How to Nail an On-Camera Audition

On-Camera Audition

If you’ve been taking acting classes for a while, you’re probably itching to start to audition for TV, films and commercials. After all, with so many TV shows being filmed in Chicago these days, local actors have a great shot of landing a part, as long as they know how to approach an on-camera audition.

If you’ve only auditioned for theater parts before, know that on-camera auditions are significantly different from theater auditions, and you need to adjust your delivery accordingly.

To help you out, we spoke with Ryan Kitley, who offers private, one-on-one on-camera audition coaching sessions as well as group on-camera classes in Chicago, to give you his top tips for nailing an on-camera audition.

  1. Make Your Performance Smaller
    Unlike in the theater, where you have to learn how to project your voice and be larger than life, in on-camera auditions you need to talk much more softly and reign your performance in.“I always tell my clients to just know that the camera and the mic will come to you,” Kitley says. “Picture the camera being a really cool guy at a party who is in the corner of the room and watching you. Actors should work to mirror this cool guy. Keep your thoughts big and your movements small and specific. There is power in stillness, especially on camera.
  2. Know Your Subtext
    Kitley says in an on-camera audition, whatever is going on in your head will show up on your face, so he says understanding why your character is doing what he is doing is so important to having a great audition. “That leads to really subtle work,” Kitley says. “You’ve got to have strong thoughts, strong subtext, and strong intention.”
  3. Start the Scene Before They Press Record
    Even actors who have tons of stage experience tend to get nervous when a camera is in front of them. That’s why Kitley says the best thing you can do is to pretend as if your scene has already started even before they start recording. Kitley suggests trying to inhabit your character by making a physical movement that the character would do. For example, recently one of his clients was auditioning to be a mechanic, so he rubbed his hands as if to get the grease off of them before he started his lines. “Give yourself some kind of behavior so you area already involved in the scene,” he says.
  4. Keep Your Environment Near the Camera
    When you’re reading your lines, try to imagine that everything happening in your world is close to the camera. “You don’t want to place any of your environment outside of the 45 degree angle between you and the camera,” Kitley explains. When there are multiple characters in a scene, Kitley recommends picking points in the room, such as a piece of artwork or a doorknob, to look at as placeholders for the other actors, but remember to keep those points close to where the camera is.
  5. Be Off Book
    Having your lines memorized will always give you an edge in an audition, but it’s fine to keep your sides in your hand during the reading. If you need to refer to your sides, make sure to stay connected to your reader and the environment as much as possible. “In other words,” Kitley says, “work to pull the words off the page as part of your scene and not as an actor reading lines.”
  6. Less Is More
    Remember, if you’re a beginning actor, most of the parts you’re going to be auditioning for, especially here in Chicago, will be for short, co-starring spots, such as Cop #2, EMT, and Man on Bus. These type of characters are functionary roles that help support the story and the series regulars, so you don’t have to overact your part. “You must look the part and be talented enough to know to keep your one to two lines very subtle, simple, and honest,” Kitley says. “Don’t try to make the scene more than it needs to be.”And, he says, as you start to book more and more co-starring roles, you may be considered for the larger guest starring roles and even series regulars.

    Find out more about Ryan Kitley and his coaching at www.ryankitley.com.

How to be Good

Steve Martin

I teach a lot of beginning actors, and I really love it. I love it because I truly enjoy seeing their faces light up when they make discoveries, when they begin to understand what acting is, and how simple the job of the actor really is. Note that I did not say how easy the job of the actor is. But when I can get them to let go of preconceived notions, of tension that are working against them, and—most especially—to let go of their self-consciousness, even a little bit—this brings me great joy.

But there is also a downside to teaching beginning actors, and it doesn’t occur with everyone but it does with a good number of them, and especially with the young ones (though there are plenty of exceptions), and it is this—wanting to shortcut the process. I can hear the question coming a mile away—I know it even before they’ve finished asking it, and though there are a thousand variations on it, the essence of the question is always the same. I call it the “Golden Ticket” question, because it reminds me of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the 1971 film version), and the lyrics of the song by the same name. The Golden Ticket question is usually some variation of this question, “Yes, yes, that’s all very well and good, what you’re saying to me, but how do I become great now??” Oh, man, this frustrates me to no end! I want to pull my hair out every single time.

