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Top 5 Acting Coaches in Los Angeles

Posted: October 5th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Acting Coaching | Tags: | No Comments »

Without a doubt, some of the best acting talent in the world resides in Los Angeles. But the question is: “who the hell is coaching all these film and TV stars?” No matter what level of success you’ve attained in your career, at one time or another, you’ll want to coach with someone. It’s especially important when preparing for a big audition, a complicated scene, or if you are testing for a pilot.

We’ve compiled our top 5 picks for you here, but please remember that there are many many great acting coaches in Los Angeles that aren’t on this list. IF you feel we’ve missed someone who deserves a mention – please write in and submit them! Ok – here are our top 5 picks for the best acting coaches in Los Angeles.

Margie Haber

Margie Haber is one of the top acting coaches in LA. She has worked with some of the top names in Hollywood like Brad Pitt, Kelly Preston, and Heather Locklear. Additionally, Margie has written several books related to breaking into the acting business. Margie’s philosophy is really summed up in the title of her book, How to Get the Part Without Falling Apart. In her 30 years in the business she has learned that it is so easy to simply lose yourself in the process of making your way through the business. Margie has pointed out that there are 3 P’s that you want to avoid in any acting audition. She helps you to get a handle on Panic, Pain, and Performance Anxiety, and by taking these away she helps you to regain the fourth P, your POWER. Margie is focuses on teaching actors to live the life of their character so that their performances are more honest and true. Margie Haber specializes in training actors on cold readings, which is very important in the film industry. Most film auditions rely solely on cold readings, and the training that you can get at Margie’s Performing Arts Corporation can get you ready for your next audition.

Gary Spatz

Not all acting coaches are geared for all ages. In fact, Gary Spatz is one of the acting coaches in Los Angeles who gears his work toward child actors. In Los Angeles there is a great need for child actors, but that doesn’t mean that there is not stiff competition. If you, or your child, is hoping to make it as a child actor you need to find some good training, and Gary Spatz could be exactly what you have been looking for. Gary has been teaching in the industry for over 20 years. He has coached child stars for the Jeff Foxworth Show, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Super 8. He now owns The Actor’s Playground, an elite facility dedicated to providing excellent training to the stars of tomorrow. You can either take group acting courses with one of the expert instructors or you can take private coaching sessions with Gary Spatz himself.

Leslie Kahn

Leslie Kahn began teaching in California in 1993. Prior to that she achieved her Bachelor’s degree in Acting from NYU, and her MFA in Acting from Yale. She is a proud member of SAG, AFTRA, and Actor’s Equity. Leslie spent a lot of time acting and directing for herself professionally before making the move to California. In fact, she even spent some time teaching at Marymount Manhattan College. Since Leslie has been teaching she has mentored many top actors. One of the best things about studying with Leslie is that she has worked professionally in the field so she knows what she is talking about. Leslie focuses on helping to enhance your natural acting talent. Rather than getting you bogged down in heavy techniques that create contrived performances. Instead, she helps you to learn how to follow your instincts so that you can create a believable and meaningful performance.

Sandy Marshall

Sandy Marshall is an acting coach that works in Los Angeles as well. She has built her studio with talented actors, and has done so specifically in offering instruction in the Meisner Technique. Her coaching is very rooted in this technique, and it can be a very effective approach to acting, but it does not necessarily speak to every actor. The Meisner technique has a lot of repeated exercises that help you to hone your acting skills. Specifically the Meisner technique focuses on enhancing your listening and observation skills, and if that’s what you need then Sandy Marshall is exactly who you need to study with!

Doug Warhit

Doug studied at NYU where he achieved his bachelor’s degree, and from there he continued his studies at Antioch University where he earned his Master’s degree. Doug has worked professionally in film for many years and has appeared in pictures like Beverly Hills Cop and Clueless. For the last twenty years he has been working as a professional acting coach. Doug offers weekly classes where students can work toward a film and tv career. Everything in class is filmed so that students can see what they look like on camera. His classes focuses on cold readings, improvisation, scene study, and commercials. Additionally, Doug also offers individual coaching so if you have a big audition coming up you can get some one on one attention prior to heading in to see a casting director.

