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Acting Schools and Coaches


The following schools offer two-year acting programs. Many offer other shorter programs in a variety of plans and performing-related areas.


Founded by the late Group Theatre giant, the Stella Adler Academy continues to offer a two-year program, as well as individual classes. The two-year program runs in eight sessions and includes classes on acting technique, movement, voice, dance, commercial skills, stage combat, improvisation, audition technique, dialect, scene study, comedy, script analysis, Chekhov, Shakespeare, theatre to film, directors workshop, accent reduction, and theatre styles, culminating in a play production. Also included are ongoing professional seminars with industry guests. The academy, under the direction of Irene Gilbert, also boasts one Equity 99-Seat and one 67-seat theatre. 6773 Hollywood Blvd., 2nd Fl., Hollywood. (323) 465-4446. See ad on page 3-A.


The oldest acting school in the English-speaking world, the Academy was founded in 1884 on the East Coast to train actors in the basics of their craft, and the West Coast branch (founded in 1974) continues the tradition with its two-year conservatory program, culminating in an associate of arts degree in acting. Among the many areas covered in the conservatory program are instruction in acting, voice and speech, movement, theatre history and styles, fencing, makeup, musical theatre, and Shakespeare. There's also an on-camera class in the second year to teach actors to apply what they've learned to the demands of filmed media. Around 20 students are accepted into a third-year company, which produces plays. There is no auditing, and an audition is required. A six-week summer school for ages 14 and older is also offered. www.aada .org. (323) 464-2777 or (800) 222-2867.


The revered, Bay Area-based American Conservatory Theater offers a number of distinct training programs under the direction of Melissa Smith, including its advanced training program, A.C.T.'s full-time graduate acting program, which offers a master of fine arts degree upon completion of the third year. (415) 439-2350. A.C.T.'s Young Conservatory for ages 8 to 19, under the direction of Craig Slaight, offers classes in acting, musical theatre, voice, speech, audition, improv, movement, and more, taught by working theatre professionals. The New Plays Program commissions one new play each year from established playwrights, who are in residence during production. Students at the Young Conservatory are also the exclusive source for all young actors in A.C.T.'s annual production of A Christmas Carol. Class fees range from $315 to $545 per session. Financial aid is available to qualifying students. (415) 439-2444. Studio A.C.T. is the company's part-time and weekend acting program, recently expanded under the directorship of Bruce Williams, designed to provide affordable and convenient classes for beginning through professional-level students. (415) 834-3286. Finally, the summer training congress is a nine-week session of intensive, full-time professional actor training for high school graduates 19 and older with some prior acting training and experience. (415) 439-2405. A.C.T. is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.


"To be a good actor you must first know and be yourself. Once you've achieved that, you can move on to character work, which begins with identifying your natural preference, then playing only the preference of the character," said Dusa, who spent 13 years in New York City as the artistic director of the Duality Playhouse and the Piero Dusa Acting Conservatory East. Seven years ago, he opened the West Coast counterpart on Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade. Through a combination of Adler, Meisner, Stanislavski, and his own techniques (Dusa's Seven Levels of Acting and Character Preference), Dusa and his staff—Natalia Lazarus, Bryan Rasmussen, Anne Dremann, Doug Matranga, Jake O'Flaherty, and Fabio Serafini—teach actors to "connect their emotions, imaginations, and bodies so that everything works perfectly as one." Dusa offers Meisner Technique, Beginner Basics, Technique I, II, III (Master Performing Class), On-Camera Technique Dynamics, Commercial Auditioning Basics, Advanced Commercial Technique, and Theatrical Auditioning Basics, and Advanced On-Camera Technique. The newest courses on Dusa's schedule are Technique for Young Adults, Character Preference, Character Expression, Character Pathology, and the writing department now offers the Matrix of Character Preference with the legendary Syd Field, as well as Writing the Screenplay and Creating the One-Person Show. Acceptance is by interview and audition only. (310) 656-8070. See ad on page 11-A.


The spring term at this 12-year-old conservatory, part of the Asian-American theatre company East West Players, runs May 8-July 5. Classes this season include "acting for non-actors," scene study, and fundamentals of acting. There is a $25 one-time registration fee for new students. Classes run five days a week, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and include everything from acting, musical theatre, scene study, and voice. Classes culminate in a command performance at the end of the term. Marilyn Tokuda directs the conservatory. The summer term runs July 7-Aug. 16. (213) 625-7000, ext. 15. See ad on page 10-A.


