Conversations with Alfred Molina

Alfred Molina 5/2/10
nnAlfred Molina, who is known for his roles in Spiderman 2, Prick Up Your Ears, Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Frida and can currently be seen on Broadway in Red, joined T. Schreiber Students for a “Conversations With…” evening on May 2nd. This Sunday night series provides an opportunity for actors to learn and hear from established actors, directors and playwrights in a very informal and intimate conversational setting and is moderated by Terry Schreiber.

Make Your Single a Double at the Joking Apart Singles Night

Make Your Single a Doublenat the Joking Apart Singles NightnnThursday May 27thnn6pm-8pm Singles Event at Prime Café (125 West 26th Street)nn2-for-1 drinks and mingling hosted by Daniel Packard: dating coach and star of Daniel Packard’s Live Group Sex Therapy Show!nn8pm-10pm Joking Apart, a comedy by Alan Ayckbourn, at T. Schreiber Studio (151 W. 26th Street, 7th Floor).nnRichard and Anthea seem to have it all: a lovely country house, two wonderful children, and a natural social charm that captivates the friends surrounding them. Or do they? Cleverly crafted with vintage Ayckbourn wit, Joking Apart simmers with triumphs on and off the tennis court, ongoing rivalries, petty jealousies, unrequited love and lust, and the tantalizing question, “What is happiness?”nnYour ticket includes entry into the singles event as well as entry to see Joking Apart. Sadly, drinks are not included!

OVERVIEW 2010

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May 2010. Claudia Shear wrote and stars in Restoration, directed by Christopher Ashley and about a woman commissioned to restore Michelangelo’s David for its 500th birthday, at New York Theatre Workshop.
May 2010. Ivette Dumeng just finished working with John Patrick Shanley in The Monkey Show for the LABrynth Theater Company. She also started her own theater company, NyLon Fusion Collective, with another T. Schreiber alum, Elliot Joseph.
May 2010. David Greenspan stars opposite Billy Crudup in Adam Rapp’s The Metal Children at the Vineyard Theater.
May 2010. Noah Mills plays Samantha Jones’ (Kim Cattrall’s) newest love interest in Sex and the City 2.
May 2010. Zal Owen is currently playing Motel, the Tailor, opposite Harvey Fierstein in the national tour of Fiddler on the Roof.
January 2010. Bonnie Dennison is the understudy for Scarlett Johanssen in A View from the Bridge, now playing at the Cort Theatre.

n*If you — or someone you know — should be listed on this page, please email us: info@www.tschreiber.org. Be sure to include a description of the project, dates, location, and URLs.

Joking Apart as Vampire Weekend

Jake Gyllenhaal, Wu-Tang’s RZA, Lil Jon, and Joe Jonas… I don’t know about you but that makes me think of Joking Apart! The latest Vampire Weekend video strongly features tennis, including classic white balls, cute pleated skirts and Jake Gyllenhaal in tight shorts as does Joking Apart! Ok, we don’t have Jake in tight shorts but we certainly would if we could.nn

OVERVIEW 2009

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June 2009. Ben Prayz appears as Banquo in the Secret Theatre Co. production of Macbeth, June 11 – 27 , plays Nick in a staged reading of Bullied for Misfit Toys Rep on June 23 and can be seen in the award-winning short film, The Humberville Poetry Slam which was produced, written and directed by TSS Alumni Emily Chang.
May 2009. Look out for Allison Strong who will be appearing in the Roundabout Theatre’s revival of Bye Bye Birdie opening on September 10th.
May 2009. James Kautz can be seen in Hamlet: Prince of Denmark presented by The Mortals Theater & Brooklyn Stage Company at the Archip Gallery Theater through May 24th.
May 2009. Emily Fink, has been cast in the role of “Anna” in Ivanov produced by the Miscreants Theatre Company. Ivanov will open June 8th and run through June 28th.
March 2009. Harmon Walsh, while receiving raves for his role as “Billy” in our production of The Real Thing, Harmon also managed to squeeze in a guest shot on Gossip Girl. His work included a scene opposite Charles Isherwood, the The New York Times critic and made quite an impact. You can read more about that here.
February 2009- June 2009. Denise Quinones can be seen in The House of the Spirits at the Repetorio Espanol.
February 2009. Erica Lauren McLaughlin is acting in Roundheads and Peakheads at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington, DC. It runs until March 15th.
January 2009. Henning Fisher recently made an appearance on the Fox TV show Fringe.
January 2009. Victor Joel Ortiz chosen as one of Backstage’s “Take 5” actors. Backstage will follow Victor’s career throughout the year via a series of articles in order to show the diversity of what an actor’s career is at different stages. Read the first on his website, and the follow the rest in Backstage’s national magazine!
January 2009. Chris Riggi has supporting roles in the two upcoming films, Dare and Toe to Toe, premiering at 2009’s Sundance Film Festival. He recently made appearances on Lipstick Jungle and Guiding Light.
January 2009. Ryan Michael Jones shot the pilot and episodes 4 & 5 for the new NBC epic show, Kings in which he plays one of the Shepard brothers. He will also appear in a featured scene with America Ferrera in Ugly Betty.
January 2009. Harmon Walsh just accepted a guest lead on Gossip Girl.
January 2009. Justin Paul Kahn returns to One Life to Live for at least six episodes.
January 2009. Julie Halston will be performing in Broadway at Birdland. Julie also has a new book out, called Monologues for Show-offs.

