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Saturday, May 2, 2020

Note(s) on Acting (Training)

When I was in grad school, one of my mentors, Richard Easton, came into class one day with a sheaf of papers that he started handing out.

This was a strange occurrence, as up to that point, Richard had never brought so much as a pencil to class. He was a true master of the stage, and we were learning Shakespeare from him. Our efforts were often punctuated with his most repeated phrase, "Yes. Something like that."

We were all 99.9% sure that's not at all what he meant.

Anyway, this morning, he waltzed into the room, speaking in his booming British accent, "I was on my second bottle of wine last night, when I decided to write down some notes on acting." He then proceeded to run down his list. It was eclectic, droll, and... much like Richard... spot on.

In my recollection, the page even had the title, "Notes on Acting." That may or may not be real.

That's basically what I'm doing here, today, sans the wine. Oh, and I really only have one note that I'm going really dissect right now. I can't promise that my insights will be nearly as helpful and entertaining as Richard's were (perhaps I'll share his at some point), but they are mostly mine, and they're in my brain and need to get out.

So what better place than the Interwebs?

There are a lot of things I've picked up over the years. Some of the things I've gathered have ended up with a hefty layer of dust on them, as I haven't bothered much with them since then. Other gems I've taken, examined, cut a bit on this side or that, and polished to a high sheen.

One of the most important things I think I've learned is that one size doesn't fit all when it comes to acting. If there's an approach I'm using, if it can't be flexible enough to adapt to the needs of each individual, that approach is ultimately a failure. Yes, it might have helped many others, and sometimes in exactly the same way, over and over. But that doesn't mean it will work this time.

And in acting, this time is the only time that really ever exists.

A brilliant performance, repeated perfectly, is no longer quite as brilliant the second time through. It's the bugger-all of acting, to be honest. In order to really achieve excellence, we have to let go of the idea of perfection.

We have to let go of the plan.

If I'm sticking to the roadmap of my performance I've painstakingly laid out, how well am I taking in the tiny, exquisite changes that are happening all around me? The person opposite me delivers their line with a slightly different inflection, a distinct change of body language... and I miss it, because I'm too busy checking in with my mental version of Siri. "Take a left... in... one hundred feet."

I've digressed. It was a fun digression, but a digression nonetheless.

The point is that, in teaching as in performance, we have to be completely tuned into the NOW. What's happening in this moment, right in front of us?

Another way of putting this is, if something I say doesn't work for you, chuck it. Defenestration is an art, and you can practice it right now.

I mean, give it a shot. Try to be open to the experience. But ultimately, if it doesn't do it for you, it doesn't do it for you. And I, as the one doing the instructing, need to be sensitive to that... and THEN CHANGE WHAT I'M DOING.

So part of what I'm doing here, and on my Twitter feed (@actingnodrama) is opening up a conversation. I don't expect or want it to be one-sided. If you disagree, say so. If something isn't clear, ask. And definitely if you ever feel even the slightest bit of disrespect, CALL ME ON THAT SHIT.

Friday, February 28, 2020

New Classes Starting in June!





***EDIT--The dates for both classes have been postponed! Also, the time for the Salt Lake Three C's class has changed!***

Well, it's been a hot minute since I've taught one of my classes. Now I'm starting up TWO!

Actors (or those wanting to start learning)! I'm starting up classes in June: The Three C's of Acting (in Salt Lake City) and Acting for Film (down in Orem)! The Three C's will start Tuesday, June 2nd, and Acting for Film will start Thursday, June 4th. I would love to have you join us for one or both!

The Three C' will meet Tuesdays (starting June 2nd) from 6-9pm. It will focus on my specific approach to the art of acting. If you've never taken a class from me before, this is a really good place to start. :)

The Acting for Film class will meet Thursdays (starting June 4th) from 7-10pm. This class will focus around on-camera techniques, and your work will be recorded for you to review.

For those who have taken my classes before, you'll know that they're gentle, but never comfortable. They do 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 my classes, as it enhances the environment for everyone. Each course runs for six weeks.