Basically, they are asking me to tell them the one secret that will make them great (or famous, usually famous), as if there was just one thing, and as if there was any guarantee that they will ever be great (or famous, which there isn’t). The short answer to the question is the answer that I know they really don’t want to hear, because it’s some variation on, “Years and years of hard work.” They don’t want to hear it because they know the answer. Deep down, they know. Even if they don’t know that they know, a part of them does know, ya know?

I was watching a Facebook ad for Steve Martin’s new Masterclass on comedy the other day and he said that some of his beginning students were asking, “How do I get an agent?,” “Where do I get my headshots?,” and Steve thought, “Shouldn’t the first thing you should be thinking about is ‘how do I be good’?” Thank you, Steve Martin!

And you might be saying to yourself, “But, Sommer, isn’t this the same question that drives you bonkers when your students ask it? And I would say, it’s close, but guess which word Steve Martin left out? Now. The question we should be asking ourselves is “How do I be good—not how do I be good now.” This is a process, and there are no real shortcuts. It’s also important to understand is that the work you may be doing in the beginning may not be any good. Sure, some of it might be, but most of it may not be. In fact, a lot of the exercises that we do in class may not feel anything like Acting-with-a-capital-A, but you are building something here. Look, when construction workers build a house, what’s the first thing they start with? There is no beeline to being great.

If you want to be a good actor, try this: have patience. Trust in your work. And if you are really incredibly impatient, try these things: maybe a guided meditation on patience, and practice being “in the moment.” What does that mean? Stop and pay attention to what’s going on around you. I guarantee you will see something happening that is more important than yourself, and by putting that attention outside of yourself, over time, you become more selfless. When you can become more patient, more selfless, combined with your classes and your dedication to your craft, you are well on your way to, over time, becoming great.

Tips for Being an Understudy

Understudy

If you’re just starting out as an actor, landing a role as an understudy can be just as valuable as being cast as a leading actor in a play. Not only does it give you a credit to put on your resume, but you also have the chance to learn from the other actors and watch their creative process.

However, being an understudy isn’t easy. After all, you have to do all of the work of the regular actors – learning your lines, showing up for hours and hours of rehearsals – without any of the rewards. In fact, understudies often put more time into productions than the regular actors do, because they have to attend all of the regular rehearsals, as well as special rehearsals just for the understudies.

But many actors agree that accepting an understudy role is usually worth the sacrifice. Andrew McClelland, who recently accepted his first understudy role in The Agency Theater Collective’s production of Skin for Skin, says being an understudy has been an invaluable learning experience. “Since this is my first time understudying any role, I feel like I have been exposed to a whole other side of the acting vocation,” he says.

Before you take on an understudy role, here are 10 tips on how to make the most of the opportunity.

