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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Three C's and Acting for Film

So, this time we're going to do something a little different. I'm going to be holding two classes, one on Tuesdays from 7-10pm, the other on Saturday from 12-3pm. The Saturday class will begin on May 2nd, and the Tuesday class will start on May 5th. The course runs for six weeks.

The Tuesday class will focus on the Three C's of Acting, and if you haven't taken a class from me before, I recommend you take that one. The other is for those who have been through my Three C's class and are looking for more specific instruction on how to modulate a performance for the camera.

For those who have taken the Three C's class before, you'll know that it's gentle, but never comfortable. It does well for actors who are just starting out, as well as those who have been working and studying for a long time. I enjoy having a mix of experience levels in this class, as it enhances the environment for everyone.

For the Acting for Film class, I like to work with those who already understand the way I work. We go deep and specific as fast as we can, and having a baseline knowledge of the Three C's is important. 

So, Three C's on Tuesday evenings. Acting for Film Saturday afternoons. The locations will be announced, but both will be located either in Provo or in south Lindon. *UPDATE* Looks like the classes will be happening in Provo at 308 East, 300 South. 

To sign up, please go above to the PayPal drop-down menu and either select the Three C's (or Acting for Film) full amount or deposit option. Full payment is $165 for the 6 week course. The non-refundable deposit is $35. If you make a deposit, the remainder of the payment will be due on or before the first day of class.

For those who might need some flexibility on payment, contact me (actingwithoutthedrama -at- gmail -dot- com) with a payment plan already thought through. I'll let you know whether or not it's something I can work with.

Enrollment is limited, so make sure and sign up quickly! If the classes fill up, I'll refund your deposit fully.

I'm excited to work with you, so let's get started!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Of Walls and Blankness

Why would you do that? What did the page ever do to you?

So, I thought it might be time for a little weirdness. Weirdness is always good, right?

I talk a lot about connection. If you've been following along (and maybe even experimenting with it yourself), you might have discovered that we human beings shy away from connection.

Yes, we crave it. Seek it. Need it. We also avoid it like the plague.

Raw connection is uncomfortable. We feel exposed and vulnerable. Like anyone looking at us can see all of our deepest pain, fear and shame.

And we're correct in that feeling. They can.

This is my calm face. I'm cool like that.

That probably isn't where you thought I was going with this. But don't panic.

At least that's what I'm told...

The caveat to that statement would be that while they can see it all, they generally have no idea where it's coming from. They see all the ugliness, but the only thing it causes them to feel is that we can understand them. Because they're feeling all of those same things, too.

No human is immune. We all experience varying levels of hurt, terror and humiliation. And we don't want anyone to see them. But when we make those bugaboos visible, rather than chasing other people off, it draws them to us. Weird, but true.

To avoid connecting, we erect walls around ourselves. Those walls have texture and size--you can actually identify them in space if you want to. Do this experiment with another person. Move your hand closer and closer to their face until you see their expression change. Sometimes, you can even feel their energy shift. It's subtle, but it's there. Their own personal bubble.

Oh, now I get it. Thanks for that.

Most of us have LOTS of walls. Some are hard, some are soft, some are fuzzy. They can be foggy or slick or slippery. There are probably as many kinds of walls as there are kinds of people. They all have personalities (I told you this was going to be weird).

The hard, brittle walls are the easiest to spot, and also the easiest to deal with. Sort of. Once we realize that they're present, we just have to soften them. ViolĂ  and presto! We open up and connect.

The issue with the hard walls is that it can feel impossible to soften them. Like we're about to step off a cliff.

The soft or fuzzy or slick or foggy ones are even tougher. We have a tendency to miss them. They're much more passive aggressive (or sometimes just passive). They're tricky. Once we identify them, they want to slip away from us, or just fog up the whole process so that we forget about it all. Just go to sleep... drift away... erase it all...

One solution for those is to find a focal point. Something to hold onto. Direct the attention and imagine that the fog is dissipating. Again, it's a softening process, but it's one that asks us to show up and be present.