These are just a few of the top acting coaches in Los Angeles. To find the right coach for you spend some time researching each of their studios and techniques. Additionally, why not head down to their studio to observe a class? This can be one of the best ways to see if a teacher is a good fit for your needs. The most important thing for you to do when selecting a teacher is to trust your instincts. If you feel good about studying with a particular teacher chances are that you are right!


Why You Should Watch the New 2011 Pilots

Posted: September 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Acting Advice | Tags: | No Comments »

It’s that time again folks. The 2011 pilots are premiering, and it’s your chance to see what the new flavors are. If you booked something – congratulations. If not – then maybe there’s a guest star on one of these shows in your future. What is important is to keep up with what’s going on, and make a few mental notes.

Those TV pilots that we were all consumed with from February through April are blossoming into first episodes before our very eyes (can I please have a tissue?). If you kept your ear to the ground during those intense winter/spring months when pilot season is in full swing, you may have a bout of mild (or obsessive) curiosity as to how these shows turned out.

I, for one, believe it’s important as an actor to have a complete understanding of the TV climate – how it’s changed – stayed the same – and all of the above. To be true competitors in this fierce industry, we cannot just be artists, we must also be shrewd business people.

Finding out “who got what” (part) is actually fascinating if you can put your ego in check for a minute. This year, as has seemed to be the trend for the past few pilot seasons, big names have taken the leads in many of the new shows. Christine Ricci (PAN AM), Time Allen (Last Man Standing), Kerry Washington (Scandal), Kristen Chenoweth (Good Christian Belles) to name a few. And then, there are the less known actors who’ve been in lots of shows but have yet to become household names… like Kristen Ritter (Apartment 23), or Bruce Greenwood (The River). And then, there are the breakthroughs. The ones who will be new faces on our TV screens and will give us hope for next pilot season. They prove that it is possible to book… it really is. To me, these are some of the most exciting people to watch. What did they do that proved they were worthy of a network’s trust?

Another reason to watch the new shows is so you can see the trends. Whereas the last few years vampires have been taking over, this year the shift has been made, if only slightly, to witches (The Secret Circle) and dark secrets (Revenge). Comedy seems to have some edge to it now with Work It and 2 Broke Girls.

The show I guess I’m the most excited for this year is Apartment 23. This is partly because I love a quirky comedy, but mainly because Kristen Ritter kind of blew me away as Jesse Pinkman’s drug addicted girlfriend in Breaking Bad. I can’t wait to see what she’ll do with this delightfully bizarre pilot season 2011 new role.

So my two cents would be to pay attention to what’s happening out there. Getting a feel for what’s current is only going to help know where you fit in in the current TV world. Good luck!!


Improv Classes in Los Angeles at BANG Comedy School

Posted: September 11th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Improv and Comedy | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Improv Classes in Los Angeles at BANG Comedy School

BANG Comedy Institute and Theater (formerly known as BANG Improv Studio) is located at 457 N. Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles, and was founded in 1995 by Peter and Aliza Murrieta as a purveyor of intelligent comedy and a studio dedicated to the ongoing study and performance of improvisation. The school has since expanded into a comprehensive comedy program, offering such classes as improv, sketch comedy, stand-up, solo performance, musical improv, improv for writers, SNL audition prep, web series development, sitcom acting and writing, improv for commercial acting, screenwriting and more.

BANG Comedy Institute also formed the YOUNG COMEDIAN’S CONSERVATORY, which offers classes for kids and teens in improv, stand-up and sketch comedy.

BANG Comedy Theater is known for experimental works and has fostered the careers of off-beat comics such as Jane Lynch, Jeff Garlin, Sarah Silverman and others.

