I employ a holistic approach to acting. That means I believe in order for an actor to perform at their optimal level they must master three things. First, a voice that is trained so that it is clear and open. Second, a body that is physically agile so it may withstand the rigors of an 8 show week. And last, an open and available emotional instrument so that any emotion required for the scene may come through the actor in an easeful way. This goes along with the understanding that the emotion is the obstacle and not the objective. It is my job to help the actor integrate these three facets of performance.
To encourage, challenge and enliven my students in these areas, I employ a variety of methods. For the voice, I draw on both the Linklater and the Miller Voice Method. The Linklater Method is useful for establishing a low breath. Beyond the basics, the Miller Voice Method is invaluable in allowing the student’s entire vocal apparatus to open up and perform at its maximum capacity in a way that is also highly efficient.
My primary acting influence is Meisner. I trained in his technique while studying at Rutgers University. I believe his work is very beneficial at getting the students out of their heads and into the present moment. I employ many of Meisner’s exercises, including repetition and Independent Activities. These improvisations can be immensely helpful at diminishing the actor’s self-consciousness and freeing their impulse.
However, there are different “ways in” for every student and I don’t believe in a one-size fits all style of teaching. I have been profoundly influenced by the movement-based work of Michael Chekhov as well as the work of Uta Hagen and Larry Moss. Outside-in can be just as effective as inside-out. We need to give actors as many tools as possible so they can create their own technique.
I encourage my students to read plays and see as much theatre as possible. They should also invest in their liberal arts education through reading both fiction and history. A good actor is a well-rounded actor. For instance, if they’re going to work on Shakespeare, they need to understand the social and historical context of the Renaissance era.
For me, the most rewarding thing about teaching is to serve as a guide for students. Sometimes a student will come up to me at the beginning of the semester and say, “I can’t do this work!” Yet when I lead the actor gently through their own limitations, they discover they can do so much more than they thought possible. They have unlocked the key to their success and it is a truly magical moment for me.
I have a deep love of acting and of the theatre and hope to impart that passion to my students. Israel Hicks, one of my teachers in graduate school, said to my class, “Theatre is my church.” I encourage my students to come to class with that same commitment.
Talent doesn’t matter so much to me - what matters to me is showing up, possessing a great work ethic, loving the craft and having a willingness to take risks. I believe actors are some of the bravest souls on earth. They are brave because they reveal the softest parts of themselves onstage. I want to invigorate my students with a fierceness in their acting. If my students come away from my class feeling inspired, challenged, surprised at what they’ve accomplished and curious about how much further they can go, then I have done my job.