm afraid. Too many acting classes are filled with games and exercises to make the students comfortable with being on stage and intereacting with one another. I confess that many of the classes I taught at the University did the same. And that is because beginning acting classes often attract many students of limited talent and experience and that in an academic setting you want as many students in class as you can get. It is a matter of survival. But these exercises have little or nothing to do with how to improve as an actor or how to become a professional actor--the two reasons besides networking why one should take an acting class. Acting classes (and acting curricula at academic and professional schools) most often are much concerned with various kinds of script or character analyses which are rooted in Stasislavski and Stanislavki-based teaching such as The Method or approaches by Adler, Meisner, Hagan or other notable acting teachers. Now it has been years since I read Stanislavski, but I do not recall where he advocated such analyis. He did describe exercises he used to retrain the Russian actors of his time. All teaching based upon his writing, emphasises these exercises, especially affective memory, as the key to effective acting. Much of what a student gets in acting classes is an indoctrination to the approach being taught. But so far we have not got to acting. The most benefical things done in acting classes is the presentation of scenes and monologues and having them critiqued and repeated to make them more effectibe and the introduction to techiques such as those needed for effective acting on camera, or to be a more effective cold reader or auditioner.
Well, that is about it. And that is why actors take classes for networking more than for instuction and why I think experience is more important than instruction.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Over and over an over again

It just never stops. Everyday I read questions from young people who say they want to be an actor and do I know an agent who isn't a scam and how do they get started? These questions point to the appalling lack of information about acting in the public schools and to the equally appalling amount of misinformation that is being given these young people. You don't start an acting career with an agent, you wind up with an agent if and when you have something they can market and make money from. Scams make money from you just wanting to be an actor. And they do not help. The first thing anyone who wants to be an actor must do is to provide evidence that they can act and act very well. They do this by creating a resume of roles they have played in amateur theatre such as at school or in the community. Once they have done that, they might seek the help of their parents or someone like myself to see where to go next. But there is no where next to go if the aspiring actor does not have an impressive resume. You wanna be an actor? Prove you can act is #1.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

How do I be more believable?

This seems to be what a number of aspiring actors have been concerned about lately. Believability comes through two things. First when the audience looks at you, they see the character. Thus you have to assume the proper physicality for the character via posture, walk, gesture, mannerisims, and so on. This I call "establishing the vessel to hold the character". Sometimes you need do nothing but be yourself with the proper anount of energy to be interesting. Second, believability comes via doing what the character does with purpose, as a reaction to what is occuring around him or her. That means speaking the lines as an honest emotional response so they sound like you mean what you are saying and by doing the action the lines reperesent as well. Avoid pretense and artificiality. Do not act, but react. That will make you more believable.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sadly, the real world is different

Among acting aspirants there are the realists and the dreamers. The realists understand at least a little about he realities of becoming an actor. That it takes extraordinary ability, lots of acting experience and some training and business know how and as a recent writer from the UK said "It all boils down to luck." Being the right person (that you are born as and have nurtured with experience and training) in the right place (perhaps through your networking) at the right time ( just as they are looking for someone just like you). The dreamers think that all they have to do is get that one audition, or send in their photo to that magic web site, or be discovered as they shine in the chorus of their school musical. They usually have little or no experience, have no concept of what being an actor would be like, often refuse to accept what it takes to become an actor or actress and prefer to go on with their fantasy rather than to take action to join the realists. I think they are mostly afraid of the truth, and that is that they have no acting talent. Information is the most important asset of anyone who seeks to be anything.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Let''s be honest about an acting career

I get hundreds of emails each month from people who say they want to become actors and actresses. Few, if any, of these people have any idea what acting is about except what they have seen on TV or in the cinema, experienced in a drama or theatre class or from being in some school plays. What they lack is knowledge of what an acting career is all about. They have no idea that an aspiring actor spends most of his time networking and looking for work. They have no idea, although they have heard that it is a difficult career to be successful in, that almost no actors make a living at acting, that most actors have to have a job outside of acting to support themselves. They have no idea what an agent really does and how very very difficult it is to get representation by an agent. They often have little or no acting experience which indicates that they do not really know if they have the extraordinary talent needed to even be a bit player in the professional world. I answer hundreds of questions about becoming an actor on Yahoo Answers every month. Anyone considering an acting career needs to read Acting Professionally by Cohen and The Tao of Acting by Dr. Kenneth Plonkey.