The Three C's of Acting will meet at Scene 1 Talent Agency in SLC. The address is 747 E South Temple, Suite 120.

The Acting for Film class will meet in Orem at 381 East, 230 South. It's a house, and we'll be meeting in the studio space above the garage. There will be signs, but you will enter through the gate on the right side of the house, then take the stairs up to the studio.

Signing up:
To sign up, please go here and fill out the form. Once that's done, the payment links are below. Full payment is $195 for the 6 week course. The non-refundable deposit is $35. If you make a deposit, the remainder of the payment ($160) will be due on or before the first day of class.

Payment links:
Three C's of acting full amount--go here.
Three C's of acting deposit--go here.
Three C's of acting balance--go here (only use this option if you've paid the deposit and need to pay the remainder).

Acting for Film full amount--go here.
Acting for Film deposit--go here.
Acting for Film balance--go here (only use this option if you've paid the deposit and need to pay the remainder).

I also now accept Venmo payments (@Ben-Hopkin)

Once the classes have started, the entire amount of $195 is due, regardless of the number of classes you end up attending, which can be paid by cash, check or card. If something happens during the course (for example, a show or film) and you need to withdraw, talk to me about it. I can pro-rate the remainder of the classes and use it as a deposit for my next round of classes.

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. I don't want the price to keep you from studying with me, so I'll do what I can to help you out!

Enrollment is limited (I like to keep the classes small), so make sure and sign up quickly! Your deposit insures your place in the course. Don't worry. If the classes fill up, I'll refund your deposit fully.

A note on tuition: you are signing up for the entire course. If you have to miss a class, you won't be refunded for that day. You're encouraged to clear your schedule on the day of class for the entire 6-week course.

Once you sign up for the Three C's of Acting or Acting for Film, make sure you find and prepare a one-minute monologue (have it memorized and ready to perform for when the class starts). That will be the first thing we'll be working on in each class. If you're having trouble finding something, email me (actingwithoutthedrama -at- gmail -dot- com) for tips and places you can start looking.

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

You're a Mean One...

Image result for grinch
Green is definitely my color.

I have a confession to make. I am a grinch.

Well, I was.

I'm not proud of this. There are a lot of reasons for why the holiday season isn't historically the best of times for me. Seasonal Affective Disorder is part of it, but only part. The rest I can most likely trace back to my youth, but I'm not a huge fan of flashbacks, so we're not going there for the moment. Maybe I'll circle back around to that stuff in another post.

Let's just say that I haven't always been the most pleasant person come December.

This year is different. After 47 (holy hell, I'm getting old) years of having incredibly mixed feelings about the season (I always wanted to love it, y'all, I really did), I seem to be truly enjoying this time of year. It still gets dark super early. It's cold. There's snow (actually, I like the snow most of the time--just not when I have to clear it off my driveway). The annoying crowds at practically every store around are still busy thronging, or whatever it is that mobs do.

Image result for mob at the mall
No, no that kind of mob. Ugh. So. Much. Flashing.

Despite the abundance of these things that are fairly typical of this time of year, I'm find that I'm happy. Sincerely, blissfully, serenely happy. Not forced cheerfulness. No faked smiles. I'm really enjoying my experience of preparing for the holidays.

I put up Christmas lights. I'm helping to wrap the presents (without being asked or even prompted). I'm assisting with the Christmas candy and cookie making.

Y'all, we sent out CHRISTMAS CARDS.

It's an effing Christmas miracle.

A lot of my newfound joy in the season comes from getting healthier mentally. I'm taking meds, seeing a therapist on the regular, doing everything I can to set my personal relationships to rights. I'm making connections.

There's something magical that happens when we connect. In order to connect, we have to make ourselves vulnerable. There has to be a willingness to risk... many times to risk first. But when we do it and the connection comes, the reward is so much greater than the price paid.