  1. Memorize Your Lines
    Although you’re not required to have your lines memorized as quickly as the regular cast, it’s a good idea to get them down as early as you can to relieve the stress of worrying about what “might” happen. To improve your memorization, try running lines with the other understudies or writing them out long-hand. Going to lots of rehearsals also helps.
  1. Go to As Many Rehearsals as Possible
    Speaking of rehearsals, go to as many as you can, even though it may seem tedious to just sit there and watch. “It makes you feel not only that you are an integral part of the cast, but also it really helps you breathe in the show and the life of your character,” McClelland says.
  1. Pay Attention to the Blocking
    Remember, learning your lines isn’t the only thing you have to know when you step into a role. You also need to know all of the physical choices and stage directions that the regular actor is doing. Make sure to pay close attention to this during rehearsals. You can even bring a journal to take notes.
  1. Be Professional
    The benefit of being an understudy is the opportunity to network with other directors and actors who may hire you in the future, so make sure to be as professional as possible. “Show up ready for anything,” says actor Ryan Heywood, who has understudied at Steep Theatre. “Be on time. Present the best you. Watch and learn.”
  1. Develop a Relationship with the Person You Are Shadowing
    Olexiy Kryvych, who is currently an understudy for Uncle Vanya at the Goodman Theatre, says it’s important to try to develop a relationship with the actor you are shadowing. “Some people will be open with you and let you shadow them, and some will want their privacy. Feel it out. aHowever, that may not always be the case. You don’t want to step on their toes,” he says.
  1. Ask Questions
    If you have any questions about the character you’re playing, make sure to ask the director, stage manager or actor you’re shadowing for clarification. “It is better to ask and be sure that you are on the same page, rather than making an unfitting choice when you go up,” Kryvych says. “However, don’t harass them every minute of the day. Find a good balance.”
  1. Don’t Give Your Opinions on Creative Decisions
    “You are an understudy, which means that your job is to be quiet, keep your opinions to yourself and do the work on your own. Speak when you are spoken to, as far as creative decisions go between the director and the actors,” Kryvych says. “Don’t tell people how to do their jobs.”
  2. Don’t Take on Another Role at the Same Time
    If you’re already in the show, don’t offer to understudy another role in the same show, Heywood warns. “It’s too difficult to memorize. I’ve done it,” he says.
  3. Don’t Worry If You Don’t Feel Part of the Cast
    Being an understudy can be a lonelier experience than being a regular cast member, but just remember that just because you feel left out doesn’t mean the other actors don’t like you. “Feeling ‘not part of’ the cast is normal,” Heywood says. “The cast or ensemble has formed a bond. Though you play a critical part in the process, you often won’t be appreciated unless you go on for someone.”
  4. Maintain Your Health
    As an understudy, your job is to be able to go on if someone else gets sick, so it’s imperative that you don’t get sick yourself. That’s why it’s important to take extra good care of yourself during the run of the show. Kryvych suggests drinking hot tea with lemon, taking vitamins, stretching, doing vocal warm ups, eating healthy and exercising. “I personally bring my jump rope to every rehearsal and do 10 minute intervals on breaks along with stretching and callisthenic exercises,” he says.

6 Reasons Actors Should Take Improv Classes

Improv classActors are often skeptical of taking an improv class. I can’t tell you how many actors tell me “I am a serious actor. Why do I need to take an improv class?” Or they say, “I’m not funny,” “It scares me,” or “I wouldn’t be any good at it.”

Actors avoid taking improv classes for lots of different reasons, but the truth is, improv classes make people better actors. I don’t care if you don’t do comedy or you don’t think you are funny. Improv is not necessarily about being funny at all, but instead it is a methodology that can make you a better actor by making you more real, and more able to react honestly in the moment.

So before you come up with any more excuses I haven’t even thought of, here are six things that improv classes can help you with as an actor.

  1. Be More Playful
    In my experience, the best actors bring a sense of playfulness to any role they undertake. If they’re playing a dark or disturbing role, you might call this mischief or danger, but underneath they are enjoying it. Unfortunately, too many actors think they need to be serious because they think that’s what good acting is. But remember, when we act in a PLAY, we’re supposed to it PLAY in the imaginary circumstance. Play means to have fun. When I was little kid we played SWAT. We took it seriously and didn’t break out of our police characters, but underneath we were having fun capturing the bad guys. Though I have comedy background, I have been cast in TV and film parts that would be considered “serious acting” roles. And I landed those roles even though I was playing a jerk or a scared prison guard because deep down I was enjoying playing that part. I learned that all in improv.
  1. Take Direction
    When I go into an audition I have prepared at home in front of the mirror a certain way. But what happens if the casting people want to see it another way? Some actors freeze and end up blowing the audition. If only they had a little improv under their belt so they could be more adaptable. I once landed a role on ER as Manny the used car salesman because I asked a question in the casting session which led me do it the opposite way that everyone else had just done it, and guess what? I got the part. Thanks to improv, I could adjust do things differently.
  1. Be in the Moment
    I love watching great acting because even though the actors are saying someone else’s words, they are reacting as if they have never heard those words before. It’s as if they are improvising with a script. Improv teaches you how to be in the moment so your emotional reactions can feel truly authentic and genuine.
  1. Take Risks
    Great actors take risks. They surprise you with their choices. They are constantly taking risks at the audition, in rehearsal and during the run of the show. To get there you have to give yourself permission to constantly experiment. In improv, you’re forced to take risks and put yourself out there without a safety net, and one of the most important improv philosophies is that there are no mistakes, which encourages people to take risks in supportive environment. By practicing taking risks in improv, you’ll be able to take bigger risks in your acting as well.
  1. Be More Confident
    Whenever an actor takes one of my improv classes or workshops, I’m always amazed at how much their confidence level improves. After two weeks, I’ll have actors come into class and say, “I am auditioning better, I’m having more fun, and I have a new-found confidence.”
  1. Be More Believable
    What actor does not want to be more believable? But sometimes when we get a script in our hands, we become more concerned with the words on the page than with relating to our scene partners. The dialogue that comes out of our mouth seems lifeless and flat, like we’re robots who don’t know how to relate to people. Taking improv classes helps actors become more fluid with their own words, which eventually helps you become more at ease with others’ words, too. Once you’ve overcome the fear of creating your own dialogue in improv, reciting from a script will seem easy.Sign up for Jimmy Carrane’s Art of Slow Comedy Level 1 improv class, starting Feb. 22 at Green Shirt Studio. Early Bird Special ends Feb. 8!

