Tumas let us know that T. Schreiber Studio was his favorite for scene study classes—among his other picks in our annual Readers' Choice Awards—and he was randomly selected from among hundreds of readers to win a headshot package from Peter Hurley Photography. Tumas' advice to newcomers to New York? "Find your home, a place where you feel comfortable and you can thrive artistically. That has nothing to do with the business aspect, but you should address it as well. There are a lot of places to go to for that. Stay true to what you believe is right for yourself.
"The most important thing to do is keep working," he adds, "whether it's for free, whether you're getting paid $25, or whether it's an Equity contract. It's really important to get yourself in front of strangers—people you don't know—because you really get a sense of who you are as a performer from that. In contrast to just performing for family or friends—that's an environment where you have more leeway. Put yourself in situations like that. Class is great, but outside the classroom is very important."
For your top choices both inside and outside the classroom, take a look at the following pages. We've also included comments from readers and a list of runners-up.
We'll run the results of the Los Angeles edition of our Readers' Choice Awards in next week's issue.
Thanks to Fred Tumas, Peter Hurley, and everyone who participated in the survey. And congratulations to all the winners and runners-up.
Executive Editor, New York
Favorite Actor: Meryl Streep
It's no surprise that Meryl Streep is the favorite actor (besides themselves) of Back Stage's New York readers. Whether vivifying a strict nun (Doubt) or an elegant yet dictatorial fashion editor (The Devil Wears Prada), Streep totally inhabits her characters, often without saying a thing. "She says a thousand words with just her facial expressions," remarks Hakika DuBose.
Jason Baboryk has been a huge fan of Streep's for five years, since he began studying for a master's degree in theatre at Eastern Michigan University. "I had a misconception about her when I watched her in Music of the Heart," he says. "I thought she was not a very good actress, because the way the character was acting was slightly airheaded. Then I saw her in a few other movies, and I realized that light touch was part of the character. I was really impressed with that. I ended up buying 32 of her DVDs. I admire that she takes on anything and puts her own personality into it and doesn't make it generalized. She finds the truth in herself first and then puts it into the character."
Grace Gasner sees the Oscar winner as a role model: "A mentor of mine told me it's always good to look up to somebody in the industry as a guide to where you want to go in life. Without thinking, I said, 'Meryl Streep.' When I see her in a movie, I don't think, 'I'm watching Meryl Streep.' I think I'm watching Sophie or Miranda. That's a quality I'm trying to harness in myself as an actress. I also love her as a person—how she values her family and tries to live life as normally as she can. She sets a great example."
- Kate Winslet
- Sean Penn
- Daniel Day-Lewis
- Philip Seymour Hoffman
- Johnny Depp
Favorite Actors' Hangout: The Drama Book Shop
Actors love the Drama Book Shop not simply because it's the place to go for a play or new monologue or for the knowledgeable, eager-to-help staff. They can also attend industry panel discussions and book signings or just hang out in a convivial setting. They call it an oasis that exists nowhere else.
"I come to New York every few months and I always stop in at the Drama Book Shop," says Cole Matson. "I wish we had a bookstore like that in Baltimore. There is that sense of collegiality. It feels like that first day of school, in a good way. Everything is brand-new and there's possibility. It makes me want to do another mailing to casting directors and agents."
Joe Cummings likes "the relaxed environment, affording you enough time and opportunity to make an informed purchase you can be happy about." He adds, "I've been frequenting the Drama Book Shop since I moved to New York, and I doubt that will ever change."
Drama Book Shop, 250 W. 40th St., NYC; (212) 944-0595; www.dramabookshop.com.
‑ Starbucks, locations throughout New York City; www.starbucks.com.
‑ Barnes & Noble, locations throughout New York City; www.barnesandnoble.com.
- Central Park
‑ Actors' Equity Association Lounge, 165 W. 46th St., 2nd floor, NYC; (212) 869-8530; www.actorsequity.org.
‑ Joe Allen's Restaurant, 326 W. 46th St., NYC; (212) 581-6464; www.joeallenrestaurant.com.
Favorite Bar: Limerick's, Rodeo Bar and Rudy's (TIE)
It was a three-way flat-footed tie for our readers’ favorite place to unwind and imbibe. Among the things the bars have in common: inexpensive drinks and (sometimes) free food. So as not to play favorites, we’ll do this alphabetically.
The official name of Limerick’s is the Limerick House and, as its name suggests, it’s an Irish bar. Located in the Flatiron district, it became a favorite haunt for Jenny Torgerson and her classmates at New York University. “We always had cast parties there,” she says. “We got to know the bartenders and the owner. It gave us a chance to have a place for everyone to go together, for everyone to know each other or know each other better.”
The Rodeo Bar also offers free food: peanuts, still in the shell. It features live music, and it’s not uncommon for performers such as seven-time Grammy winner Norah Jones to show up and join in with the band. One particular night, she didn’t sing but played guitar.
Rudy’s has been operating since 1933, and according to its website it was one of the first bars in the city to get a liquor license after Prohibition ended that year. Elyse Ault likes that it’s in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen, right next to the theatre district: “If you go see a show with your friends and go to Rudy’s afterward, you’re not going to be surrounded by 6,000 tourists, and you can talk about being an actor and kind of doing the starving-artist thing.” Plus, she says, “You get free hot dogs.”