n*If you — or someone you know — should be listed on this page, please email us: info@www.tschreiber.org. Be sure to include a description of the project, dates, location, and URLs.

OVERVIEW 2008

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November 2008 – January 2009. Kira Sternback can be seen in the UK Premiere of Neil Labute’s In a Dark Dark House at The Almeida Theatre, under the direction of Michael Attenborough.
December 2008 and ongoing. Janet Saia-Feld can be seen on Broadway in Phantom of the Opera.
December 2008. Holly Davatz is acting in The Elves and the Shoemaker at Manhattan Children’s Theatre. It runs until December 17th.
December 2008. Victoria Guthrie won the supporting role of the real estate agent in the feature film The Blind, directed by Nathan Silver, to be released in 2009.
December 2008. Laurence Cantor is currently shooting a non-recurring role in a pilot for HERE! cable TV produced by Barataria Productions through December 15th.
December 2008. Davida Williams has booked a recurring role on As the World Turns. She can also be seen on the big screen in American High School as well as the upcoming J.O.N.A.S! (2009) and My Friend My Hero (2009).
November 2008. Cynthia Shaw is performing and is the musical director for The New York Christmas Revels.
November 2008 and ongoing. Summer Moore has 6 on-camera national commercialncampaigns running, and is the voice (announcer) for 12 national commerical campaigns as a vo artist. She has also booked roles on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, worked off-Broadway in a new play (Stain), and will be starring opposite Thomas Everett Scott, Anthony Rapp & Lucas Haas in a new feature film beginning in Spring 2009.
September 2008 and ongoing. Bonnie Dennison has been a regular on Guiding Light since November of 2006 and Third Watch since 2005. She can be seen on the big screen in the films Black Watch and Love/Death/Cobain.
September 2008 and ongoing. Marija Stajic Salvetti can be seen in the film I, Creator, and the upcoming Mail Order Bride. She has appeared in Law and Order: Criminal Intent, as well as numerous industrials with IBM and Microsoft. She can be heard in voiceovers for Mariott Hotels, and Oracle.
September 2008. Jane Anderson wrote a screenplay for an episode of Mad Men, entitled The Gold Violin.
September 2008 and ongoing. Peter Sarsgaard plays Trigorin on Broadway in The Seagull. He was recently seen onscreen in Rendition (2007), The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (2008), Elegy (2008), In the Electric Mist (2008) and the upcoming productions of An Education (2009), and Orphan (2009).
September 2008. Judith Scarpone‘s latest film, Everybody Wants to be Italian, opened on the East Coast.
July 2008. Justis Bolding joined the cast of One Life to Live as a permanent cast member.
June 2008 and ongoing. Todd Reichart is the writer and co-host of a weekly events calendar for the Princeton, NJ area at PrincetonNewsNetwork.com, and he has conducted a series of interviews of the playwrights, directors, and actors of the current 2007-08 season of plays at Princeton’s McCarter Theatre.
June 2008 and ongoing. Edward Norton has been seen onscreen in The Incredible Hulk (2008), Pride and Glory (2008) and has the following projects upcoming: Leaves of Grass (2009), and Motherless Brooklyn (2010).
March 27 – April 13, 2008. Todd Reichart appeared in a production of Preston Jones’ The Oldest Living Graduate at the Hampton Theatre Company in Quogue, NY.

n* If you — or someone you know — should be listed on this page, please email us: info@www.tschreiber.org. Be sure to include a description of the project, dates, location, and URLs.