What a Director Really Thinks During Auditions

Director at audition

If you’re just starting out at auditioning for plays, or even if you’ve been at it for a while, you may wonder what exactly is going through the mind of a director while he or she is watching auditions. As someone who has watched quite a few and who is also an actor, let me invite you into the mind of a director at an audition.

  1. We Don’t Always Know What We’re Looking For
    Sometimes, actually often times, we don’t know what we are “looking for.” Auditions are usually early on in the process, and we may not have made any decisions about type or the “look” of the character. It’s one of those things where you may not know what you want, but you know it when you see it. That is why it’s of utmost importance that you, as the actor, step into the room being your most authentic self.
  1. We Want You to Be Yourself
    We want you to be a person, not a robot—or, as I sometimes call it, an “act-bot.” Walk into the room being the best version of your authentic self that day, and you’ll be fine. You don’t have to be perfect. Listen to us, and your reader (if you have one), and connect with us on a human level. If you have over-rehearsed your material to the point where you aren’t able to respond to something that happens in the room, we will notice, and the impression you give will be false, or leave something lacking. Most often, what is lacking in an audition is humanity, because nerves turn us actors into, as I heard one director refer to it as, “weird aliens.”
  1. We Don’t Expect You to Be Perfect
    It’s okay to mess up! Some of the most memorable auditions—memorable in a charming, not a strange way—that stick out to me were ones in which the actor got flustered during a reading or forgot his or her lines to her monologue. You may feel embarrassed, but we just saw a very human moment up there. If this happens, please do not beat yourself up over it (especially not while in the room). It’s going to be ok!
  1. We Recognize When You’re Speaking in Code
    We notice when you are speaking to us “in code.” I’ll give two examples of what I mean. In a general audition, if you put together two audition monologues in an audition package that shows me that you can play a certain character in a play in our season, I clock that, and know what part you are gunning for. Another example was that I was bringing in actors for callbacks to read for a part that was a worn-hard, barkeep character in the Southern United States who just happened to be in love with a young man 20 years her junior. One of my friends, an incredible actress, came in, and dressed in a plaid shirt and jeans but also wore flats that had a touch of femininity to them, and I could tell that this actress was saying to me, through her choice of outfit, that she understood the duality inherent in the character. Amazing that a little thing like that can speak on so many levels! But it also showed me that the actress took the time to read the play, and the thoughtfulness and care that she showed in putting together her audition outfit was not lost on me.
  1. We Think About If We’d Like to Work with You
    Many of our decisions to call you back or not are made the instant you walk into the room. It just boils down to plain old chemistry. If I get a good vibe from you when you walk in, if I like you and your personality and think I’d like to work with you, I will probably call you back, unless you completely pull a 180 during your audition. I’m also likely to forgive a not-so-great audition and call you back anyway, just because I like being in the room with you and would like to give you another shot at it. For me, as much as it has to do with the quality of the acting, I want to be in the room with great human beings. If we’ve got a room full of awesome people during the rehearsal process, there’s no limit to what we can accomplish together.

