You say that this is a "technique" class and not "scene study". What's the difference?
In a scene study class the actor enters the class and finds someone to work with and chooses a scene to do, or is given one, and they rehearse that scene and then present it in front of the class and are given notes. They then bring it back, usually after several classes of watching other people’s scenes, and do it again. This would be much like learning architecture by building a specific building and then being given notes on that job and watching other students do likewise. You can learn that way, but it takes a long time.
A technique class teaches the basics for how to build any building, or in this case, any scene, starting with the most elemental steps and leading eventually to the most sophisticated performances possible.
By improving your technique, you improve yourself as an actor forever. You don’t become good by doing one specific scene, starting over and hoping you were fortunate enough to have learned something useful for your next scene. This work highlights the issues you must address with every scene, and will reveal particularly those things that you personally need to work on, which can often be masked by doing certain kinds of material. And you work every class.
The studio offers an excellent scene study class but virtually everyone who has been to the studio says: “Do the Meisner training first!” Once an actor has the foundation and the ability to operate with self-sufficiency, then they are able to understand and make use of the wonderful insights these directors have to offer.
Is the technique you teach better for television and film, or stage plays? How about comedy vs. drama?
Is this technique what's called "The Method" or "Method Acting"?
What is the difference between "internal" and "external" acting techniques?
External acting is acting that emphasizes the representation of behavior, “to show” or to indicate behavior, and stresses the technical requirements of acting, such as speech and movement.
Internal acting emphasizes having the performer actually live through the experience, engaging their own emotional life and relating in such a way that it produces behavior consistent with the character.
External acting is associated more with the stage which requires a performance to reach to the back row of a large theater. These techniques still predominate at most university drama departments, as well as several prestigious academies.
I've heard that in some acting classes you have to talk about your personal life. Is that true with this school?
No. While internal acting does require an actor to draw upon their own true feelings, this program is not per se psychological. The instructors know nothing of the students’ private lives. It’s true that many acting schools are open forums for this kind of thing, but we think our job is to train actors to function as performers, not psychoanalyze them.
At the same time, it’s nearly a universal response among people who attend the training to say: “Everyone should do this. Not just people who want to act.” That’s because, through the process of being in the moment, getting in touch with the emotional life (even under fictional circumstances), asserting yourself and losing self-consciousness in front of an audience, there is a transformational payoff in entitlement and the tranquility of being in one’s own skin. In this way the work is not “therapy,” but it is highly therapeutic. Internal acting tends to be more intimate and grew out of a desire to represent average people in a naturalistic style. It became especially popular with the filming of performances where subtlety could be appreciated.
In truth, there is no such thing as a completely internal performance in that there must always be some accommodation for theatrical demands. Most successful external actors enhance their performances by engaging themselves emotionally.
If I start this program, will you tell me if I have any talent, or if I shouldn’t pursue acting?
We don’t talk too much about talent at the studio. We teach craft. There’s a lot of uninformed opinion about acting, and how it can’t be taught, and you either have talent for it or you don’t. That’s silly. Can you think of any other pursuit in which that’s true? Acting can be taught, just as anything can be taught; and anyone through hard work can achieve a certain level of competence.
Another problem with answering this question concerning whether someone has talent or not is you never know when someone might blossom. The cultivation process (if the talent is the seed, the craft is the cultivation) can be indefinite and, as long as someone is applying themselves, it’s possible for that seed to germinate and a huge, fruit yielding plant to emerge. Part of the excitement of teaching is you never know when this is going to happen. A student might not excel immediately, their classmates sympathetic to their initial efforts; then suddenly something kicks in and they are among the best in class, causing envy for the tremendous power of their imaginations. You never know.