The Limerick House, 69 W. 23rd St., NYC; (212) 243-8898.
The Rodeo Bar, 375 Third Ave. (at East 27th Street), NYC; (212) 683-6500; www.rodeobar.com.
Rudy’s, 627 Ninth Ave. (near West 44th Street), NYC; (212) 974-9169; www.rudysbarnyc.com.
- Beauty Bar, 231 E. 14th St., NYC; (212) 539-1389.
- Broadway Joe Steakhouse, 315 W. 46th St., NYC; (212) 246-6513; www.broadwayjoesteakhouse.com.
- Don’t Tell Mama, 343 W. 46th St.; (212) 757-0788; www.donttellmamanyc.com.
- Jimmy’s #43, 43 E. Seventh St., NYC; (212) 982-3006; www.jimmysno43.com.
Favorite Commercial Casting Director:
Beth Melsky and Barry Shapiro (TIE)
Beth Melsky and Barry Shapiro have found the winning formula in the commercial casting business: They cater meticulously to the needs of their clients while simultaneously treating every one of their actors with the utmost professionalism and respect.
"You always get a good feeling from Beth," says actor Elliot Joseph. "Most casting directors just get you in and out, but with Beth you have the opportunity to showcase yourself."
Beth Melsky Casting is one of the busiest commercial offices in the country, and its clients include advertisers who can afford to buy the most coveted airtime on television, during the Super Bowl. "My expertise is to understand what the client is really looking for," Melsky says. "It's much easier to pick out a good actor than a bad one." She looks for "strong actors who are able to respond well to direction."
Shapiro has cast more than 7,500 commercials, in addition to teaching commercial workshops and technique classes. "The most important thing to me is a smart actor," he says. "I look for people who can make good acting choices and take direction well."
Favorite Commercial Workshop
"I've been teaching since 1983," says casting director Barry Shapiro, "and that makes me an old-timer, not necessarily a pro."
Students in Shapiro's commercial workshops would beg to differ. Bob Valeiko, who took the six-week on-camera workshop, appreciated its practical approach. "I liked that everyone worked multiple times in every class," he says. "Everyone got to go in front of the camera and get hands-on time…. It's a great combination of learning and having fun."
Kasie Fagan, who was coached by Shapiro privately, says, "He has a great technique of recording you reading a script and playing it back, tweaking it. It helped me see what I was doing wrong, and I've since noticed a big difference."
Shapiro teaches five different workshops—including one for kids ages 8 to 12—but his favorite is Improvising Commercials. "Those classes are really a lot of fun and everybody has a good time," he says. "It's less about technique and more about thinking on your feet." He's also a co-owner of Herman & Lipson Casting, meaning Shapiro often works seven days a week. Teaching began as a second source of income, but his workshops became so popular, he now conducts them all over the country.
Kelly Riley appreciates Shapiro's direct style: "He's very quick and gives you the right notes and feedback. I came away from him with a lot of tips and techniques that I didn't have before. He really knows the business and is truly a reliable source."
‑Barry Shapiro, 630 Ninth Ave., Suite 1410, NYC; (212) 807-7706; email@example.com. Also won Favorite Commercial Casting Director (page 14).
‑Weist-Barron, 34 W. 45th St., 6th floor, NYC; (212) 840-7025; www.weistbarron.com.
‑Jagger Kaye, Times Square Arts Center, 300 W. 43rd St., Room 306, NYC; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.affordableactingclasses.com.
‑The Network, 312 W. 36th St., NYC; (212) 239-3198; www.thenetworknyc.com.
Beth Melsky, Beth Melsky Casting, 928 Broadway, Suite 300, NYC 10010.
Barry Shapiro, Herman & Lipson Casting, 630 Ninth Ave., Suite 1410, NYC 10036; email@example.com. Also won Favorite Commercial Workshop.
‑ Liz Lewis, Liz Lewis Casting Partners, 129 W. 20th St., NYC 10011; www.lizlewis.com.
‑ Donald Case, Donald Case Casting, 386 Park Ave. South, Suite 809, NYC 10016.
‑ Ken Lazar Casting, (646) 781-9182, firstname.lastname@example.org; www.kenlazarcasting.com.
Favorite Film-TV Casting Director: Marci Phillips
"I absolutely love actors," says Marci Phillips, executive director of primetime casting for ABC. "My dad was an actor, my husband's an actor, and all my friends are actors. I kind of devote my life to them." Whether in the classroom or the audition room, Phillips says, it's her mission to help actors get to the next level in their careers. And actors recognize her dedication from the moment they meet her.
Melissa Center, who took Phillips' six-week on-camera auditioning class, says it not only helped her technique but also led to occasional work as a reader for Phillips' casting sessions. "She's great about making new relationships with people," Center says, "and she understands how hard it is for actors."
Even though he hasn't been cast by her yet, David Shih believes that Phillips "really wants you to do well. She wants to equip you so that when you actually do come into the office for an audition, you're prepared and you know what she's looking for." Shih adds that there never seems to be a long line or waiting list at Phillips' office, she always apologizes profusely if someone has to wait, and she's always willing to give an actor extra time in order to get the best take.