Lately, I've discovered another kind of wall. This has been the most challenging of all. It's a wall of blankness. Rather than fuzz out or fog up or slip away, this one just goes... blank. It's almost like a disappearing act from a really good magician.

When you think about it, magicians are just CREEPY.

But like any magician, it's not real. It's just sleight-of-hand. When I start to feel blank, that means that I'm really feeling a WHOLE LOT OF STUFF. Stuff that I don't want to deal with. So, rather than deal, I just go empty for a while.

It's misdirection at its finest.

Now, you may at this point think that I'm totally insane. I get it. Really, I do. If this stuff didn't work, I'd think it was crazy, too. Actually, I went through a lot period of time where I fought it tooth and nail.

Nothing weird happening here. Move along.

But if you've somehow made it this far and are still paying attention (and maybe even thinking that there might be something to all of this), here's the idea I want you to take away. When we feel that desire to disconnect, no matter what form it takes, the answer is to lean into the discomfort. Instead of trying to get rid of the bad feelings, we bring them to the surface and dig in. Allow ourselves to feel it completely.

If we do that, our discomfort will start to speak to us. For some, it's as clear as speech. For others, it's impressions and ideas, or even just feelings. But we'll start to figure out where the disconnect is coming from. And then we can let that go and reconnect.

We are designed to be connected to each other. And when we do, amazing things happen.

But that process requires something of us. It requires that we be willing to face our darkest selves and stay present through the discomfort of it all. That we acknowledge our disconnect and soften around it. That we stay kind and loving, both to ourselves and to those around us.

Lean in, soften and stay present. Simple.

Not easy.

But SO worth it.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Of Gurus and Mentors

Do gurus all have long, nasty hair? If so, I'm screwed.

You may or may not be aware of it, but I use this blog to figure stuff out. Most of the time, when I'm talking about a topic, it's because on some level, I'm struggling with it.

So when I talk about how to deal with fear, I'm afraid. When I talk about connection, it's because I'm feeling disconnected. When I talk about community, I more than likely feel alone.

Just in case you think that somehow I've got it all figured out, I want you to know that I don't. I have some good ideas, and I've been fortunate enough to have amazing teachers and mentors who have helped me to see things in a different light. But more often than not, when I say something, I'm talking as much to myself as to anyone else.

Heh. It's funny because it's a DOG.

There is, I think, an important idea there. There are times, when we're learning from someone, we do one of two things.

The first of those two things is that we put our instructors up on a pedestal. The teacher becomes more than human, the repository of all wisdom, the sage who sits on high and through whom the dews of heaven distill upon the lesser beings who sit at his or her feet.

The problem with this way of thinking is that our mentors are human. They will fail us at some point. Perhaps by saying the wrong thing, or because of a misunderstanding, or even through some moment of human weakness in which their fear or their pain causes them to lash out and hurt us.

Does that mean that the rest of what they've taught us is invalid? Or is it, perhaps, that they are shining stars that were hidden for a moment from our view by some passing cloud?

A good teacher challenges us to be our best selves. They point us in the right direction and then set us loose. And it's our job to take the best of what they have and to forgive and let go of the rest.

Good idea. Maybe extinguish the fuse first, though.

A teacher's job is to put themselves out of business, at least when it comes to individual students. I want my students to progress to the point that they will no longer need me. Not that I don't want to continue to stay in contact. Quite the contrary. I just want that relationship to turn into one that's shared between colleagues who want the best for each other.

The second issue that comes up with teachers is sort of the mirror image of the first. We look at our teacher and think, "Well, if what they're teaching actually works, why aren't they more successful? Can I really trust them?"

Now, I'm not advocating blind devotion here, but if I'm any kind of example, a lot of what teachers teach is based off mistakes they've made. I do that all the time. All. The. Time.

Who can say where the fault should land?

Early in my career, I had the opportunity to audition for Angel (a Buffy spin-off, in case you're unfamiliar). I was reading for the part of a vampire, a nice chunky role, and I was stoked. I had a shaved head and a beard. I had kind of an "evil" look. Right up my alley, right? So, I prepared the bejeebers out of those sides. I was going to knock the casting director's socks off.

