First let me preface all of this by saying that I am not one of those people who thinks that “you should always be training”. I’m generally a bit skeptical when it comes to acting classes since I think that sometimes they can do more harm than good and often are a waste of money if you’re only there “just to be there” or “just to put it on your resume” and not because you have something that you really need to work on or feel like you’ve hit a wall and need a boost. I am even harder on the “name” acting schools because a personal pet peeve of mine is that I hate that if someone see that name on your resume, they will take you more seriously – just because you go to a good school, does not make you a good actor and does not mean that you take it any more seriously than another actor who can’t afford that school – and it really bothers me when people think that and use just the fact of having a name on a resume as a benchmark for talent.
Getting down off my soapbox now…. I don’t have enough good things to say about my experience here – seriously, they are fantastic! I did the intensive with Courtney Burr, and of course there is always that “stigma” whenever you go to any of these famed studios that you aren’t getting actually studying with the person who is “the name” until you sink a lot of money into it, so you aren’t actually taking a class with Margie until later on, which some people see as a negative, but to be honest, I could not care less! I absolutely loved Courtney so much – to the point that I do not care if I actually study with Margie or not (no offense Margie), but seriously, I am so happy and satisfied with Courtney that I have no desire to look any further. To me, it is more important to find an acting coach that not long is brilliant, but also can communicate well with you and in a way that makes sense to you – someone that works and fits with you and your personality – if you don’t “click” with them, then no matter how brilliant they are, you will not get everything you can out of studying with them. Margie may be just as great at communicating as Courtney, and we might get along just fine, but I’ve already got a good thing going here, so if it’s working, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! I’m just say that to address the idea that some people have that just because you’re not getting “the name” or “the master”, that you’re getting “something less”, which is not the case here at all!
Anyway, the class I took focuses largely on auditioning techniques, which I think is fantastic since if you can’t get past the audition and book the job, then what good is all of that scene study going to get you? Not to say that you can’t apply what has been learned here to scene study once you’ve gotten the part – you absolutely can. We covered a lot of what you need to know about breaking down a script and figuring out your relationship to the other characters, and who your character is ect. all of which is “scene study” work. And yes, if you’ve ever taken acting classes before, you will have covered these concepts, which is exactly what I thought after the first class in which we went over everything that we would be covering. I left that first class a little skeptical thinking, “Well, I’ve done all of this stuff before in other classes. I know how to break down a script, I know how to figure out my “need” and my “obstacles” ect.” I was sort of expecting something new and groundbreaking – almost like there was a secret that they knew that I had never heard about. But there is no big secret – all of those “basics” is really all there is to it, there are just some people who are better at it than others and they just work with you to do all of those things better and also perhaps to introduce new ideas that you haven’t thought of or heard before.
As you will learn just from going to their orientation, or even visiting their website, the key concept they push here is: Relationship, Relationship, Relationship! That and also, just be yourself, do no “act” – just be you and you is enough. And by doing that, they help you to get out of your own head and out of your own way. It was amazing to see the difference in so many of the other people in our class just in this one month simply by applying those two concepts.
One of the first things that they will tell you is to stop memorizing! Believe me, I know, this is a very strange concept. Especially as a fast memorizer, I was always sure to be completely off-book for auditions, but after this class, I will never intentionally do that again. You will learn a specific technique that they call “phrasing”, which is basically a better way of “taking the words off the page” and that really works for auditions. And by not feeling like you have to memorize, you become so much more free to be present in the scene and to connect with the other person, which is so much more compelling to watch. Also, you will no longer be scared of cold reads! Before, whenever I had an audition and it was a cold read or even a “warm read” or whatever they’re calling them now, I would dread it. The idea of going into it not being memorized or knowing what I was going to say was terrible and terrifying!…. but now, I actually would prefer a cold read. One of the most fun exercises that we did was a “frozen” read – where you literally have not even been able to read the sides – you have no idea what you’re going to say or what the scene is about or anything, but thanks to this new technique, that was an absolute blast!! And guess what – this is so useful for the “real world”! During the month we had class, I had a 2nd call back for a short film. I had the old version of the sides, which had been rewritten, which the other actor and I figured out as we were auditioning. So they handed me the new sides and without even being able to read them, we continued on with the audition. Usually, this would be TERRIFYING! But thanks to this new technique, I was actually excited to do this because I knew that I had been taught how to do it. And guess what… I got the part!
These are just a few of the main concepts that are focused on in this class. There are a whole bunch more that are little technical things that are just so helpful! For example, how to sit when you are doing a scene in a car or the best way to transition when you are reading two scenes back to back – all seemingly simple little things that make a huge difference when watching back the tapes.
Like I said, there is no “magic secret” that you will be taught here, or depending on your current training, perhaps there is, but really what the intensive was all about for me was taking things that I already knew, introducing some new techniques, and then making everything better. Add that to their amazing ability to get rid of the anxiety and fear of auditioning and giving you the confidence to relax and really connect with the reader in front of the camera, and what you’ll get out of it is pure gold. It was really amazing to see how far everyone one in our class came in just 4 weeks. Of course there are people of different levels in the class, but I think there was a drastic improvement in everyone just by putting into practice the things that we learned in this class. And it really works! Since starting the class, I’ve booked one project and have gotten a call back for two more (which I have yet to go to the call back, so who knows, it might end up being more!).
And just for some info on the way that the classes are run, in case you’re interested. There were 13 people in my class, and I think that’s pretty standard. When you arrive, there are sides waiting for you. You get a half hour with the sides, then you go in one by one and put the audition on tape with the teacher as the reader. Once everyone is done, you gather in the class room and breakdown the script (which may sound like a simple easy thing, but as you will learn, there are SO many things that you will miss when first going through these scripts – things that they will teach you how to look for and how to catch in the future). Then you watch all of the tapes. In our class, Courtney would pause as he had suggestions or critiques on how to improve the performance based on what was learned from the script breakdown that was just done, or by slipping in little technical things that would just make it look that much better. Once the review is done, everyone goes back outside the room and then again, one by one is put on tape again. Then you go back in the room, watch all the tapes, and see how all of this new information and techniques have improved the audition.
Margie Haber Studio holds an orientation every Monday at 1:30pm at their studio. It’s free and you don’t need to RSVP – just show up with your headshot and resume. They will tell you all about their classes and based on your experience, suggest which class they think will be best for you.