Monday, September 7, 2009

How theatre became academic

I shocked my colleagues with these ideas when I was teaching at the university. But the truth of the matter is that what happened to get theatre into academia was a ruse that keeps on growing. Everyone knows how difficult it is to become a professional actor today and to earn a living at acting. The reason is that there are enormously more out of work actors that there are available jobs. It has always been so, but movies and TV has made it worse, since people become enchanted with these media and think they would like to do that for a living. To accomdate those desires professional acadamies and acting studios have popped up like dandelions in my front yard. The aspiring actors are also served by colleges and universities who are offering more and more BFA acting programs which have grown out of their theatre or drama majors. Almost every college and univestity has a theatre program, producing plays and offering a curriculum of theatre classes. How these got started in the colleges is an interesting story. First, of course, Greek and Roman plays were studied in the Renaissance Academies which starting in the 15th Century set the model for our colleges and universities. Greek and Roman plays were read in grammar schools for years as long as those languages were taught there. Then famous playwrights' such as Shakespeare and his contemporaries and Moliere and his contemporaries were added to the literature classes in colleges and universities, then classes in drama were added to the English Department classes. Colleges and universities produced plays that students volunteered to work on. No matter that plays are not literature, a discussion comming up on this blog, they could be taught as though they were are they still are in schools at all levels from middle schools on up to universities. Now back in the 19th or early 20th Century, out of work actors talked their way into faculties which taught drama. It wasn't long until they began to add other theatre classes until there was enough of a curriculum to start a separate department. More and more out of work theatre people were hired as faculty. More degrees and classes were added to accomodate the interest of the prospective students, and here we are. Theatre sneaked in the back door of academia as a ruse to provide employment for out of work theatre people. This practice continues as more and more out of work professionals are hired at every level of education.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Acting and academia

I was a univeristy theatre department chairman, theatre program director and theatre professor for 28 years and before that had been a university theatre instuctor for four years. I designed and taught a variety of acting classes. Looking back now some dozen years after I retired, I have realized the weakenss of teaching acting in an academic setting. Besides the fact that my academic superiors, regardless of their lack of knowledge concerning theatre and acting, always new a better way of doing what I was trying to do. They are much like liberal politicians in that way, and of course many were politically liberal, assuming they knew better than the experts in the field. Anyway, their constant meddling, often ludicous such as when I was told I should produce a morality play every year, so I asked, "You mean like, 'Everyman?"" "Yes,"they(my dean and department chair) knowingly replied. "That would become rather tedious," I answered, "since 'Everyman' is the only extant Medieval morality play." They just sat there, dumbfounded. Academia has, with reason, some mistrust of things artistic. Theatre is the weak link in the creativea arts in academia. Music and Fine Art are much more widely accepted. Music is so widely popular, following years of excellent PR by the educational music organizations, that it is more nearly considered a necessity rather than an art. Everyone has music in their lives, but, save for the entertainment media (featuring all of those immoral and odd people that are reported about in the news media), theatre is an ugly stepchild. That makes it difficult to even get in the curriculum, and to sustaing and make grow with in academia as well. The point of all this is that acting and academia are a poor fit. They just don't get along.. While Music is allowed to give credit for classes that have no reading, writing, or written testing, theatre seldom is. Vocal and instrumental students take individual and group instruction which consists of merely performing and being criticised for imporvement. Acting classes are hardly ever so. They are full of reading and writing assignments (that the students and the faculty have been told will help the students with their acting) and then are allowed a bit of actual performance and critique. But because of acting (and theatre in general) having to be made academically viable, the performance of acting is neglected. A reading of college and university catelog description of acting classes is ample evidence that few in academia are taking acting as an art seriously,. The educationalese and catch phrases used by acting teachers to make their courses sound academic are quite laughable by someone who understands what acting is and how it needs to be "taught". Topics for future posts: how theatre became academic, what is the art of theatre? and If actors are born and not made, what is taught in acting classes and how are they taught? Stay tuned.