Here was the problem. If you're familiar with Joss Whedon's stuff, the villains (aka monsters or vampires in Buffy and Angel) are just normal people. Not your typical Hollywood "bad guys." So, when I went in and gave my first read, the casting director was like, "Okaaaaay.... um. Have you ever seen Angel?"

That was the first sign that, perhaps, the read had not gone all that well. I, of course, was a big fan of the show. And I told her so. Her next comment completed the popping of my bubble. "Well, see... in the series, the vampires don't really talk like vampires. They're just guys. Can you read it again?"

Fantastic note. Thanks for that.

She was great... so generous and accommodating. Here was a new actor she was testing out, and she was giving me an opportunity to fix what I had gotten wrong.

But I was so filled with shame that I had screwed up, so crushed that my preparation had been so misguided, and so over prepared, that I didn't really take in the direction. I think I stumbled my way through the next reading and rushed out as fast as I could.

Who would want to take lessons from that guy, right? Except, that's just the thing. I can now help others to not make the same mistakes... and there were many. I didn't take into consideration the feel of the series when I prepared. I wasn't flexible enough to listen in the moment, and I was so utterly freaked out that I wasn't really present in the room.

And I now know exactly how to help anyone else who might find themselves in the same circumstance. Which, in case you didn't realize it, is pretty much any actor who's new to the industry. Those mistakes I made are mistakes that so many of us make when we're staring out. But they're not necessary. Not if you're learning from someone who can help you navigate the tricky spaces.

We're going to screw up, students and teachers alike. But when we do what we can to stay connected to each other, those mistakes don't have to define us. They simply become lessons that point us to the even greater heights that are to come.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

... And Less Than Kind

Calm? No one said anything about having to keep calm...

One of the first things I talk to my acting classes about is the idea that we, as actors, need to be kind. That goes for any discipline, really. Writing, directing, painting, sculpting. Heck, it goes for accounting and the hard sciences, too. This shouldn't be a revolutionary idea, and yet I find that it is, at least in its everyday practice.

Please allow me to elaborate. One of the experiences I had as a developing actor was that the majority of my teachers fell into two major categories. There were the nice teachers, and then there were brutally honest ones.

See? Nice and mean. And both of them kinda creepy.

The nice teachers were encouraging and touchy-feely. They created a lovely feel in their classrooms, one that would allow for experimentation and exploration without fear of harsh criticism. And all of that was great.

The problem was, they were nice. And nice isn't particularly honest. The warm and fuzzy feeling under their tutelage came at the expense of direct and clear critique--something that's necessary to improve our craft. When we perform poorly and the only response is, "Fantastic! Wonderful!", it's easy to lose faith in the process. And the instructor.

Then there are the brutally honest teachers. From their instruction, we get crystal clear details on how we can improve. But their honesty comes with a harshness that shuts down the avenues of discovery.

We don't want to open up to someone who is likely to look at what we've uncovered and say, "Well, that's just not good enough." Ouch. That's my soul you're talking about, you jerk!"

You complete me, Jason Alexander.

For those teachers who recognize the dilemma, they typically waver back and forth between the two extremes, always looking for that perfect middle ground. I haven't seen one once who's actually found it. I certainly didn't for a very long while. I usually (but not always) erred on the side of nice, but I didn't find that it worked all that well. Particularly with the so-called problem student.

The solution I've found is to get off that line entirely. There aren't just two choices with gradations in between. We live in three dimensional space, last time I checked. Meaning that there are an infinite number of possibilities for us other than just those two poles of niceness and brutality.

The one I'd like to explore with you is that of kindness.

Now you may now be saying to yourself, "But wait. Kind and nice are the same thing." But those two words are miles apart in my mind. Because kind is loving and gentle. Kind is honest. Kind is often uncomfortable, but never harsh. Kind is direct. Kind is... well, kind.

There's a genuine quality to kindness that doesn't exist in nice. And there's a softness in kind that doesn't exist in brutal honesty. Kind is a separate third space that gives us the best of both worlds, and opens up new possibilities to our view.

