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What Do Working Actors Bring to Class That Helps the Other Students?

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Gregory Berger-Sobeck

Los Angeles; The Berg Studios

I believe to have working actors in a class is a necessity, not a luxury. It is a direct reflection of the work process of that class. Too many times, however, there is a snobby distinction in actors between who is working and who is not. I think this is unfair, because that variable changes from month to month for us all. So the only place that should be constant and safe and progressive is a classroom (which is a laboratory), where the concentration is on the expression of imagination so that the work can become bold and original. There is only one you, and if you are totally yourself, that is the very definition of originality itself. Not the acting out of the lines of a text to please your idea of what you think the casting person wants.

Working actors need to look at who exactly they are working for, themselves or the ideas of others. I believe that a work is good to the degree it expresses the artist who creates it. A performance is the result of some deep inner belief that is so strong that you have to show what you want in spite of a lesser script or the commercial aspect of things. A performance becomes a state of mind. When students see that working actors in the class are not concerned with the manipulation of trying to get a scene to look good but are trying to illuminate a part of their soul, they become encouraged because they can relate to that. It motivates the other students, because they see that the whole point is to discover rather than to execute. They are encouraged by the attitude of the working actor when they are working for right reasons.

We all must move from asking ourselves the question "How am I seen?" to "What do I see?" We act to express ourselves privately and personally. Working or not, that is what joins us.

Kimberly Jentzen

Los Angeles; The Jentzen Technique


In my classes, working actors bring hope that the dream can actually become a reality. They make it more tangible to fellow performers. They supply evidence that it doesn't really matter where you are in your career; you must always strive to nurture your artistic development. They remind us that you must constantly re-ignite that very passion that gave you the love for the art in the first place.

Working actors also raise the bar. They generally want to work with others who have a strong work ethic. They take the lead, in that they work harder. This creates more excitement and energy and raises the stakes, because everyone is so committed to the work.

Working actors who continue their studies love getting feedback and direction. They know that's why they book and are in class. They have an unspoken confidence that comes with gaining employment, and therefore they are also unafraid to take more risks in the acting. They know that those risks got them jobs.

Another important quality they bring is focus. I believe that getting ahead in the business is knowing that acting is not about perfection; it's about the process. Working actors will want to strengthen their process and are hungry to gain more tools and more ammunition to take back to the trenches.

The one thing I am reminded of by having working actors attend my classes is that it's crucial to remain a student, regardless of the accolades. This, in turn, inspires nonworking actors to take risks and direction and put their focus on what is really going to make a difference in their careers—their ability to believe that booking a role is just one great audition away!

Penny Templeton

New York; Penny Templeton Studio

I love having working actors in the class, because they bring the dream right into the room. Everyone sees that the unattainable is attainable: "If he can do it, then so can I!" The actor realizes that if a professional is studying the same technique that he is, then it must work: "I must be in the right place!"

The actors in class can observe the working actor, whose process has been honed and shaped by the world. Working actors are there to take what they learn in the room and use it directly on the job. Their work ethic raises the bar for the others in class. They're not just on time but early. They use the homework as a starting point and bring in much more. They've done the deep digging: the research, the breaking down of the scene, the sensory. In other words, they work to inspire themselves. They are organized and ready to go. They don't complain, but put their heads down and do the work. They know how important class is to their future and the career they are shaping; they take their job of acting seriously. They know what it takes.

This brings to mind a student who had been in two Broadway shows but had no real foundation of acting. His whole mindset about training was: "Give it to me. I need it badly. I need it now!" He was inspiring to the other actors in that he never complained. He joyously dove into everything and stayed clear of negative energies. He didn't let anything get in his way.

In class, the struggles of all the actors are revealed, even the working actor. This makes the others realize, "If that person has challenges, then I don't have to be perfect in order to have a career."

The students in class develop confidence as they become peers of the professional. One actor, in preparing for her lead role in a feature film, asked her classmates to play the other parts while we filmed the scenes. Through this shaping and refining process, the group became one. As they worked collectively, it raised their esteem, knowing that they bridged the experience of the classroom with the level of work on a professional set.

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