THE EMOTIONAL RECALL

nnI would like to illustrate what I have been advocating as a healthy way for an actor to go to their own well of experience in order to open up to character and script demand. I feel strongly that the Emotional Recall, “effective memory” or “sense memory”, first developed by Stanislavsky and reinterpreted by Strasberg, is an excellent acting tool. The exercise also serves to illustrate my point of working from something that the actor is psychologically and emotionally resolved about.nnTo begin planning work on the “E.R.”, I first ask the actor to consult with me privately about a feeling or emotion that always presents a problem to them when it comes up in a character that they are about to play, or even audition for. The actor wants to connect and express the feelings that are necessary, but they know they have trouble accessing that area within themselves. Any good actor wants to genuinely connect, not indicate or play an idea of a character. The actor says to me, “I know I could play this role, but the character is very vulnerable/shy/angry/out of control/silly/bounding with joy or any other trait that the actor wants to access as a “quality” demanded of the role.nnI ask the actor to select a moment from their life, for want of a better phrase, a “traumatic moment” when they experienced one of the above mentioned feelings or emotions. I want them to pick an incident that happened at least seven years ago, preferably one from childhood. ‘In big bold letters’ I say that I want them to pick something they are psychologically and emotionally resolved about, are not currently trying to resolve, or working on in therapy. I work with them through the exercise, helping them to recall the actual event through sensory detail, not just narrating a story. When successful, the actor will succeed in re-creating not only the event, but the age that they were and the response that they had at the time. All of the information is stored in the subconscious and reliving it with correct sensory guidance will release it.nnThe E.R. can be a very helpful tool when trying to get inside a monologue which the actor understands intellectually, but contains an event that the actor has never experienced. It is a homework tool that frees the imagination from just centering on the words, and helps to create a life response around the words. I continue with two more steps to this exercise providing Part I, described above, is accomplished. Part II adds an overall activity with tasks. Part III consists of applying the work to a monologue from a play that has a similar climactic emotional moment in it.nnHaving gotten through all these steps, I then know that the actor is free and safe in working from this recollection and can use it as a tool for an audition or performance. I know they will be able to control and place the emotional response into the desired moment of the monologue without being taken over by unresolved emotions, losing objective control, and thus, not being able to use the “E.R.” as a technique. Every well-trained actor knows to play what you’re doing about the emotion, not just play the emotion. An actor who is being taken over by a flood of unresolved emotion, is out of control, and responding from neuroses, which is not acting. This kind of work gets self indulgent rather than creative. This indulgence might be necessary to work through with a therapist, but in the theatre it is ‘wretched excess’, not to mention personally harmful for the actor. I repeat, every well-trained actor knows to play what you are doing about the emotion, not just play the emotion.nnThe standard joke is, “you don’t always have to work on the day your dog died.” Frequently an actor will bring me a choice and I will say, “I appreciate you wanting to share that, but I think it sounds too unresolved and perhaps you should work on that in therapy.”nnA few examples of what I would not work on with an actor are: a recent death of a loved one, being beaten by a parent, molestation, being mugged, abused, raped, an awful accident, or war trauma. While even therapy may never resolve some of these issues, that is the more suitable arena for them to be worked on.nnA lot of actors come from broken homes, alcoholic or abusive parents; it may be the reason they initially chose acting as a means of escape from this environment. But the issues and scars that remain from that background are not necessarily safe areas for an acting class.

GREAT ACTORS

nnGreat Actors reach out and touch us by what they give from themselves, their availability to themselves, to other actors in the scene, and the material. They fill us with feelings and responses because they have so generously and honestly connected and given of their own rich instrument. They accomplish this communication from a disciplined and organic center, not by presenting a psychodrama of neuroses.nnIt is the absolute responsibility of good and healthy acting teachers to understand the difference in the above and dedicate themselves to helping any actor that comes their way to understanding that difference.nnActing can be a wonderfully rewarding “sane obsession” in pursuit of the craft. It can, and should be, a healthy journey, not a self-destructive one.nnYou may never make a living out of acting, but doing it well from a healthy base can certainly give your life untold pleasure.