Here's an example. My wife asks me if a certain outfit makes her look fat.

Yes, Admiral Ackbar.  It certainly is.

The nice answer is, "No, honey, you look fantastic." The brutally honest answer is, "Yeah, it makes you look fat." Neither one of those answers really fulfills the question.

Because when she's asking me that question, she's really asking two. The first is the obvious one. Is this outfit okay for me to wear in public? The second is a bit more hidden. Do you love me?

The nice answer takes care of the second part, but doesn't address the fact that the outfit is not, in fact, flattering on her. The brutally honest one takes care of that, but doesn't let her know how much I care.

The kind answer looks more like this: Here's a different outfit that I think makes you look hot. Loving and honest as well. The third space.

No, it doesn't make you look fat. 
I think you may be asking the wrong question.

That's the way I see it. When I'm making a choice, and it seems like my choices have been narrowed down to only two and both seems bad... it might be time to make a change. Time to soften and find that third, kind, loving space.

And this isn't just for teaching. This applies to the way we talk to each other as artists. It has to do with the way we talk to ourselves. It refers to the way we handle industry contacts like casting directors, agents, managers, directors and producers. When we treat them as real people, with kindness, we find that the brutal, faceless "industry" doesn't really exist.

The whole idea of kindness expands well beyond just interaction with individuals. The way we treat animals. The way we view politics. The way we handle the planet and its resources.

It's a beautiful world out there when we choose to treat it that way.

That is one wicked awesome glassy, dude. Wanna play for it?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Three C's of Acting Group Class in Provo, UT

Okay, actors! Here are the details for the group class that I will be teaching locally in Provo, Utah.

I have a unique style of teaching that will help you to unlock your individual style as an actor and allow your presence to explode on stage or in front of the camera. The results can be stunning, and reach beyond just the acting class. The process is designed to be transformative.

The Three C's are connection, communication and commitment.

The approach I use is largely Stanislavski-based, but incorporates elements of many other disciplines. I also work with you to really open up and connect. It will get personal, but in a very good way. :)

We will start off with a short monologue that you will select and memorize before the class starts. We'll dive in immediately. The monologue will help me get to know you and what it is that you need in your process. Please make sure you have a monologue (1 to 1 1/2 minutes long) picked and memorized before the first day of class!

After the monologues, we will work on scenes together, either one or two depending on the number of students and how detailed we get with each scene. I leave it open-ended as each actor is different. One size does not fit all in this case.

In addition to the acting work we'll be doing, we will also have discussions about real-world steps you can take to create more opportunities for yourself to act. Whether you are doing this as a hobby or as a career, I can help you to move forward.

The classes will be held at 45 East 300 North in Provo (right by Chase Bank).

The class will run every Saturday starting February 28th at 10am and will run for six weeks.

Class size won't go over 14.

The cost for the class is $165. If you can't afford the $165 right now, you can pay a nonrefundable deposit of $35 to hold your place in the group. Then you would only need to come up with the remaining $130 before the first day of classes.

So, the way to sign up for the class is to go to the scroll-down menu above, select the options you would like, then click the "Buy Now" button below the menu. payment button above. To reserve your place in the class you can choose one of two options: "Three C's of Acting deposit" or "Three C's of Acting full amount." Once you've either paid the deposit or the full amount, I'll get an email confirming that fact, and you will be officially enrolled in the class.

If you chose to pay a deposit right now, payment will be due the first day of class, and can either be paid online (using the "Three C's of Acting balance" button) or by cash, check or by credit card before class starts.

It's going to be an amazing class, and space is limited, so sign up today!

If you have any questions, please email me.

Monday, February 9, 2015


"I sound my barbaric yawp..."

Okay, not exactly sure what prompted this. Actually, that's not true. What prompted it is this person: +Jes M. Baker. If you haven't checked out her blog, The Militant Baker, you should do it (fair warning... it's not exactly G-rated).

I'll wait.