"I think most actors are cognizant of what they're up against," Phillips says. "When somebody really believes in them and spends time with them and really sees them, instead of just 'No. 53' in the room, I think that gives them a bit of hope that someone is actually looking at them and appreciating what they have to offer. That's the relationship that I have with every actor who comes in."
Marci Phillips, Executive Director of Primetime Casting, ABC, 157 Columbus Ave., 2nd floor, NYC 10023; (212) 456-3631.
‑ Gayle Keller, Finnegan/Keller Casting, 176 Grand St., 3rd floor, Room 315, NYC 10013.
‑ Jonathan Strauss, Lynn Kressel Casting, Pier 62, West 23rd Street at the Hudson River, Room 304, NYC 10011.
- Todd Thaler, Todd Thaler Casting, 130 W. 57th St., NYC 10019.
- Victoria Visgilio, ABC, 157 Columbus Ave., 2nd floor, NYC 10023.
Favorite Rehearsal Studio: Ripley-Grier Studios
Ripley-Grier Studios, founded in 1984 by husband-and-wife team Butch Grier and Patricia Ripley, has three locations in Manhattan with a total of 45 studios. The spaces were designed using feng shui principles and offer such amenities as air conditioning, pianos (in most rooms), electronics, Wi-Fi, dressing rooms, and showers. The 520 Eighth Ave. location also has a café that caters to vegetarians.
Grier says the company's success lies in its relationship with its employees: We "treat them like family, and they in turn treat the customers that way. It's all teamwork." Jon Norman, the operations director, agrees: "It is a mom-and-pop. We have a family-oriented environment."
"It's very spacious and comfortable," says actor Ellen Ginsburg. "You have enough space to do what you need to do." Adds actor-producer R. David Robinson, "When you go out in the hall, you don't feel like you're in an ant farm." "It's nice to have the snack bar and waiting areas," says actor-director Joe Leo.
But Ripley-Grier isn't resting on its laurels. This month the floors in all the studios were refinished and the walls repainted. "We're upgrading everything," Norman says. "We're constantly putting money back into the studios."
Ripley-Grier Studios, 131 W. 72nd St., NYC, (212) 799-5433; 939 Eighth Ave., Suite 307, NYC, (212) 397-1313; and 520 Eighth Ave., 16th floor, NYC, (212) 643-9985; email@example.com; www.ripleygrier.com.
‑ Chelsea Studios, 151 W. 26th St., 5th floor, NYC; (212) 924-5877; www.theatreworksusa.org/chelsea.cfm.
‑ Champions Studios, 257 W. 39th St., 14th floor, NYC; (212) 307-7707; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.championsstudios.moonfruit.com.
‑ Shetler Studios, 244 W. 54th St., NYC; (212) 246-6655; email@example.com; www.shetlerstudios.com.
‑ T. Schreiber Studio, 151 W. 26th St., 7th floor, NYC; (212) 741-0209;
‑ Pearl Studios NYC, 500 Eighth Ave., 4th floor, NYC; (212) 904-1850;
Favorite Second Hand Clothing Store: Beacon's Closet
Known for its enormous space filled with racks of clean designer clothes and vintage outfits, handbags, hats, and jewelry, Beacon's Closet is a favorite for a cross-section of New Yorkers, notably young artists and aging bohemians. Its two Brooklyn stores—one in Williamsburg, the other in Park Slope—are a treasure trove of potential costumes and props, as well as everyday wear, at a low cost.
"There are beautiful clothes and accessories from every decade, which really helps give actors a sense of an era," says Caitlin Gold. "If you need a cowgirl outfit, you'll find it. You'll also find lots of stuff from the '70s and '80s—torn jeans, T-shirts, every type of shoe." But there's another virtue, she says: Customers can sell to the store clothes they no longer want and receive cash or a certificate they can use to make purchases.
Therese Tucker, who shops there for costumes and "fun clothes," says that unlike other secondhand stores, at Beacon's "everything is clearly organized by type of garment. I also like the fact that I can see what's available online before I go to the store."
Beacon's Closet, 88 N. 11th St., Brooklyn, N.Y.; (718) 486-0816; and 92 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y.; (718) 230-1630; www.beaconscloset.com.
‑ Salvation Army Thrift Stores, locations throughout New York City; www.salvationarmyusa.org.
‑ Goodwill Industries of Greater New York, 220 E. 23rd St., NYC; (212) 447-7270; www.goodwill.org.
‑ Housing Works, 155 E. 23rd St., NYC; (212) 477-6836; www.housingworks.org.
‑ Buffalo Exchange, 332 E. 11th St., NYC; (212) 260-9340; www.buffaloexchange.com.
‑ Tokio 7, 64 E. Seventh St., NYC; (212) 353-8443.
Favorite Open-Mike Night:
Don't Tell Mama, Manhattan Monologue Slam, and New York Comedy Club (Tie)
Each of the winning open mikes represents a different avenue of performance: song, monologue, and standup comedy. Every night of the week at Don't Tell Mama's low-pressure open mike, singers of any genre or style can take the stage accompanied by one of the club's talented pianists. "It's very central to Midtown and where a lot of people work, if you're trying to get an audience," says singer Diana LeBlanc. "It's not a huge place, but it's always full. Also, the food is excellent, since they added food in the lounge next to the piano bar."