I hope this helps you! Don’t worry, if you are still at the “weird alien” phase of auditioning. You might have to go through that and ride it out until you get to a place where you are more comfortable and at ease. Then you will open up and eventually be your more authentic self. We have to practice to get better!

Some quick tips: When gearing up for an audition, don’t only rehearse your monologues, but also practice walking into the room and saying “hi.” Practice how you say your name and how you introduce your monologues. Practice ending the audition and saying “thank you.” Practice all of this over and over again until you feel confident, and then let it all go and let yourself be in the moment on the day of. Break a leg!

Tips for Getting Cheap Theater Tickets in Chicago

Cheap Theater Tickets

As an acting student, one of the best ways to hone your craft is to watch other masters in action. That means making the effort to go out and see as much live theater as you can to absorb all of the great talent in this city.

Unfortunately, getting tickets to lots of live theater can be expensive, especially if you’re already shelling out for acting classes. Luckily, there are ways to get cheap theater tickets and score big discounts to some of the hottest shows in town — as long as you know where to look.

Here are some of the best ways to get cheap theater tickets to live theater performances in Chicago.

  1. Buy Your Tickets the Day of the Show
    If you’re dying to see a hot show in town and you a) don’t want to wait months to see it and b) can’t afford the regular priced tickets, you can snag deeply discounted tickets on the day of the performance. The musical Hamilton, for example, gives away 44 tickets per day for $10 each to people who have signed up in their digital lottery. Just log onto the site in the morning, enter your name and wait for an email telling you you’ve won.Steppenwolf offers 20 tickets at $20 each on the day of each performance as well. Just call the number as soon as they open in the morning and hope that you’re one of the first people on the line.
  2. Go to a Preview
    Preview shows are always cheaper than regular tickets because the actors are still working out the kinks of the show. Actually, for an acting student, this is a great time to observe how actors work through their initial nerves and start shaping their performances. Generally, preview tickets are about 25 percent cheaper than the regular tickets and are available at most theaters.
  3. Use Your Student ID
    If you’re still a college student, you can use your student ID to snag discounted tickets to most theater productions around the city. At Steppenwolf, for example, student tickets are only $15, and Lookingglass Theatre offers student rush tickets on the day of the performance for $20 each.
  4. Use Goldstar
    Goldstar offers half-price tickets available to a multitude of shows around town, and even some tickets that are completely free! Goldstar is great because you can filter your search by date and location, plus it’s super easy to use from your phone, and it also had push notifications you can set up for your favorite theaters or shows. You can even download the tickets to your passbook and calendar from the app if you use those other applications.
  1. Try Today Tix
    Another discounted ticket site, Today Tix originally started in other markets and has only recently come to Chicago. The discounts aren’t as deep as the ones on Goldstar, but you can still save anywhere from 20 to 50 percent on tickets to shows happening either today or up to one week in advance. It’s also an app you can download to your phone.
  2. Search Groupon
    While most of the events on Groupon are geared toward either touristy shows or bawdy drinking/burlesque shows, there are always a few regular theater productions sprinkled in the mix. And the deals can be pretty good. Right now, for example, you can get tickets to the Collaboraction Pentagon Theatre’s production of “Women” in Wicker Park for only $13.75. That’s more than 30 percent off the regular $20 ticket price.
  3. Check Out League of Chicago Theatres
    The League of Chicago Theatres runs a website called HotTix that offers half-priced tickets to a variety of shows all over the city. Some theaters list their shows on the site far in advance, while others only announce their discounted tickets the week of or the day of the show, so it’s best to check the site frequently for deals.
  1. Organize a Group
    Want to become super popular? Organize an outing for your whole acting class to go out and see a play together. (Bonus brownie points if your teacher happens to be acting or directing in the play!) Usually discounts are offered for groups of about eight or more, and discounts can range anywhere from 10 to 20 percent off. Plus, getting everyone to have dinner together beforehand is part of the fun.
  2. Buy a Subscription Package
    Yes, you’ll have to shell out a larger amount of money for this, but if you plan on attending all of the shows at a particular theater anyway, you’ll definitely save money by getting a subscription package. At Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, for example, you can save 30 percent by getting a subscription. And they even have packages of just preview shows for only $59 for the entire season.