THE ACTING BLOCKS

nnWe work with many varied exercises to help the actor get in touch with themselves, work deeply with inner conviction, and ultimately, validate that the source is there within them. In our work, we attempt to understand the acting blocks that stop the actor from opening up feelings and emotional responses that they would have to access to fulfill the roles they might have the potential to be cast in.nnFor any of us: actors, directors, writers, teachers, painters, musicians, these blocks are not just confined to the arts, ‘the life blocks in an individual are also the creative blocks.’ It is these “blocks” to which a teacher must be very sensitive. We must create a safe atmosphere that is encouraging and supportive for an actor tackling some of their own blocks, as we try to help them open up the range of talent that might be within them. We must, as teachers, be sure not to push or force, but to create a safe and trusting atmosphere where a breakthrough might happen. Sometimes when the blocks are so cemented within, the healthiest step might be to pull the actor aside and suggest they work on these “obstacles” to their feelings with a therapist. A thick wall has been built up – we must help the actor to find a way over it. And sometimes it is too thick for a teacher to help the actor break through, and the teacher should realize and acknowledge that.nnOur teaching goal is designed to help the actor to open up and bring the richness within themselves to the work and the character. It is never very interesting or rewarding to watch an actor indicate or play an idea of feeling and emotion as they distance themselves from the character and thus the material. There has to be a connection to the feelings that the character is living through, not just an idea of them or an indication of them to make an effective performance. We want our exercises to become good working tools for the actor, that they then develop into their own technique. This will help them to expand the range of their talent and thus their casting opportunities.

WHO HAS THE CORRECT THEORY?

nnExactly how best to create rich characters has been much debated in the acting world for over a century. Strasberg believed that digging into one’s personal life was the key to building the character. He encouraged actors to internalize everything before it is externalized. The other prophets of the craft like Meisner, Adler, Lewis broke with Lee’s essential theory and concentrated on working from an “as if” technique, encouraging an actor to create a reality by imagining themselves into the given circumstance. Which ever of these two most used American techniques an actor chooses to work with, it is of paramount importance that the actor works from experiences that are resolved psychologically and most importantly resolved emotionally. Whatever area the actor is calling upon from their life experiences, or their imagining of the “as ifs,” it is the teacher’s and/or director’s job to recognize whether this is a safe place for the actor to go – that the actor has found closure, and the actor can go to ‘the source’ repeatedly in an objective, not subjective, way.nnGoing on stage eight times a week and drawing on unresolved issues is bound to create a very unhealthy personal life for the actor off-stage, and nine times out of ten lead to acting from neuroses while on stage, or in front of the camera.nnAs teachers or directors, knowing the actor well enough from previous work will help you avoid getting into a dangerous area, and one you don’t belong in. The responsibility for the teacher is enormous in creating a safe environment for the actor to work in. It must be a non-judgmental environment that encourages the actor to take risks and chances, but does not force. An actor must know that in the class room there is a safety net and that if “they jump, the net will be there”. A growth process with the work comes from having permission to “fall on your butt”, knowing that support and encouragement will be there.

NOTHING YOU CAN ACT

nnThere is nothing you can act that is richer than what you are. nnGreat work is not about the actor becoming the character or ‘being someone else,’ – it’s about the actor knowing that the character will be whatever the actor brings to it from themselves. The more actors can open up and be available to themselves, the more of the character they will find within themselves, and the more genuine surprises they will have for the audience.nnThis process of helping actors to open up the richness within them is a delicate one. It must be handled by a teacher with extreme sensitivity toward each individual actor. This is of paramount importance.nnDuring my 40 years of teaching, I have encountered all too many actors destroyed by the ego of college / university teachers or a professional mentor. There are far too many teachers that feel they have to strip actors of their ego and rebuild them. Or worse, play upon the actor’s neuroses, and subsequently perhaps their own neurotic needs, by encouraging an actor to work in an area they are not equipped psychologically or emotionally to handle. As teachers we are not trained therapists, or surrogate parents, and have no right to pretend to be. It is dangerous to establish and encourage these kinds of role relationships in the classroom. Exploring the craft of acting can be encouraged as a healthy and even “sane obsession”, not a process of digging into neuroses as a tool of creativity. Terry Schreiber