The Manhattan Monologue Slam offers a supportive atmosphere, but participants in the monthly competition hesitate to call the audience friendly. "It's like American Idol for actors, basically," says actor Steve Leon. "Only having literally 30 seconds, you have to be on your game. Within that time frame, if you fumble, bumble, and get off track, usually the crowd lets you know." Actors sign up on the spot to be judged by celebrities and industry pros such as Sarah Silverman, Jenna Fischer, and Spring Awakening producer Jeffrey Richards.
New York Comedy Club hosts its open mike six nights a week, Sunday through Friday. Amateur standups can practice their routines, get feedback from club management and pros, and network with working comedians. "It's a very friendly place," says comic Ellen Orchid. "And they're very fair, so you don't feel like you won't ever get stage time.""Having been a comedian," says club owner and founder Al Martin, "I remember when I first started that I was treated like crap. People are impatient with you and they don't really have a lot of respect.... And I felt we could create our niche by being nice to aspiring comedians. We try to nurture and develop the new talent."
Don't Tell Mama, 343 W. 46th St., NYC; (212) 757-0788; www.donttellmamanyc.com.
Manhattan Monologue Slam, 92Y Tribeca, 200 Hudson St., NYC; (212) 601-1000; www.mmslam.com.
New York Comedy Club, 241 E. 24th St., NYC; (212) 696-5233; www.newyorkcomedyclub.com.
- Penny's Open Mic, Under St. Marks Theater, 94 St. Mark's Place, NYC; www.pennysopenmic.com.
- Nuyorican Poets Café, 236 E. Third St., NYC; (212) 780-9386; www.nuyorican.org.
- The Duplex, 61 Christopher St. (at Seventh Avenue), NYC; (212) 255-5438; www.theduplex.com.
- Apollo Theater, 253 W. 125th St., NYC; (212) 531-5305; www.apollotheater.org.
Favorite Temp Agency: Atrium Staffing
What Matt Skibiak loves about Atrium Staffing is its ability to get him precisely the kinds of work he wants. "Tell them what you want," he says, "and they can tailor their search just for you."
Founded in 1995, Atrium works with a wide variety of firms, according to its website: "not only blue-chip clients, but...a roster of small and midsized firms." It specializes in finance, information technology, health care, science, and creative industries, and it's "ahead of the curve in diversity staffing," states the website.
Skibiak was originally looking for clerical work, and Atrium was finding him one to two jobs a week. When his interest switched to catering, the agency helped with that too. "Once I told them what I preferred," he says, "they put out the call for those kinds of jobs." He especially likes the company's attitude: "Atrium was always very friendly and professional. And they remember your name!"
Atrium's flagship office remains in Union Square in Manhattan, but it has added an office in Boston and four in New Jersey, and you can submit your résumé through its website.
Atrium Staffing, 71 Fifth Ave., 3rd floor, NYC; (800) 599-8367; www.atriumstaff.com.
Kelly Services, 61 Broadway, Suite 2225, NYC; (212) 785-5803; www.kellyservices.com.
Favorite Theatre Casting Director: Telsey + Company
"Bernie Telsey's office doesn't just cast you in particular projects," says actor Adrian Martinez. "They cast actors in terms of their whole careers. They put a whole career investment in you. Once they like you, they're extremely faithful to you as an actor, whether you book a job or not. If they see talent, you're in and they bring you back consistently year after year. It's that kind of faithfulness that makes them truly exceptional. They treat you like a real artist. They just keep bringing you back whether you're in a slump or not."
Jan O'Dell recalls a similar feeling when Telsey + Company cast her in the Women's Expressive Theatre production of Joyce Carol Oates' I Stand Before You Naked: "David Vaccari was the one I auditioned for, and he was always so friendly and made me feel so comfortable. During the run of the play, he brought five or six casting directors from the office. We were thrilled that they came, and we got some great feedback from them on our performances."
Telsey + Company also casts for film and television, but theatre is definitely its strong suit, having cast eight current Broadway shows: 9 to 5: The Musical, Blithe Spirit, Desire Under the Elms, In the Heights, Next to Normal, Reasons to Be Pretty, Rock of Ages, and South Pacific. Among its many new projects is a nationwide search for a wall crawler to star in the upcoming Spider-Man musical.
Telsey + Company, 311 W. 43rd St., 10th floor, NYC 10036.
- Alaine Alldaffer, Playwrights Horizons, 416 W. 42nd St., NYC 10036.
‑ Dave Clemmons Casting, 265 W. 30th St., NYC 10001; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.clemmonscasting.com.
-Stephanie Klapper Casting, 39 W. 19th St., 12th floor, NYC 10011.
Favorite Accompanist: Brad Ross
Listening is a large part of Brad Ross' job as an accompanist. When he plays for auditions, he carefully heeds the singer's instructions—noting, for instance, at what points in the song the singer plans to slow down or accelerate. "And then, while we're in the act of singing and playing, I try to listen to them hard," he says. "I have an ear on them all the time."