Other random tips:

  • Are you under age 30? Head over to Theatre Wit, where people under age 30 can get tickets for only $20 (that’s a 42 percent savings off of the regular $35 price).
  • Steep Theater gives 10 percent of their tickets away for only $10. They usually announce these discounted tickets about two weeks in advance of the show, and they’re available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
  • Military personnel can often get a discounts as well. Both Steppenwolf and Lookingglass offer discounts for veterans, active duty personnel and their families through the Bluestar program. Check out this list for participating theaters.

Have any other tips for getting cheap theater tickets? Let us know!

5 Acting Lessons to Live By in the New Year

 

Robert De Niro

The craft of acting is full of valuable life lessons. So, for our last blog of 2016, Green Shirt co-founders Sommer Austin and Andrew Gallant, have put a list together of their top five acting tips to live by in the New Year.

1. You are enough
This is a great mantra to live by. We like it because it encourages you to accept the idea that you are truly unique, and that you shouldn’t compare yourself to other people. There is no one like you, and you should not try to be someone else. We often say to our acting students something that was said to us by our mentor, Larry Silverberg, and it is this: “The world doesn’t need another Robert De Niro or Meryl Streep — we already have the best Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep that we’re ever going to have. What we need is you.” Be true to yourself — that is what the world wants to see.

2. Embrace everything
Usually we teach this in the course of a Meisner “repetition exercise” when one is working with a partner, but the concept is also a wonderful one in terms of self-care and mindfulness. Embrace everything about yourself, where you are at today. Not the you that you were yesterday, but where you are at right now. So today you may have put on a few extra pounds or you may be feeling not-so-great… Fine, that’s where you are at today. No need to start picking yourself apart or engaging in negative self-talk. Can you learn to embrace yourself, all of yourself, where you are at today and in this moment right now?

3. Deny nothing
This is the second part to the “embrace everything” guideline that we teach in a repetition exercise. Again, usually it’s in conjunction with a partner — when you are aware of a new thing going on with your partner (or yourself), you must let that enter into the repetition. I think this can be a great life lesson for one’s self, too — don’t deny your feelings. If you are feeling something, it’s okay to really let yourself feel it. Only then are you able to, eventually, move on. If you don’t let yourself feel something fully you will be stuck — in acting, and in life.

4. Take the risk
It is all too easy to fall into autopilot in our lives, to never deviate from the most familiar and comfortable path. Don’t be one of those people who leads a life of quiet desperation! Take the risk! Most of the things worth doing are difficult. There are no sure bets and success is not guaranteed. But the alternative to risk is stagnation, a withering on the vine. Life is meant to be experienced fully and there will always be risk. So ask the person out, or start the business, or go back to school, or quit the job, or make the thing! Your life will become more meaningful because of it.

5. Act with courage even if you are afraid
Courage is not the absence of fear. True courage is accepting that you are afraid and not letting that fear keep you from taking action. You don’t have to be fearless to be an actor or to be a person. That you are afraid isn’t what counts, it’s that you don’t let fear paralyze you. Being afraid is actually a great indicator that you are doing something right. Steer into your fear, let it be your compass. And then take the leap.

 

How to Get the Most Out of Your Acting Class

Acting class

Let’s face it: Acting classes aren’t cheap. Not only do you have to shell out a fair amount for each class, but you also have to commit to showing up week after week for the entire semester. So if you’re going to put in the time and money to take an acting class, what can you do to make sure you get the most out of it?

We asked four teachers at Green Shirt Studio — Meisner teachers Andrew Gallant, Sommer Austin and Ashlea Woodley; scene study teacher Michael McKeogh; and improv teacher Jimmy Carrane — to share their tips for how you can get the most out of your acting class.