Friday, September 4, 2009

How to audition

I get a lot of requests for information about how to do well at auditions. This is the basic info: Be prepared, read the script if at all possible, understand the story and who the characters are. IF it is a musical, sing a song you sing very well as you want to be comfortable and energetic when you sing. Always approach an audition as another opportunity to play and have fun. That is what acting is after all, playing. Not allowed to do that at work, or school, or home very much. So it is going to be fun. Then always dress comfortably and neatly, be well groomed. When you leave the house adopt a positive attitude and keep it until you get back home fromt he auditions no matter what happens there. Approach the audition with energy and enthusiasm, but stay under control, don't get giddy and be silly or stupid. When you read from the script or do your monologue, remember: first adopt the physical qualities of the character and then use the lines as the emotional and physical expression of the character (now you) to the stituation and stimuli of each moment of the scene. Act will full expression. Have a blast!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

You are as good as your word.

In the world of acting, it is very important that information that you give others about yourself is completely accurate. One never lies or puts false information on his or her resume. That would be completely unethical and often you will get caught if you try it. If you are caught in one fabrication, maybe your whole resume is fake is what someone may think of you. Similarly, if you tell someone you are doing such and such, then you had jolly well be doing that. For this reason, it is frowned upon in the acting world to talk about what you are going to do because that is all too often just a wish or a dream and when it doesn't happen your veracity is againg challenged. Thus, if you make a statement, it must be true. And if you promise that you will do something, then you should follow through and actually do it and not blow it off. Also do not forget the committments you make and keep all of them. If you need to write in a notebook or daily planner that on such and such a date, you are going to do this or that, do so. Many of my greatest failings in my career were that I promised that I would do something and then forgot to do it. This almost always led to other things like retalitory actions from the slighted party. You really can't blame them. You broke your word, why should they have to consider you in their plans. Well, you get the idea. Nothing can be more important to the aspiring actor than to me a man or woman of his or her word.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Acting amd Websotes/

Young people aspiring to becoming actors seem to have the mistaken belief that there is a magical website out there in cyberspace that can make them a star, if they can only find it and get an audition. This is just part of the fantasy that they build up while watching TV and movies and dreaming that they might become a star, the idol of all their friends and enemies. Of course such websites do not exist. Most of the websites dealing with casting and becoming an actor are of course SCAMS which are designed to part young people's parents fromt their money. There is just no quick, magical way to become an actor. There are a few legit websites that have good information on them that aspiring actors need to have, but any web site that asks you to sign up so they can get you auditions so you can become a star, well forget them. There are also a few websites that actually can help actors get roles, but these should only be used by people who are already actors or aspiring adults or by aspiring teen's parents. Some of them have fees, some do not. My advise to people under 18 is to stay off the web, it is a place where you can get into trouble.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

It changes out of high school

While school acting is pretty much the same from elementary through high school; acting, like playing sports, changes as you move up the latter. What starts out as a simple school activity, social gathering and play time, becomes more and more serious as you get to high school and then to college and then to the professional world. By the time you get to the pro world, acting is still fun, when you can get work, but it is no longer simple, no longer a recreational fun time and no longer just based on your ability to do it well. There are other considerations. First and foremost is that business end of acting. Professional productions cost millions of dollars and so those responsible for the money are much more serious about the work being done. To take part in this huge business, the aspiring actor needs to learn how the business works and how he is now a businessman who must package and sell his product-himself as an actor. It is a far cry from the idealism of school acting.