Ross has played piano at auditions for many years and feels at ease with a wide range of musical theatre styles, from Jersey Boys to Spring Awakening to Mary Poppins. As a musical theatre composer (The Tales of Custard the Dragon, A Family for Baby Grand), he's also attuned to the "singability" of each number.
At auditions, there's little time for interaction with those he's accompanying, but Ross also works as a vocal coach, helping actors prepare for auditions. It's in this capacity that Gladys Perez sought his services. Often nervous about auditioning, she found that Ross put her fully at ease. "He always made it seem within my reach," she says. "When my confidence was not as high as it needed to be, he would help me get it there."
Ross also prepared and printed out sheet music for Perez, with personalized cuts and notations clearly indicated. "Your 16 bars or 32 bars is perfectly done," she says. "You have no worries that any accompanist would have any problems interpreting it."
Brad Ross, Bradstunes Music, 484 W. 43rd St., #31T, NYC; (212) 268-1093; email@example.com.
—Mark Dundas Wood
Favorite Casting Director Workshop: Actors Connection
Actors know that a sound critique helps them more than a kind word, but according to Mindy Pfeffer and Mischa Gonz-Cirkl, you can get both at an Actors Connection workshop. "They were honest and they were helpful," Pfeffer says. "They would tell you if something was working or not. It was more about the work than the personality."
Gonz-Cirkl likes the range of people who lead the workshops. "They get the busiest and most knowledgeable CDs in New York City to come and meet the talent in a relaxed, intimate environment," she says. "We can ask questions about the industry, get honest answers, show our acting chops using real scenes from television and film, and get candid advice."
Founded in 1991, Actors Connection offers workshops with CDs, agents, and managers, as well as classes on various facets of the business, such as cold readings and monologues. It also offers free seminars on topics like how to produce your own film. In the coming weeks, casting directors and associates from Calleri Casting, MelCap Casting, Telsey + Company, and All My Children will be leading classes.
Gonz-Cirkl says she benefited in particular from Actors Connection's seven-day program in Los Angeles: "I did the L.A. Connection in 2005, and a few months later I was signed with an agent from the program. I moved to L.A. and have representation, a manager, and I've been called in to audition for two of the casting directors I met through the program."
Actors Connection, 630 Ninth Ave., Suite 1410, NYC; (212) 977-6666; www.actorsconnection.com.
‑ One on One, 34 W. 27th St., #11, NYC; (212) 691-6000; www.oneononenyc.com.
‑ T. Schreiber Studio, 151 W. 26th St., 7th floor, NYC; (212) 741-0209; www.tschreiberstudio.com.
‑ TVI Actor Studios, 165 W. 46th St., #509, NYC; (212) 302-1900; www.tvistudios.com.
- The Network, 312 W. 36th St., NYC; (212) 239-3198; www.thenetworknyc.com.
‑ Screen Actors Guild, 360 Madison Ave., 12th floor, NYC; (212) 944-1030; www.sag.org.
Favorite Dance Studio: Broadway Dance Center
Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, Broadway Dance Center not only offers classes in many disciplines for everyone from the recreational dancer to the professional; it's also a warm, inviting place for performers to meet. The large lobby is full of dancers from morning till night. You can warm up before a performance, take a class, tack your flier to the bulletin board, or just hang out with friends.
Its current location, just a few doors from the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, is its third. "We're more convenient in this location," says executive director Diana King. "We're also close to the theatres in Times Square. I love the proximity to the theatres. We're also always looking for ways to make our schedule more exciting. We have over 250 classes a week on our drop-in schedule, and we're always adding something new." In recent years, hip-hop has been added to the mix of ballet and jazz classes.
"Whenever I come into New York City, that's where I go," says Maria Noe of Toledo, Ohio, who takes jazz and tap classes at the center. "It's really easy to hop into a class. It's very welcoming and challenging and fun at the same time. It's also encouraging. I'm a singer, so to go into a dance class is often very scary. I got in there and even though I didn't know their warm-up routine right away, I felt comfortable to just join with the group."
Broadway Dance Center, 322 W. 45th St., 3rd floor, NYC; (212) 592-9304; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bwydance.com.
‑ Steps on Broadway, 2121 Broadway, NYC; (212) 874-2410; email@example.com; www.stepsnyc.com.
‑ Alvin Ailey Dance Studios, 405 W. 55th St., NYC; (212) 405-9000; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.alvinailey.org.
- New Dance Group, 305 W. 38th St., NYC; (212) 904-1900; www.ndg.org.
‑ Ripley-Grier Studios, 131 W. 72nd St., NYC; (212) 799-5433; 939 Eighth Ave., Suite 307, NYC; (212) 397-1313; and 520 Eighth Ave., 16th floor, NYC; (212) 643-9985; email@example.com; www.ripleygrier.com.
Favorite Demo Reel Producer: Reels4Artists
Gerrit Voorhen was tired of being cast as a Nazi. But when he detoured from his acting career six years ago to edit demo reels on his kitchen table, he never expected the business, Reels4Artists, to explode into a full-fledged production company with a permanent staff and clients in the hundreds.