THE ACTING CLASS

Prior to discussing the atmosphere and the process in the classroom it is very important that the actor thoroughly research the chosen place of study.nnNo actor, beginning or advanced, should enroll in a studio sight unseen. Attend an orientation, or forum, about the work- whichever the studio is offering- and insist on an interview/audition with the teacher for the class you are to be in.nnIt is vital to you that you enter a class in which you will feel comfortable, yet challenged. A budding talent can be crushed, stopped, or inhibited by getting into a class that is over the actor’s head and far too advanced. I personally do not know how, for instance, a beginning actor can be placed in a class with more advanced actors without it being detrimental to the work of either actor. I also do not know how you can work in a class with over twenty actors in it. Yes, you can learn from observation, but acting is doing and you must be able to get up at least three to four times in the month. Ideal class size is sixteen to eighteen actors, giving you a good balance of partners and a variety of scenes according to age types in the class. Beware of the class that gives you ten minutes for a scene and 10 minutes for critiques. That kind of class is analogous to a treadmill in a beanery. The work and critiques, especially if the teacher takes time to work beats with the actor, help them to deepen choices, and take more chances and risks with their choices, should give the actor a good forty-five minutes on the stage.nnAfter the first time up, usually there is a specific discussion as to objectives, givens, and what the actor is attempting to solve at this stage of rehearsal. The second time up becomes more of a work rehearsal. Both of these times up, of course, are based around the actors putting in the three to four rehearsals (usually two hours in duration) outside the studio.nnFrom the first day of class the actor must feel they are walking into a safe environment. One in which they will feel comfortable and open to taking risks and chances in the growing process of “the work”. That kind of atmosphere will give the actor an immediate secure and supported feeling establishing the trust not only with the teacher but fellow peers in the class.nnAt all times the work must be about the process of the craft and not result orientated. To learn the process means letting yourself be willing to “fail”, knowing that the so-called failure can lead to growth. The work is not about playing it safe and always just working from comfort zones, but taking chances with choices in both exercises and scene study. The actor needs that safe atmosphere to be able to will themselves to take these risks and it is the teacher’s responsibility to provide it.nnJudgmental criticism, harsh or negative, does not encourage an actor to get up and work with a sense of freedom or abandonment. Fear of the teacher and incurring their wrath in front of the class leads to tight, tense, “how bad am I going to be this time” kind of work.nnWhether the actor is working on an exercise to add to their “tool kit” or exploring a role in a scene that will stretch them, there should be no obligation to entertain the class or the teacher with performance results. The process must always be about “learning how to use yourself more fully” in the work. As an actor, the only instrument you have to play on is yourself and there is nothing more wonderful that you can create than what you are. Instilling this in the actor and helping them to work from their mind, heart, and will is the essence of a good teacher and conducive to a trusting class room atmosphere.nnI am death on auditing and consider it to be “selling a class at the expense of the actors in the class”. The second you have auditors is the second you introduce “judgment” into the work. The class work must be kept free of judgmental values. Those values are for the final result in performance and performance results must be kept out of class.nnAfter a scene the actor must be able to comfortably talk about what they were working on. Clarifying their objective, choices to solve the givens of the scene, and character problems they encountered. Discussions vary as to how they fulfilled that objective over the other stated goals, and how they could deepen the work and achieve fuller results in the process. The actor has to feel at ease in these discussions and not attacked, especially when they are discussing the “personal work” they went to in order to meet challenges of the scene and accomplish psychological and emotional depth in their character. The actor must not feel it is an adversarial relationship between himself and the teacher, but as open exchange about the work.nnSide note to the teacher: If there are personal things to say with the actor, and not proper to discuss in front of the class, have a private in-office session. This helps an actor to feel safe and protected.nnActor’s have to take responsibility for the text, adhere to the lines and not paraphrasing. Honor the writer’s words, punctuations and rhythm. This is a discipline that must be instilled in the classroom.nnA safe atmosphere in class makes it easier for the actor to open up, explore, and go much deeper and more personally into the work. An actor must know in their mind and heart that they have the privilege to fail and it is safe to do so. This will encourage “going for it” and making more heightened choices of playing intention, and a willingness to dig deeper in themselves to find the character.nnClass comments from other actors in the class should be monitored very carefully. Actors commenting must talk about the work and not make audience evaluations. For instance it’s fine for and actor to say “I thought the work was wonderful” but I want the actor who makes the comment to elaborate why they thought it was “wonderful” in acting terms. Negative attack by one actor to another should never be allowed, or opinion as to how they would have played the role. The actor who has just worked must be protected as they are very vulnerable and an easy target.nnI think a professional actor demonstrates a wonderful ego by coming back to class in between jobs to work on problems they’ve encountered or using the class as a sort of gym to workout in. That actor certainly has to feel safe and trusting to make that decision. Yet, another reason why the classroom owes that actor a creative, secure and trusting surround for learning and growing.nnOne last rule about the classroom: No teacher has the right to work out their professional disappointments on students, anymore than try to play amateur psychiatrist, or replace mom or dad. A craft is being taught and personal “isms” should be left outside the door. Create a nurturing atmosphere and the work will take hold for most actors willing to give the time and discipline to their study. The class is not about judging talent. It is about creating an environment that is nurturing and supportive in helping the actor to get to their talent. They also must feel that the investment of their talent, time, and money will result in the possibility of future work and successes in their chosen profession. To mold and hone their instrument, actors need constant assurances that it is safe for them to open up and let the richness of themselves happen.

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