It doesn't always happen that way. Sometimes we open only to have the gift of our heart rejected. Here's what I say to that. That rejection says nothing about us or our worthiness. It has everything to do with the person doing the rejecting.

That doesn't mean it hurts any less, though.

With all that said, I want to encourage everyone reading this (all three of you!) to find some small way to reach out during this holiday season. Risk just a little. Open just a tad more than you think you can.

I promise I'll be busy doing the same.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Doing the Hard Things

Image result for doing the hard things
Insert "that's what she said" joke here...

I'm a writer.

That's difficult for me to say, if you want the truth. Want more honesty? I almost had a panic attack as I was writing it. Writing is difficult to me for a lot of reasons. Those reasons I might talk about at some point, but that's not what this post is about.

This post is about stepping into shark-infested waters. Well, small sharks. Nurse sharks. Okay, fine. They're remoras. They're fish that attach themselves to sharks. But these waters are teeming with them. Teeming, I tell you!
Image result for remora
Tell me this isn't terrifying.


I've been acting since I was ten years old. That's... (carry the seven)... a long time ago. I've been teaching acting since the late nineties. That's beginning to feel like a long time ago. For those of you born in that decade, shut the hell up.

I've only been writing a few years. Well, in any kind of concerted way, at least.

How long we've been doing something has some correlation to how good we are at it, but it's not always 1:1. I know lots of beginning writers who kick my trash at it, and some veterans that I think should have their index fingers removed to spare the rest of humanity having to read their words. I recognize that was super judgmental and not the kind of person I want to be. It is, however, uncomfortably close to the truth.

And there it is in a nutshell, isn't it? One of the biggest reasons we don't like to dive in, especially when we don't have a ton of experience, is our fear of judgment. We're terrified that everyone will see what we've created, take a collective inhale and release a groan of disgust.

That inner critic shows up the most in my own life as some variation on "who do you think you are?" You probably know the refrain, if not the exact words to the song. Do you know how many people try to do this as a career? Maybe we should try something safer. What happens if we waste half our life pursuing this and nothing comes of it??

So we don't do it. Or we dabble, keeping our toes dipped in the refreshing water, but terrified to submerge ourselves. Or we orbit it, finding some profession that doesn't put us right in that terror spot, but allows us to participate vicariously.

Anything but diving in.

Image result for diving in
I want this man's abs. Sadly... tacos.

I have told myself for years that I "don't have any ideas." That's a bald-faced lie. And I know bald. I have ideas coming out my fingertips. I just don't think they're any good.

So I wait. And procrastinate. And get distracted. 

Oh, that's a lovely post on Facebook. I should probably read the entire article before I comment. And who's that nasty troll who's arguing against basic humanity. Clearly, I am the only one who can correct this travesty...

And so it goes...

Anywho. I've wanted to write a book on acting for a long time. I have a specific approach to acting that I pieced together from a lot of people who are amazing at what they do, and it seems to work well. This is not some screenplay or novel or play where my lack of structure will be immediately clear to anyone who knows what they're doing. This is me, writing in my voice, describing something that I teach almost every day to students. No problem, right?

I've been teaching since the nineties, remember? Guess who hasn't written that book yet?

But I've started it. First chapter, DONE.

I'm diving in, and to my surprise, the water's fine.

Join me, why don't you?

Friday, November 23, 2018

Sticking with It.

Sticking with It

Yes, this was the most flattering picture of me. I'm not proud.

Thanksgiving this year was... different. Instead of the traditional turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes deal, we went to an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, with Mongolian barbecue thrown in to appease those who can't stand the sight of one more fried offering. Definitely not me. My first plate was covered in a blessed array of meats covered in batter and sizzled in oil. 

I regret nothing.

We did this, not in protest of a problematic holiday, as you might think. We manage to deal with the cognitive dissonance of that on a yearly basis... and yes, I realize that is part of our privilege as whypipo. I see the issues and choose to focus on family and gratitude. I'm picking my battles. 