Noted actors who have performed at Bang Comedy Theater include: Fred Willard, Sarah Silverman, Rainn Wilson, Jeremy Piven, Willie Garson, Dan Castellaneta, Andy Dick, Kathy Griffin, Margaret Cho, Bobcat Goldthwait, Taylor Negron, Rachel Dratch, Greg Proops, Ryan Stiles, Jeff Garlin, Janeane Garofalo, Eric Idle and many more.

BANG’s acclaimed improv studio offers four levels of improv classes plus a Masters Program. Bang’s teachers are not only experienced improv instructors, they are also professional actors, writers, and directors. Bang founder and teacher Peter Murrieta is the showrunner and producer of the Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place. Other bang teachers include co-founder Aliza Murrieta, who is an alumna of The Second City (Chicago) and a former touring company member. Also teaching are noted voice actor and Director of the bang Conservatory, Ezra Weisz, and MADtv writer Jenna Jolovitz. Successful television writers Evan Gore and Theresa Mulligan also lecture at bang.

Some of bang studio’s noted alumni include General Hospital’s Yennifer Behrens, hostess extraordinaire Michelle Merkin (ABC’s The Next best Thing, et al), and Quinceañera star Jesse Garcia. Other bang faculty and alumni have worked recently on ABC’s Pushing Daisies, Disney’s The Wizards of Waverly Place, Discovery Channel’s Mystery ER, and in many, many national commercials.


To Meisner or Not to Meisner… And If So, Then Who is the Best Meisner Acting Teacher in Los Angeles?

Posted: September 5th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Acting Advice | Tags: , | No Comments »

As a working actress who’s studied at countless schools, and as many different teachers, I’ve noticed the “method” that keeps showing up in various forms is the Meisner Technique. Sometimes it’s very true to form, taught just as Sanford Meisner himself would have wanted. Other times it’s been evolved, manipulated to conform to what a certain teacher is trying to get across. I’ve listened to some of my very talented peers swear by this technique, professing it’s the only one to bother learning. I usually sit there (on the fence) nodding but secretly wondering if I’m missing something.

Don’t get me wrong, when I was a very young and inexperienced (green) aspiring thespian, I was totally taken by Sanford’s legacy. I loved how freeing it was, how honest. But as I learned the technical aspects, the absolute mandatory left brain thinking that comes with professional acting, I began to roll my eyes more and more when I’d hear Meisner disciples pledging their allegiance.

sanford meisner technique los angeles

Repetition exercises (the most notorious part of Meisner training) are all good and well (I guess) when “exploring” in theater school. But how does this truly fit into hitting your mark on a film set? Making sure you stay out of your co-stars light? How about learning to talk as if there’s music blaring when you can’t hear the faintest bit of a tune? Where is the “truth” in that? What was more was that I quickly realized that many of the students who excelled at the repetition exercises fell extremely flat when they’d actually have a script in their hand.

I was quickly loosing faith. But why then, did so many fantastic actors stand by this technique? I don’t think I’ll ever completely surrender. What I can say is that Meisner can teach good listening, good observing skills. It can loosen up the “heady” actor, the ones who over-plan and are married to their choices. It can help you learn to “play”. But I would recommend studying with a teacher who has adapted the old style technique to fit modern needs. A teacher who has students who are thriving in the business. A perfect example of this would be Sandy Marshall who teaches out of Los Angeles. She has some really talented students who have leaned to apply the technique to the actual reality of the business.

All that said, my belief is to study as much as you can, don’t take any of it too seriously, and figure out what works for you. Good luck!


Lesly Kahn’s Non-Technique Acting Classes in Los Angeles

Posted: September 4th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Acting Advice | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Lesly Kahn is something of a legend in Los Angeles. Many actors even think of her beloved “kahnstitute” as “cult-ish”. Her approach is loud, in-your-face and tell-it-like-it-is. One thing is for sure, and everyone agrees on this, Lesly is a full on genius, and her methods have been proven to work time and time again.

What does that mean “work”? Very simply, it mean’s that students of Lesly’s know how to deliver in auditions, and ultimately, book jobs. It’s certainly true that acting is about the craft and techniques like Meisner and Stanislavsky and all that jazz, but what does that have to do with booking jobs? Not as much as you might think.

