Tag Archives: Tisch

Movement, Yoga, Dance = Better Actor

25 Feb

I think there’s more to an actor’s training than just acting classes. During my short stint at Tisch, our three days a week in the Studio consisted of classes like Movement, Voice and Speech in addition to Performance Technique and Script Analysis. Today I took a lyrical jazz class and it made me think about how important other classes and practices are to being a successfully, well-rounded actor. Not just in building other skills that could be good selling points to an agency or casting director or producer, but in building your self-esteem, your character, your body.

During the warm up portion of this unconventional dance class, we gathered in a circle and micked the person in the center who would do some wacky dance move then pass the baton to someone else. I turned to my friend and said, “This reminds me of theater class!” It was so fun watching the diverse group of women (and one fearless man) let go of inhibitions and not care or worry about the moves they were making. Then, the second half of the class we learned and performed a few measures of choreography. At first I was in my head about counts and was it my left foot first or my right foot… but after a few times, and the teacher saying “just feel the music” I learned to let go. The teacher dimmed the lights, turned up the volume and let us all move to the music with the way we interpreted her choreography and it felt great.

This may sound really cheesy and maybe you don’t agree, but freeing my body and really feeling the music opened me up emotionally. Physically engaging every fiber in my body unleashed the non-physical parts that make up who I am. It reminded me of a particularly challenging moment of a scene in a scene study class I took at ACT in San Francisco. The teacher pointed out to me that I kept holding on to my breath at this one part. I didn’t notice, as often we don’t notice the various habits and crutches we develop as an actor (some are great unique traits to embrace, and others are inhibiting and worth checking out). I then took a deep breath, shook it off and started over. As I worked my way through the scene ,so much more began bubbling inside of me. Literally. I could feel it, like you feel your tummy rumble when you’re hungry. That performance was so much more grounded than my previous rehearsals all due to breathing!

I’ve also taken dance classes, like jazz, hip hop, belly dance, and even yoga classes, which have all (whether they were more focused on professionalism and technique or just having fun and using your body) been beneficial to my acting in some way.

Dance & Yoga Resources in LA:

The EDGE Performing Arts Center
IDA Hollywood
Millenium Dance Center
Liberation Yoga

The Truth about “Liars”

5 Feb

Wednesday night I had the great privilege of seeing a special screening of the indie movie, The Four-Faced Liar, fresh off the film fest circuit including Slamdance.

What was so awesome about watching this movie, was the way it made me feel: my dream is attainable. Here I was, sitting in this special screening room in Beverly Hills, and I know the person who wrote, starred and produced the movie, one of the stars of the movie is a dear friend, two people who auditioned for my show last week were in the audience, along with two people who were actually in my show last year, and then the person I sit next to happened to be someone from my first year at NYU and then on the way out we bump into a anther actor-friend from my theater company in LA. There were so many connections. And it made me feel, I am in the right place. (Not physically, but figuratively of course. I mean, Beverly Hills aint really my scene).

Don’t get me wrong… there was the flip side to all this too. Let’s be honest here. It was tough sitting in the audience looking up at a screen that, in essence, could’ve had me on it. But that’s the cool part, really. That’s what makes me feel like it’s so attainable. Those are my peers. And they are making it happen. Which means, so can I.

As Fate Would Have It

11 Jan

August 2002: NY, NY. It’s my first week living in NYC. I’m nervous, excited, scared, anxious and a million other things, as I gear up for my first year of college.

I’m standing in line to retrieve my student ID, along with twenty or thirty other anxious freshmen. The hot, humid air has us all a little impatient and bored as we look around, flip through our new text books or fiddle with our phones. I’m lost in my own thoughts, absorbing my new surroundings until…

I feel a tap on my shoulder as a friendly young man asks, “So, you’re from California?”

I turn to reply, “Yes. How did you know?”

“Your license,” he says pointing to my California driver’s license I have already in hand, ready to go so as to not waste any time when my turn arrives.

“Oh,” I say, a little embarrassed, but regain my composure. “Are you also from California?”

“Yeah, actually, I am. I’m from southern California.”

“Me too!” I say, excitedly, to find someone to relate to, however superficial the relation. You cling to these little morsels of commonality when alone and new in a big city like New York. In fact, this man had a comforting familiarity to him. Maybe it was just a SoCal thing? “What part?” I continue.

“The valley.”

“Me too!” I say again, with increased enthusiasm.

“Where in the valley did you grow up?” he asks.