Anyhoo, the reason for this year's outing was that my wife was working (she's a labor and delivery nurse, read "badass"), and it sounded like fun. Our traditional meal will come Saturday, so if you were totally stressed out about our break from societal norms, fear not. Turkey desecration will still occur, albeit belatedly.

While we were there, we found ourselves introduced to the young family seated next to ours in a dramatic fashion. One of their boys came into the room, paused for a moment, then vomited up the contents of his stomach. It was impressive. It was disgusting. It was A LOT OF VOMITUS.

Now, you might think that this kind of event would stop a family outing in its tracks. Not so for this plucky young brood next to ours. Not only did they not leave, not only did they continue eating, they continued to feed the young boy who had just upchucked all over the banquet hall.

Questionable parenting aside (who knows, maybe they were going with some kind of aversion therapy), I want to talk about the kid for a moment. He kept eating. And not just a little bit. The dude put down more food after his "episode" than I did during my entire stay, and I'm a grown ass man. I'm also cheap enough that I try to get my "money's worth" when I go to a buffet. We can talk about my dubious logic later, the real point here is that this little guy ate a ton of food. All after making a spectacle of the contents of his stomach moments before.

I'm not saying this was a good thing, necessarily; but I will say that I gained a measure of grudging respect for the tiny tyke. He was not going to let something as insignificant as an upchucking jag keep him from enjoying his bacchanal. Hells to the no.

We, as actors and writers, could learn a lesson from this specimen of spew. As we begin our artistic journey, we're going to make mistakes. We'll toss up our deepest angst, wanting to be "real" and "raw" and "artsy." Or we'll overcommit, take on way too many projects, fail spectacularly, and feel horrible about ourselves. We'll hesitate when we should step in and step in when we should hesitate. We will make ALL THE ERRORS.

And then we'll keep going.

Instead of slinking off in shame, we'll take a look at what we did wrong the first time around and then go back to the table. Instead of going for the meat the second time, guess what our intrepid toddler consumed? Ice cream. Again, questionable, but you get the point. He tried something new.

Honestly, it doesn't even matter all that much if we make the same mistakes over and over. Sometimes, our mistakes are what set our work apart. Those errors are our uniqueness. I know that goes against the grain for all you perfectionists out there (it does for me), but perfectionism is a problem in and of itself, isn't it? Hasn't perfectionism kept us from putting our work out there before it's "ready?"

So, I guess what I'm saying is, go upchuck your art. Make a mess. Act. Write. Let it be messy and gross and inappropriate and uncomfortable. Then keep going.

We can always clean up after, right?

And then tip really, REALLY well.

Monday, August 13, 2018

New Classes, Starting in October!






Voiceover artists and actors (or those wanting to start learning)! I'm starting up two classes in October: The Three C's of Acting and Voiceover! Voiceover will start Tuesday, October 9th, and The Three C's of Acting will start Thursday, October 11th. I would love to have you join us for one or both!

Voiceover will meet Tuesdays (starting October 9th) from 7-10pm. It will focus on commercial/industrial, narration and animation voiceover. All your work will be recorded.

The Three C's of Acting class will meet Thursdays (starting October 11th) from 7-10pm. There will be a week break on October 18th for UVU's fall break. It will focus on my specific approach to the art of acting. If you've never taken a class from me before, this is a really good place to start. :)

For those who have taken my classes before, you'll know that they're gentle, but never comfortable. They do 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 my classes, as it enhances the environment for everyone. Each course runs for six weeks.

The classes will meet in Orem at 381 East, 230 South. It's a house, and we'll be meeting in the studio space above the garage. There will be signs, but you will enter through the gate on the right side of the house, then taking the stairs up to the studio.

Signing up:
To sign up, please go here and fill out the form. Once that's done, the payment links are below. Full payment is $175 for the 6 week course. The non-refundable deposit is $35. If you make a deposit, the remainder of the payment ($140) will be due on or before the first day of class.