While typecasting—due to his "Dutch look" and mild yet detectable accent, courtesy of his Amsterdam upbringing—may have been the impetus, it was broader frustrations as an actor that turned a sideline into a new career. "I felt like I needed to do something more artistically satisfying, and I really found my niche doing this," Voorhen says. "It's my passion."
For actor Steven Cambria, that passion is evident in the quality of Reels4Artists' work, whether culled from an actor's existing clips or created from scenes shot and edited in-house. "I've done a lot of work in television and film," Cambria says, "and their reels match that level of quality."
Voorhen's background in dance may be what distinguishes his work. In an industry where "cookie-cutter just doesn't sell," Voorhen says, he "edits like a dancer," capturing each actor's strengths through motion, mood changes, and subtle details of the interplay between sight and sound. He also likes to keep the client fully involved in every aspect of the process. "What's most important," he says, "is that each reel is personal."
Reels4Artists, 98 Fourth St., #39, Brooklyn, N.Y.; (917) 566-3046 (cell); (718) 802-1108 (studio); www.reels4artists.com.
- Make It Reel, www.makeitreel.net.
‑ Edge Studio, 307 Seventh Ave., #1007, NYC; (888) 321-3343; www.edgestudio.com.
Favorite Vocal Coach and Favorite Dialect Coach: Page Clements
A winner in two categories, Page Clements is not only a voice and dialect coach; she's also a founding member of—and sometime performer with—Highwire, a touring company. She finds it personally and professionally rewarding to keep a hand in acting while instructing others.
"Page taught me how to find my real, true voice, which I possessed in
childhood but lost somewhere along the way," says Jonathan Orsini, who voted for Clements as favorite vocal coach. "And her coaching isn't just technical. The voice work has helped me become more emotionally available than I have ever been in my life."
Katherine Wessling, who has received dialect coaching from Clements for many roles, including Chick in a T. Schreiber Studio production of Crimes of the Heart, agrees. Clements also helped her explore the character's background and inner life. "With some dialect coaches, I feel like I'm in a math exam," Wessling says. But Clements "manages to give you some really important details but without making it feel like the SATs."
The phonetic alphabet is only a starting point for learning a dialect, says Clements. "If actors mimic how someone else sounds instead of finding it from within, it tends to put up a wall…. You can't just do the technical. You have to go beyond that or the dialect is just like a costume, or like turning on and off a light switch. It isn't under the actor's skin."
Page Clements, T. Schreiber Studio, 151 W. 26th St., 7th floor, NYC; (212) 741-0209; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.tschreiber.org.
Runners-Up (Vocal Coach):
‑ Lynn Singer, T. Schreiber Studio, 151 W. 26th St., 7th floor, NYC; (212) 741-0209; email@example.com; www.tschreiber.org.
‑ Jennifer Smolos, American Academy of Dramatic Arts, 120 Madison Ave., NYC; (800) 463-8890; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.aada.org.
‑ Eric Michael Gillett, Singers Forum, 49 W. 24th St., 4th floor, NYC; (212) 569-3281; (212) 366-0541 (Singers Forum); (212) 675-2370 (HB Studio); email@example.com; www.ericmichaelgillett.com.
‑ Andrew M. Byrne, 450 W. 58th St., #2C, NYC; (917) 513-3642; studio@
Runners-Up (Dialect Coach):
‑ Sam Chwat, 253 W. 16th St., NYC; (212) 242-8435 or (800) SPEAKWELL; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.nyspeech.com.
‑ Jim DeMonic, American Academy of Dramatic Arts, 120 Madison Ave., NYC; (800) 463-8890; email@example.com; www.aada.org.
- Patricia Fletcher, (212) 517-2862; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.patriciafletcher.com.
- Amy Stoller, (917) 319-7448; email@example.com; www.stollersystem.com.
—Mark Dundas Wood
Favorite Headshot Photographer: Barry Morgenstein
Barry Morgenstein has been in the photography business for 25 years and is no stranger to our Readers' Choice Awards. He's been named favorite headshot photographer three of the past four years and was a runner-up in 2007. So what's his secret? "I just try to make it a very comfortable, relaxed atmosphere in my studio," he says. "I love being around actors…. I love entertainers; I love creative people."
"It's not that I think he's the best; I know he's the best," says Maureen Walsh. "He has a tremendous way of connecting with people through his lens." She also noticed a remarkable consistency in the quality of Morgenstein's headshots. "You see all his photographs in his studio…and you're like, 'Wow, everyone has a perfect picture.' And the way to get a perfect picture is through someone connecting with you and making you feel relaxed, and that's how Barry is."
Nicole Corris chose Morgenstein because she wanted her photo to really stand out: "I thought, if I'm going to spend the money for good headshots, I'm going to go with one that really pops." She was able to take advantage of one of Morgenstein's Discount Day offers, which included hair and makeup in the cost of the shoot. "I was really impressed with the Discount Day," she says. "I was prepared to spend the money without the discount, but it was kind of a nice thing that he does once in a while…. He was really nice, got me in and out, and I was really happy with the shots."
Barry Morgenstein, 135 W. 26th St., Suite 10C, NYC; (212) 647-1288;
‑ Peter Hurley, Chelsea Arts Building, 134 W. 26th St., Suite 1203, NYC; (212) 627-2210; and Toy Factory Lofts, 1855 Industrial St., #405, L.A.; (323) 302-4485; www.peterhurley.com.