  1. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
    When you step into an acting class full of people you don’t know, you’re natural tendency is to play the role you’ve always played. So some people are shy and sit back, others are always getting up to work first being the “good student,” but everyone has a default way of being in that kind of environment. That default mode is a way of making the student feel comfortable in the crucible of an acting class. But comfort is anathema to change. So, my biggest single piece of advice is to steer into the discomfort. If you’re someone who holds back, volunteer to be the first to go. If you’re someone who breaks the ice by being the funny person, see what happens if you just spend the class listening and working earnestly without comment. Acting classes should be a place where you can screw up and do the things that make you feel vulnerable, so it’s important you go in ready to make mistakes and open up beyond your everyday socialized self.
    — Andrew Gallant
  2. Ask Questions
    If you are taking an acting class or an improv class, you are paying to learn from an expert in the field. Your teachers are resources, and the best way to get the most out of them is to ask questions. Some students are scared to do so, or they wait until the end of class and corner the teacher all alone. Instead, when you have a question, ask the teacher in the moment because chances are there are a couple of other people in the class who want to ask it as well but are afraid to. So be brave and ask questions.
    — Jimmy Carrane
  3. Be OK with Not Understanding Everything
    I find a lot of times in an acting class, students want all the answers to their questions right now, and that is simply not possible. You cannot be given the answer to a question that you cannot live. Try to be okay with living in the journey, in the unknown. Feel your feelings, live in them, even if the feeling is frustration. To be in feeling is far more important in an acting class than trying to intellectualize your way into an answer that you’re not ready for yet. I believe you should ask questions of your teacher, but if the answer doesn’t make sense to you just yet, don’t panic. Keep a journal of your thoughts and your feelings and your discoveries. One day when you have the answers you once sought, and you can look back on your journal with fondness as you read your past writings in which you tried to work it all out on paper.
    — Sommer Austin
  4. Do your homework
    In an acting class you may be asked to memorize a scene from a play, rehearse with your scene partner, or create an imaginary circumstance — things that will take time outside of class. If you need to be off-book by the third week and you are not, you are ripping yourself off and usually pissing off your scene partner. Be prepared to spend additional hours a week outside of class, so make sure you don’t over commit yourself during the term of the class.
    — Jimmy Carrane
  1. Warm Up
    I would say that the most common way students don’t get the most out of their acting class is by showing up cold. Many students will show up right at the designated time or stroll in five to 10 minutes late with their dinner or lunches in hand. And I totally understand. With busy work schedules or juggling the home life, sometimes it feels like just getting to the class can be a challenge. But showing up to class even ten minutes early to stretch and warm up your body and voice will simply allow you to transition physically and mentally from the pedestrian to artistically focused. In addition, it helps instill a more professional work ethic and self-respect. It’s about honoring the room that you create art in and honoring yourself.
    — Michael McKeogh
  1. Make Mistakes
    The classroom is your playground. Have fun, get messy, and make mistakes. Sometimes our bruises teach us more than any exercise will on a given day. There is no perfection. Cultivate forgiveness, and know that everyday, every class is a new opportunity to try something new. Make this your time to be a sponge for learning. Fall down learning, pick yourself back up, and try it again.
    — Ashlea Woodley

If you’ve taken an acting class before, what are your tips for getting the most out of it? Let us know in the comments below.