“Sherman Oaks,” I answer, the sense of familiarity growing stronger.

“Me too!” the friendly young man says with equal gusto as my previous exclamations.

“Where did you go to school?” I ask.


Then it hits me. “Me too.”

This strangely familiar, friendly looking young man was Marc Smollin, aka Seymour Krelboyne from the first theatrical production I ever saw in my life: Little Shop of Horrors. I had never met him, only seen him on stage. First in Little Shop and then in all the high school plays following until he graduated. There he was, in real life, standing in front of me, waiting in line to get his student ID as a freshman of Tisch graduate school, a program that accepts only 18 students each year.

“Are you Marc,” I ask, “Marc Smollin?”

“Yes,” he says, surprised and maybe even a little creeped out, who knows.

“I saw you in Little Shop of Horrors when I was in the third grade. You’re the reason I’m here. I’m majoring in Acting…”

We proceed to talk about the Buckley years, how he’s enrolled in Tisch’s grad school acting program, how I’m starting at Atlantic Theater Company and other small talk.

As I walked away, with new student ID in hand, I couldn’t help but think that that moment was fate. It was a sign, that I was following the right dream.

During those days or weeks I feel down, discouraged, overwhelmed by this profession I think back to that moment to get through the rough patch. However silly it may be, holding onto those 5 minutes and other little “signs” are great reminders and reinforcers of why I am going after this dream.

And guess what? Even he didn’t give up on his dreams– looks like his performing will never stop. And, look, I’m not the only one referring back to this little ‘ol high school production: http://articles.latimes.com/2008/dec/25/local/me-knittery25.

Oh, and Marc, if you’re out there reading this, I apologize for seeming like a stalker. But you marked a significant moment of my life, little did you know…

Going After the Dream

6 Jan

I’m going to tailer this post to acting, since that’s what I’m here for. But really this applies to any of you who discovered your passion and yet are scared shitless to go after it. Especially passions like Acting, Directing, Writing, Comedy, Singing, etc. Whether you’re afraid of failure, or of success, going after what you really want can be frightening.

I’ve been in somewhat of a denial of my dream since the moment I realized it. My mother always instilled in me that the arts were hobbies not careers. Appropriate jobs were Lawyer, Doctor or Architect. For the first portion of my life, I entertained the thought of architecture because it still felt creative to me. I’d draw mock housing plans, elaborate floorplans for imaginary lofts, etc. But then I got bored and realized that’s not at all what I wanted to do. Then the first part of high school I thought psychologist. I loved listening to and giving advice to my girlfriends. And psychology involved science and I felt that would be acceptable to my mother and to society as a “legitimate” career (whatever that means). I soon became disinterested in that as well.

All throughout this time there was this pesky feeling deep inside my heart that said to not give up on acting. And at this point, I hadn’t even tried it! A childhood friend and neighbor (incidentally, now a successful writer and theater director!) had taken a local summer theatre camp, which she really loved. I gathered the courage to ask my parents if I could participate in that theater program the summer before my Sophomore year of high school. They said yes and just like that, I enrolled in Theatricum Botanicum‘s High School Intensive Shakespeare Seminar.

Theatricum’s magical outdoor stage, nestled deep in the heart of Topanga Canyon (LA’s hippie haven), was the first stage I ever performed on. It was doing the balcony scene from Romeo & Juliet. After the show I even had one of the parents tell me it was the best rendition of Romeo & Juliet they had ever seen! I don’t know about that, but I was flattered and I was hooked.

My experience at this camp not only made me fall in love with Shakespeare, it solidified my passion for acting. There was no doubt in my mind that I belonged on stage. The feeling I felt that very first time I performed, live, in front of an audience, was unlike anything I had ever felt in my entire life. I was on a natural high I could not describe.

But that was over TEN years ago! So, why so long? FEAR.

Even after this enlightening experience on stage, I did this “Yes” “No” “Yes” “No” dance with acting. When college rolled around, I got the courage and made up my mind to major in theater. Dream school- Tisch at NYU. (“Yes”) But after a year there, for various reasons, I left and returned home to LA to rethink my college goals. I switched from a BFA in Theater to a BA in English Lit. Perhaps a smart decision, but also possibly moving further away from my original goal. (“No“) When I attended UC Berkeley, I did a lot of plays and student films, resolving that as soon as I obtained my diploma I would return to LA for acting once and for all. (“Yes”) But years went by and I remained in the Bay Area. (“No”) It took a while, but I finally made the move home and thus my journey continues… (“Yes!!!”)