- Chris Macke, (212) 537-5052; www.mackephotography.com.
‑ Rod Goodman, 379 Park Ave. South, 3rd floor, NYC; (323) 929-1654; www.rodgoodmanphoto.com.
‑ Laura Rose, Hoebermann Studio, 281 Sixth Ave., NYC; (917) 686-9259; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.lauraerose.com.
‑ Caroline White, (917) 592-8685; email@example.com; www.carolinewhitephotography.com.
Favorite Improv Group/Theatre: Upright Citizens Brigade
"We've been working really hard to make UCB a place that's synonymous with improv in New York City," says Anthony King, artistic director of Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, home to a variety of improv troupes and classes. "We have a huge number of just incredibly talented performers on our stage…. We just have devoted a lot of time over the last couple of years to really institutionalizing our improv program. We very much focus on the game of the scene, on what makes the scene funny, and then focus on playing with that funny idea as the scene moves forward."
The Upright Citizens Brigade company, which tours and performs at the theatre, is the readers' favorite for its quality and consistency. "Their comedic timing is great; they're just very natural," says actor Lori Finkel. Adds K.C. Wright, an actor and student at Carnegie Mellon University, "The touring company of UCB was really good. I never had those cringe moments where you…worry about the performers."
Upright Citizens Brigade, 307 W. 26th St., NYC; (212) 366-9176; www.ucbtheatre.com.
‑ People's Improv Theatre, 154 W. 29th St., NYC; (212) 563-7488; www.thepit-nyc.com.
‑ The Second City, 1616 N. Wells St., Chicago; (312) 664-4032; www.secondcity.com.
‑ Chicago City Limits, 318 W. 53rd St., NYC; (212) 888-5233; www.chicagocitylimits.com.
‑ Magnet Theater, 254 W. 29th St., NYC; (212) 244-8824; www.magnettheater.com.
Favorite Litho/Reproduction House: Reproductions
This is Reproductions' second Readers' Choice Awards win in a row as favorite litho/reproduction house. Last year the company's Los Angeles office was voted No. 1 in the West Coast edition of our awards. "We are happy that the readership on both coasts has recognized Reproductions," says Cameron Stewart, the company's president. "We work very hard at both the quality we provide and the reputation that we've earned through years of service."
Actor Emily Bodkin was impressed with Reproductions' professionalism. "I was very well taken care of," she says. "The minute I stepped in, they were ready to help me. When I got my photographs, which looked great, they made sure I was completely satisfied with them and asked if there was anything that I wanted to have retouched. I was really happy with my experience at Reproductions and will always use them."
"A positive reaction to a headshot could very well make the difference in getting a job or not," Stewart explains. "As for their personal experience of going through the process, it can be stressful, so working with a company that's dedicated to walking them through the process and providing them with a good customer-service experience helps."
Eddie Wong has used Reproductions for the past three years. "The service is very friendly," he says. "When I call up and need to have something right away, they're really quick and helpful."
Reproductions, 70 W. 40th St., 3rd floor, NYC; (646) 502-3700; and 3499 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; (323) 845-9595; www.reproductions.com.
‑ Precision Photos, 260 W. 36th St., NYC; (212) 302-2724; www.precisionphotos.com.
‑ Colorworks, 55 W. 39th St., Suite 706, NYC; (212) 382-2825; www.colorworksnyc.com.
‑ ABC Pictures, 2838 N. Ingram Ave., Springfield, MO 65803; (417) 869-3456; www.abcpictures.com.
‑ CityRepo, 939 Eighth Ave., Suite 201, NYC; (212) 247-7575; www.cityrepro.com.
‑ Modernage, 1150 Sixth Ave., NYC; (212) 997-1800; www.modernage.com.
Favorite Off-Off-Broadway Company to Act With and Favorite Off-Off-Broadway Company to See
T. Schreiber Studio
Pat Patterson is the ideal person to talk to about T. Schreiber Studio as an Off-Off-Broadway company, because she has performed there as an actor and attended as a playgoer. "In terms of being an actor, you're challenged and you're nurtured," she says. As an audience member, "it's a small space, so you're intimate, but you don't feel you're being cheated out of anything."
Either way, Patterson particularly appreciates the production values: "When you sit in the audience, you're aware that it's the whole experience. The set feeds the actors feeds the lighting design…. The attention to detail is amazing, which helps the actor. I felt I was there; I didn't have to do all that much work to create the environment."
Schreiber has a special arrangement with Actors' Equity Association and does not produce under the Showcase Code. He can cast all his productions from inside his studio (current students and alumni), and each show gets 24 performances and six weeks of rehearsal. In exchange, he doesn't charge admission—though he solicits donations.
His audiences have remained consistent over the past 40 years, Schreiber says, despite the studio's move from the East Village to Chelsea. "We've kind of gotten older together," he says with a laugh. "We get a pretty good smattering from their mid-20s to people in their 60s and 70s." He has noticed, however, that location affects attendance at certain plays: "We would do a Sam Shepard down on East Fourth Street and we were jammed to the walls. We would do a Sam Shepard on West 26th Street and we played to half houses, and it was an excellent production."