You didn't go there, did you? Maybe you thought, Ah, I'll catch it later. Don't want to lose the thread of this finely crafted blog post. Or I'm reading this on my phone, so it makes it tough. Or You can't tell me what to do, you fascist pig. Whatever your reasoning for not clicking on the link, please go back and do so. Pretty please. With cotton candy on top. (Why cotton candy? Because it's sweet and fluffy and dissolves on your tongue like the caresses of infant hands or the whispers of lovers long past. That's why.)
It's melt-in-your-mouth goodness... or something like that.

So, The Militant Baker. Awesomeness incarnate, right? I think so. But then, I'm a total sucker for strong women. I happen to be married to one. I love their ballsiness, their joie de vivre, the exquisite vulnerability that's almost always hidden beneath all that steel. I even love their anger. And I share in it. Well, sort of.

I'm a guy. And because I'm a guy, sometimes I get quiet when it comes to things that I think are NOT MY BUSINESS. You know, like girl stuff. I don't have much to contribute when it comes to discussions of tampons and childbirth and how difficult boobs can be (that last one is a a topic I have a a difficult time with--how on EARTH could boobs ever be difficult??). I also have a tough time weighing in on things like reproductive rights and #yesallwomen and the patriarchal nature of western society, because as much as I may empathize, I just don't fully get it.  So I keep my mouth shut. Most of the time.
Smug fish mocks your hook and worm.

There's a reason I picked Homer Simpson for the picture up there. I feel like him, sometimes. A bonehead for the most part, kinda lazy, not particularly smart, but a pretty decent person underneath it all. I'd like to think that I am, at any rate. There are days that I'm not so sure.

So, what am I on about? Well, I'll tell you. It's the fact that we can't seem to listen to each other without having to insert some caveat. Case in point: Men's rights advocates (or MRA for short).

I'm a man, last time I checked, so you might think I'd be totally on board with this, right? Why wouldn't I want to advocate for men's rights? That's a no-brainer.

Does that make me brainless?

Except that it's not.

I'm a feminist.

I'm not claiming to be a perfect one. I don't even know what that would look like. What I will say is that I love women and I want to hear what they think. All of them. Even the ones I don't agree with. Especially the ones I don't agree with.

Don't get me wrong. I want to hear men, too. I just think that men have a ready-made platform that's been in place for a very long time. Just observe the next business meeting you attend, and track how often men dominate the conversation. Women are taught to defer, men to assert. Things are changing, but change can be a slow process.

I'm pretty sure that wasn't what I was talking about...

Because when women start to speak, it seems like the first thing that happens is that men want to step in and control the debate. And when we can't, we start saying things like, "This is unfair to men." Or #notallmen. Or sometimes things that are far nastier.

Far, far nastier.

Now, you might be asking yourself what in the world this has to do with acting or writing. And it may feel like a departure for me, as I spend a lot of time and energy trying to bring people together, and this can be such a divisive topic.

Well, yes, sure. But also, as writers and actors, we need to learn to put ourselves in other people's shoes. And part of that involves understanding. Listening with the intent to comprehend, rather than to find areas of weakness we can then attack.

What would it look like if we men listened to women and... wait for it... believed them when they talk about what it's like to live in their world. Rather than get our collective banana hammocks in a twist, let's really hear what they have to say and take their word on it. That what it feels like to be a woman is what they say it feels like.

I think we'll find that not all women agree. Yay! Huzzah for diversity.

Sure, that works, too.

But there will be common threads. A pattern. A vein of truth that will flow through the bedrock of information that can be ours if only we open our ears to hear and our minds to understand.

And we might just learn something about the world we live in.

I'm not asking that we all agree. That would make the world far less interesting. Everyone thinking alike does not sound like a good time to me. At all.

But people of different backgrounds and beliefs coming together in love and understanding, that would be awesome. I don't have to agree with you to love you.

I just have to understand you.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hacking the Creative Process

Well, that's troubling...

So, time to talk about creativity. It's a blog about acting (and writing as well... SURPRISE!), so you knew it had to come at some point, right? 

I dunno, maybe I've already talked about it. I don't keep track of these things. I trust the Interweb trolls to come out from underneath their digital bridges and berate me for repeating myself. Isn't that what they're FOR?