The bottom line is that you need to know how to interpret a writer’s words, make strong choices, develop a back story, and develop the “moment before”. In the audition, you need to know how to take direction, without losing sight of the character you’ve embodied. It’s these things that she’s based her life’s work on.

You may wonder about your acting teacher (or school, or coach) and their commitment to the task of preparing you for the highs and lows of the business. You may doubt their capacity to give you the individual attention you need. You may doubt that they have your best interests in mind, and not their own pocketbook. With Lesly, there can be NO doubt. This woman literally sleeps at her acting studio during the weeknights, and is prone to mini-breakdowns if she feels she hasn’t delivered the goods to you. Well, perhaps “mini-breakdown” is an exaggeration, but my point is, she is so invested in her actors, it’s as if she were auditioning for the part herself.

Which brings me to a final point – Lesly Kahn is as much about support, community, and family as is it about booking the gig. Living in Los Angeles, trying to make a career in “The Biz”, and constantly market yourself, is exhausting, emotionally and physically. You want to puke your guts out, quit, cry, smoke, scream! do drugs, self destruct… just to cope with the stress and rejection that is part of being an actor. Lesly helps you put it all in perspective, and provides access to all types of support directly through her school. The actors there are a tight knit community, you’ll benefit from the comaradry and encouragement of your peers.

So, in closing, I have to take you back to the brass tacks of why Lesly Kahn Actor Training is at the top of our list. Well, one of the main reasons is that Lesly is so respected in the business by her peers. I’m talking about agents, managers, casting directors, producers – all the people that will ultimately decide your fate. Lesly herself is committed to staying current with what is hot, what types of shows are selling, which actors are breaking out, and trends in television and film. Her years of experience, ivy league education (Yale School of Drama), her own acting experience, and her distinguished alumni say the rest.

Lesly Kahn Actor Training offers intro level acting classes, master classes, workshops, audition coaching, and more right in the heart of Hollywood, just north of Sunset on LaBrea. If you want to find out more, go to Lelsy’s website at www.leslykahn.com. If you want to get to know her, and start getting regular acting advice, tips, and inside info on the goings-on in the biz, subscribe to her blog at Lesly Kahn Actor Training Blog.


Steve Braun’s Acting the Truth Classes, Workshops, and Coaching

Posted: September 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Acting Advice | Tags: , | No Comments »

“How are you feeling?”

“Fine. How are you?”

Strange though it may sound, the above exchange, played out millions of times a day in various languages all over the world, is one of the main causes of poor acting. It’s true. The habitual description of our emotional state as “fine” gets us in the habit of ignoring how we feel, adapting our emotional expression to fit societal norms and losing a connection with our truth and with others.

If we are being truthful we’re never fine. Ever. We’re happy, sad, angry, irritated, nervous, anxious, excited, among other feelings. Yet we’re told at a very early age that expressing those feelings is unacceptable. So, we hide them. We push them away. We respond with a “good, you?” or “not bad”, which, while fulfilling some forced language of “civilized” society”, often has nothing to do with how we actually feel.

As it relates to acting, its very difficult to have a truthful emotional experience on stage or in front of a camera when we are so deep in the habit of hiding or disconnecting from our truthful feelings and our active point of view.

Acting The Truth acting classes, coaching and workshops with Steve Braun reintroduce you to your unique voice within the world of a play. Meisner-based exercises and cold reading scenes clean out your emotional pipes and force you to make strong personal choices in the world of your play.

Ongoing, weekly Acting The Truth classes Tuesday and Wednesday nights are more like going to the gym than to a theatre school. Acting The Truth audition coaching weaves all your truthful feelings about the audition, the casting director, the project, etc into the world of the play. Acting The Truth workshops bring the spirit of Steve’s weekly LA classes to cities around the world.

Visit www.actingthetruth.com today to find out how to audit a class for free.