T. Schreiber Studio, 151 W. 26th St., 7th floor, NYC; (212) 741-0209; www.tschreiberstudio.com. Also won Favorite Scene Study and Cold Reading classes.
‑ The Barrow Group, 312 W. 36th St., NYC; (212) 760-2615; www.barrowgroup.org.
- The Flea, 41 White St., NYC; (212) 226-2407; www.theflea.org.
‑ The Michael Chekhov Theater Company, 354 W. 45th St., 2nd floor, NYC; (212) 340-1039; www.chekhovtheatre.org.
‑ 13th Street Repertory Company, 50 W. 13th St., NYC; (212) 675-6677; www.13thstreetrep.org.
‑ LAByrinth Theater Company, 307 W. 38th St., #1605, NYC; (212) 513-1080; www.labtheatre.org.
Favorite Scene Study: T. Schreiber Studio
Despite having 13 instructors, T. Schreiber Studio has one philosophy: There are many paths to enlightenment. "I don't believe in pinning an actor down to one way of working—like it's Strasberg or else, or Meisner or else," says Terry Schreiber, founder, teacher, and director, who has been assisting New York actors for four decades. "I think there are actors who create from their own reality, which is pretty much Strasberg, and others that work with the creative 'as if,' the given situation. We leave that open."
Schreiber's studio has a strong connection to the Group Theatre and its forebear, the Moscow Art Theatre—in addition to Strasberg and Meisner, the instructors' mentors include Stella Adler and Robert Lewis—but other influences range from Uta Hagen to the Coen brothers.
Jason Baboryk says the studio's eclecticism is just what he needs. In a scene study class taught by Peter Jensen, "I'd be in the middle of a scene, and he'd throw something out there that would just click with what I needed. He wasn't subscribing to just one method."
Marija Stajic Salvetti, who took a cold reading class, praises the nurturing environment. "They make you feel comfortable," she says, "but they also push you."
Though T. Schreiber Studio may be a magpie's nest of approaches, Schreiber is its guiding force. "In 40 years of the studio," he says, "I think we've evolved some things of our own."
T. Schreiber Studio, 151 W. 26th St., 7th floor, NYC; (212) 741-0209; www.tschreiberstdio.com. Also won Favorite Off-Off-Broadway Company to act with and to see.
Runners-Up (Scene Study):
- Austin Pendleton, HB Studio, 120 Bank St., NYC; (212) 675-2370; www.hbstudio.org.
- Tom Todoroff, Tom Todoroff Studio, 24 Bond St., NYC; (212) 362-8141; www.tomtodoroff.com.
‑ William Esper, William Esper Studio, 208 W. 37th St., NYC; (212) 904-1350; www.esperstudio.com.
- Larry Singer, Larry Singer Studios, 300 W. 43rd St., #500, NYC; (917) 327-5406; www.thelarrysingerstudios.com.
- Stella Adler Studio of Acting, 31 W. 27th St., 3rd floor, NYC; (212) 689-0087; www.stellaadler.com.
Runners-Up (Cold Reading):
- Karen Kolhaas, www.monologueaudition.com.
‑ Caryn West, Michael Howard Studios, 152 W. 25th St., 10th floor, NYC; (212) 645-1525; carynwest.nowcasting.com.
- Valerie Adami, Weist-Barron, 35 W. 45th St., NYC; (212) 840-7025; www.weistbarron.com.
Favorite Voiceover Workshop: Edge Studio
The popularity of Edge Studio has everything to do with how seriously it treats the craft of voiceover, according to actor-singer Sara Binensztok. "I found them to be extraordinarily professional," she says. "They were well-organized and offer a state-of-the-art recording studio."
Edge Studio has been coaching and counseling voiceover artists since 1988. Started by voiceover producer David Goldberg, the company—officially Edge Studio's Voice Design Group—has offices in New York, Connecticut, and the Washington, D.C., area and boasts that it offers top instructors in commercials, narration, animation, audio books, documentaries, corporate videos, education, and even foreign-language dubbing. It features small workshops with customized learning plans, according to its website, and teaches performers to "sound competitive on your own, without digital enhancement."
Adds Binensztok, "They give great career advice if you want to get into voiceover." Edge Studio even offers a free event called Talk With a Pro Tuesday by Telephone, in which the first 50 people to dial in get to ask an industry-related question and receive a candid response.
Edge Studio, 307 Seventh Ave., Suite 1007, NYC; (212) 868-3343; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.edgestudio.com.
‑ Weist-Barron, 35 W. 45th St., NYC; (212) 840-7025; www.weistbarron.com.
‑ Charles Michel, The Winning Voice; (866) WINVOICE; email@example.com; www.thewinningvoice.com.
‑ The Network, 312 W. 36th St., NYC; (212) 239-3198; www.thenetworknyc.com.
‑ Linda Weaver and Nina Pratt, Pratt-Weaver Voice Over Institute; (212) 204-7000; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.prattweavervoiceovers.com.
‑ Lynn Singer, T. Schreiber Studio, 151 W. 26th St., 7th floor, NYC; (212) 741-0209; email@example.com; www.tschreiber.org.