Payment links:
Three C's of acting full amount--go here.
Three C's of acting deposit--go here.
Three C's of acting balance--go here (only use this option if you've paid the deposit and need to pay the remainder).

Voiceover full amount--go here.
Voiceover deposit--go here.
Voiceover balance--go here (only use this option if you've paid the deposit and need to pay the remainder).

Once the classes have started, the entire amount of $175 is due, regardless of the number of classes you end up attending. If something happens during the course (for example, a show or film) and you need to withdraw, talk to me about it. I can pro-rate the remainder of the classes and use it as a deposit for my next round of classes.

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. I don't want the price to keep you from studying with me, so I'll do what I can to help you out!

Enrollment is limited (I like to keep the classes small), so make sure and sign up quickly! Your deposit insures your place in the course. Don't worry. If the classes fill up, I'll refund your deposit fully.

A note on tuition: you are signing up for the entire course. If you have to miss a class, you won't be refunded for that day. You're encouraged to clear your schedule on the day of class for the entire 6-week course.

Once you sign up for the Three C's of Acting, make sure you find and prepare a one-minute monologue (have it memorized and ready to perform for when the class starts). For Voiceover, look for commercial copy (scripts for radio or television commercials that use voiceover).  Those will be the first things we'll be working on in either class. If you're having trouble finding something, email me (actingwithoutthedrama -at- gmail -dot- com) for tips and places you can start looking.

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

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

New classes starting in July! Three C's and Acting for Film!




Okay, actors! I'm starting up two classes in July: The Three C's of Acting and Acting for Film! The Three C's of Acting will start Tuesday, July 10th, and Acting for Film will start Thursday, July 12th. I would love to have you join us for one or both!

The Three C's of Acting class will meet Tuesdays (starting July 10th) from 7-10pm. It will focus on my specific approach to the art of acting. If you've never taken a class from me before, this is a really good place to start. :)

Acting for Film will meet Thursdays (starting July 12th) from 7-10pm. It will focus on specific on-camera technique, as well as information relevant to auditioning/working in the industry. All your work will be filmed.

For those who have taken my classes before, you'll know that they're gentle, but never comfortable. They do 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 my classes, as it enhances the environment for everyone. Each course runs for six weeks.

The classes will meet in Orem at 381 East, 230 South. It's a house, and we'll be meeting in the studio space above the garage. There will be signs, but you will enter through the gate on the right side of the house, then taking the stairs up to the studio.

Signing up:
To sign up, please go here and fill out the form. Once that's done, the payment links are below. Full payment is $175 for the 6 week course. The non-refundable deposit is $35. If you make a deposit, the remainder of the payment ($140) will be due on or before the first day of class.

Payment links:
Three C's of acting full amount--go here.
Three C's of acting deposit--go here.
Three C's of acting balance--go here (only use this option if you've paid the deposit and need to pay the remainder).

Acting for Film full amount--go here.
Acting for Film deposit--go here.
Acting for Film balance--go here (only use this option if you've paid the deposit and need to pay the remainder).

Once the classes have started, the entire amount of $175 is due, regardless of the number of classes you end up attending. If something happens during the course (for example, a show or film) and you need to withdraw, talk to me about it. I can pro-rate the remainder of the classes and use it as a deposit for my next round of classes.

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. I don't want the price to keep you from studying with me, so I'll do what I can to help you out!

Enrollment is limited (I like to keep the classes small), so make sure and sign up quickly! Your deposit insures your place in the course. Don't worry. If the classes fill up, I'll refund your deposit fully.

A note on tuition: you are signing up for the entire course. If you have to miss a class, you won't be refunded for that day. You're encouraged to clear your schedule on the day of class for the entire 6-week course.

Once you sign up for the Three C's of Acting or Acting for Film, make sure you find and prepare a one-minute monologue (have it memorized and ready to perform for when the class starts). That will be the first thing we'll be working on in either class. If you're having trouble finding something, email me (actingwithoutthedrama -at- gmail -dot- com) for tips and places you can start looking.

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