I had no idea trolls were so... CUTE.

And with those comments about trolls, of course I mean no offense to those genuine souls who are reaching out to help. We can usually tell the difference. Genuine souls don't typically start out by baring their figurative teeth.

Anywho... I'm four paragraphs in and I've already gotten distracted. ARTIST BRAIN STRIKES AGAIN!

Creativity. Right.

The problem with talking about creativity is that it can be such a subjective thing, right? I might think what I'm creating is incredible, but everyone else looks at my work and snickers behind their hands.

Dude, you're not even trying to hide that.

Therein lies the difficulty. Creation IS subjective. What I love, you might loathe and vice-versa.

That can be a deeply troubling idea to wrap our heads around. We like to have answers: yes/no, black/white, left/right, red/blue. We are creatures that love to live in a binary universe. Problem is, we're stuck in this three-dimensional monstrosity.

But what could be our greatest nightmare ends up being a wonderful gift if we look at it in the right way. Seriously. I promise.

Let's go back to that idea of the audience (or reader... see? WRITING, too!) snickering. Now, I'm not saying that never happens. We all know that's not true. And how do we know it's not true? Because we've probably done it at some point or another.

What would it look like if we stopped snickering at other artists? Yes, I know. Sometimes artists do silly things. Like make choices that we never would have made. HOW DARE THEY??

Man, I miss Malcolm in the Middle...

But would you really like to live in a world where every artist thought like you? One of the coolest things about art is that it shows us things from another perspective. And what I love about acting and writing is that I can step into another person's life or point-of-view. See things from where they stand.

The snickering is all about judgment. And judgment is never about the thing we think we're judging. It's about us.

Choosing to create is a risky endeavor. An artistic life takes guts, in addition to blood, sweat and tears (tears of sadness, of frustration, and occasionally of joy). Also, it doesn't pay well most of the time, especially at first. We never know if we're going to sink or swim from a financial standpoint, so fear can sometimes overtake us.

Right now, my main fear is that this person actually exists.

And when we don't stop to recognize that we're afraid, we lash out at others.

We are, perhaps, insecure in our own work. Therefore, in order to assure ourselves that our taste is good, we rave about the things we love and rail on the things we don't, hoping others around us will agree. This (when it happens) justifies our view of the world, and now we feel safe in our choice to become an artist.


We could just embrace the uncertainty. Here's the truth: when it comes to art, there is no right answer. Cue the sad trombone... wah, wah, wah, waaaaaaahhhh.

But if there's no right answer, the converse must be true as well. In other words, there is no wrong answer. Right? (see what I did there?)

Which means that we can make choices that best reflect us... our point of view, our unique way of seeing the world, our voice. And we can make those choices, safe in the knowledge that there is no wrong choice.

I think right and wrong need to be taken off the table. I think a better way of looking at it is connected or disconnected.

When we put our work out there, we'll receive a response. We don't have to take that response as the gospel truth, but it can be a good indicator of where we are in our process as artists.

If what we're creating causes a disconnect, then we take a look at that. Mess with it. Tweak it until it seems to be working.


And how we do that is by opening up even more. Risking more of ourselves. As well as learning more about our craft.

Structure is awesome for writers. Technique is great for actors. When I'm stuck in my writing, structure gets me out. When I'm disconnected in my acting, technique serves the same purpose. It keeps us in a place where at least our work is CLEAR.

So we shoot for connected, but when that doesn't happen (because let's be honest, no one is ever perfectly connected), we shoot for well-communicated. We make sure our voice gets out there and is not horribly misinterpreted as it enters into the awareness of the audience/reader.

And we keep communicating. In other words, we keep acting or writing (or both!). As we continue, we get better. Our process refines itself.

That, to me, is creativity. 

At the end of the day, here are some good things to remember about writing and acting. Acting is getting up in front of an audience (either people or a camera) and speaking words someone else has given us. Writing is just moving words around on the page. Neither one is an epic battle for our personal redemption.

Do what you love. Put it out there. Receive feedback. Get better.

Rinse and repeat.