This studio, which opened in 1992, offers a rigorous and comprehensive training program in acting, voice, movement, and performance. This is a two-year conservatory program culminating with an industry showcase at the Court Theatre directed by Laura Henry. Students are also eligible to participate in The Allison Project, the film and theatre production company that operates out of the studio. For advanced students, the studio offers Henry's eight-week audition technique class. Scene study is also offered for advanced students. Audition required. The core program consists of first- and second-year Meisner technique, Linklater voice work, and Alexander technique. Guest artists teach various classes throughout the year. 1307 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 399-5744.


Founded in 1987 by the late Sanford Meisner with partner Jimmy Carville, the Meisner-Carville School is headed by Martin Barter, who originally studied with Meisner at Bequia, in the West Indies, then assisted Meisner for 14 years, at New York's Neighborhood Playhouse and on the West Coast. The technique is taught in a two-year program; students must be invited back for the second year. Five-week summer intensives are also offered, as well as graduate-level scene-study classes. Barter described his master's approach as a "reality-based technique based on the ability to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances." The school now also offers classes in screenwriting, taught by James Schmerer, an instructor in the professional program of screenwriting at UCLA's School of Theater, Film, and Television. All levels are welcome, and acceptance is by interview. Auditing is allowed. 5124 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. (818) 509-9651. See ad on page 29-A.


Established in 1987, the OCHSA provides bright and talented students with a creative, challenging, and nurturing environment designed to inspire them to express themselves and achieve their highest potential. Through advanced arts and rigorous academic instruction, students are prepared for higher education and a profession in the arts. The school is tuition-free, donation-driven, and currently serves 1,200 students in seventh through 12th grades. Applications for the 2004-05 school year will be available in January, and auditions begin in March. (714) 560-0900, ext. 6292. See ad on page 30-A.


PCPA Theaterfest (the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts), the professional regional theatre company of the Central Coast, has been producing professional theatre and training theatre professionals for nearly 40 years. PCPA's conservatory program is geared for serious students with professional aspirations. Each year 30 actors enter its two-year program. For most studio classes (acting, voice and speech, singing techniques, Shakespeare, movement, audition technique, etc.), classes are divided in half, so the average student-to-teacher ratio is 15-to-1. PCPA's theatre and training program is housed and accredited through Allan Hancock College, a California Community College. Its faculty of resident artists, who serve as both acting company and faculty, are all working professionals and dedicated educators. Students graduate with approximately 76 units of lower-division drama credit, useful for those students transferring on to B.A. or B.F.A. programs. PCPA has existing and developing articulation agreements with public and private universities around the country. (805) 928-7731.


John Ruskin was Sanford Meisner's apprentice, first studying with the master in New York, continuing with him in Bequia, in the West Indies, then teaching with him at the Neighborhood Playhouse and privately during the 1980s. The Ruskin School is the West Coast representative of the Neighborhood Playhouse, and many of the teachers were trained directly by Meisner. Ruskin, who opened his school in Santa Monica in 1987, offers a two-year course of study in Meisner's technique, as well as a master class for those who have completed the two-year program either at Ruskin's school or at the Neighborhood Playhouse. Anthony Hopkins has taught the master class and worked with students on Chekhov, Shakespeare, and Pinter, as well as contemporary plays. Other guest teachers and lecturers include Anthony Franciosa, Dylan McDermott, Carol Burnett, and Eve Ensler. The school offers classes in Alexander Technique, commedia dell'arté, voice, and movement. The school offers an introduction to the Meisner technique course at various times throughout the year. The Ruskin School has opened its own theatre company located across the street from the school in the Santa Monica Airport. The company offers ongoing plays, performances, and outreach programs. Admission to the school is by personal interview. (310) 390-4212. See ad on page 25-A.


The longest-running acting school in Los Angeles (est. 1927), Theatre of Arts offers a complete professional actor training program for film, TV, and stage. Now a part of Campus Hollywood, TOA has joined the Musicians Institute. Classes include cold reading, audition technique, scene study, commercial audition, stage combat, voiceover, Shakespeare, comedy improv, improvisation, as well as an actors demo-reel workshop and a voiceover workshop. Electives include dance, singing, and standup comedy. Facilities include an 80-seat theatre, a studio theatre, a dance studio, and access to professional television broadcast studios. The academy also offers showcase opportunities throughout the year (including stage productions, showcases, guest speakers, and singing recitals). 1621 N. McCadden Pl., Hollywood. (323) 463-2500.

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