Readers’ Choice L.A.: Keep It Real Makes Actors Audition-Ready

Readers’ Choice for Audition Technique, Improv Training Center, Rehearsal Studio, and Acting Class for Kids: Judy Kain, Keep It Real Acting

Keep It Real Acting Studios continues its reign as one of the best acting schools one could possibly find, both among Angelenos and in terms of the Backstage Readers’ Choice Awards. This year, readers singled out owner Judy Kain as the city’s best audition technique teacher, in addition to recognizing the studio’s excellent improv, kids’ training programs, and the rehearsal space itself.

“We have amazing instructors,” says Kain, who has been teaching audition technique for 15 years and acting in commercials for over twice as long. In her A-Z classes and more advanced commercial audition technique workshops, Kain stresses the importance of expanding an actor’s toolkit. “I don’t get them the job; I just give them the tools they need to apply to get the job. It’s not all me.”

Although she says there are certain hard-and-fast techniques taught in her classes—“walking into the room, booking the room, being confident, all of which are the result of practice”—Kain sums up her audition philosophy as “bringing yourself” to a role. “What we’re asking the actor is to bring themselves to the side...your own personality lifting it off the page through various choices.”

It’s a common theme among Keep It Real’s other longtime faculty members; Doug Traer, who works with actors ages 7–11, says his classes are all about encouraging kids to relax and be themselves. “They feel they need to become something they’re not, which is absolutely antithetical to everything acting is.” Donna Rusch, who teaches children ages 4–6, gets them comfortable on a film set by focusing on games. “Kids, the second you put them in front of a camera it’s like they’re in prison,” she says. “It looks like mugshots. We try to bring that fun into this situation, which to them might be very unnatural.”

Paul Hungerford points out that in L.A., it can be difficult for working actors to relax. “In a town where improv is such a huge behemoth and everyone says you have to go to this school or that, it’s intimidating.” His improvisation workshops and the famed Improv-a-thon embolden students of all ages by taking things “right back down to the basics. We let it unfold from there, build trust and confidence and good acting choices.”

True to its name, Keep It Real enables actors to find themselves and, as Kain says, just bring their personality to an audition. “That’s all you have, really. It may not be necessarily what they want! We have who we are and that’s our biggest asset, our personality and our life experience.”

Check out interviews with all of the 2015 Readers’ Choice winners, coming to you throughout the week!


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Jack Smart
Jack Smart is the awards editor at Backstage, where he covers all things Emmy, SAG, Oscar, and Tony Awards. He also produces and hosts Backstage’s awards podcast “In the Envelope” and has interviewed some of the biggest stars of stage and screen.
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