5 Great Books for Every Actor That Aren’t About Acting

I get a lot of books as presents and, since I’m an actor, that means I am getting a lot of books about acting. I have triples of Sanford Meisner on Acting and Uta Hagen’s Respect for Acting and doubles of dozens more tomes on the art and craft of acting. Since it’s now officially the holiday season and shopping has begun, I decided to put a list together of essential and wonderful non-acting books to put on your wishlist or gift to the actor in your life.
1. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
The Artist's WayNot so much a book as a workbook and life coach in one, The Artist’s Way can be a life changing thing to experience. Set up as a 12-week self-guided tour into your inherent creativity, this book unlocks, challenges and nurtures the reader’s artistry. It is pithy and profound. Julia Cameron clearly believes that creativity is the natural human condition and then gives the reader (or the doer in this book’s case) practical tools to rediscover and remember. It can be an emotional experience, and I can personally attest that the workbook incites you to take action. Many of the biggest artistic endeavors I’ve personally engaged in would not have come to fruition without this book. Get it and begin it now!
2. The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp and Mark Reiter
The Creative HabitArt doesn’t happen by accident, it takes work. Artist, choreographer and producer Twyla Tharp knows what it takes to lead an active creative life. In this book, she lays out practical advice on how to create the right environment in your life in which creative work can occur. It’s a quick read and full of quotes and exercises to help you systematically build creativity into your daily life.
3. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
Daring GreatlyI often say in class that courage is not the absence of fear, it is the acceptance of fear. It is a difficult lesson for artists to learn and one that comes with a lot of resistance. In this book, Brene Brown dives headfirst into one of the most important qualities for an actor: vulnerability. In passionate, engaging and deeply human terms, Brown lays out the case for opening yourself up to the world and the power that comes from acknowledging your fears and hurts. It is a lesson that transcends acting and art, getting to the core of what it means to be human.
4. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
War of ArtRefreshingly, Steven Pressfield acknowledges that making art is a struggle. This book focuses on art and creativity generally and gives practical tips on overcoming artistic obstacles and resistance, both the type coming from others and from within. If you’ve ever been wracked with self doubt, paralyzed by fear of judgement, angry at your own failings, this book is for you. In this book you learn how the struggle to create is also the path to unlocking your work.
5. Wreck this Journal by Keri Smith
Wreck This JournalMaybe the most irreverent book on the list, this isn’t your grandma’s journal. Freeing and immersive, this is a creative manifesto in journal form. Acclaimed guerrilla artist Keri Smith gives you a book full of out-of-the-box journal prompts to free you from your own self-judgement and perfectionism. She demands you tear out pages in the book, poke holes through them with your pen, and paint a page with coffee, daring you to color outside your own creative lines. Learning how to say “F—K IT” and mean it is a vital part of being an artist and wrecking this journal is a great start.
What are your favorite creative books? Share with us in the comments below.

How to Get an Agent

How to get an agent

If you’ve been taking acting classes for a while, you’re probably starting to dream of the day when you’ll get cast in an episode of Chicago Fire or land a big, juicy national commercial. For that to happen, and believe us, it can, you need to have a talent agent. But how exactly do you go about getting an agent? There are many agents in Chicago, but the process of getting one can seem daunting and overwhelming.

Actually, getting an agent is a lot easier than you think. But before you get an agent, you need to get these three things in order:

  1. Create an Acting Resume
    Once you’ve been in a few shows, it’s time to create a professional acting resume. It’s important that your resume follow the standard template. For an example, click here.
  1. Get a Professional Headshot
    This needs to be taken by a professional photographer, not your roommate’s brother. Make sure the headshot is current, too. More details on how to take a good headshot.
  2. Memorize a Monologue
    Although this isn’t always required, it is becoming more common for agents to ask new actors to come in and do a monologue to be considered. So make sure you have at least one monologue ready to go for any audition. Trying to memorize one the night before is not a good idea.

Ok, now that you have that done, here are the steps to take to get an agent.

  1. Get in a Show
    Not only is it good to have several theater credits on your resume, but also most good agents are constantly going out to see live theater, either to look for new talent or to support one of their clients, so if an agent is in the audience, he or she may be interested in representing you after seeing you on stage.
  1. Ask Your Friends Who Have Agents to Recommend You
    The quickest and most direct way to get an agent is to ask your actor friends who already have agents to recommend you. It doesn’t matter if you are in class with them or have performed in a show with them or not. Just ask them if they would be willing to introduce you their agent. Trust us, the hardest part is the asking, and if you can get over that, we have found that this is the fastest and most reliable way to get representation.But remember, every agent works differently. Once your friend recommends you, the agent may ask you to call him or her directly, or write a letter saying you are friends with the person. It all depends on the relationship that your friend has with the agent.
  2. Do a Mailing
    Not as easy as having a friend vouch for you, but this a tried and true way of getting an agent. Send them your acting resume along with a short, punchy cover letter that says you are seeking representation. (And if you are in a show, by all means mention it; agents like to see that you are working.)

Most likely you will hear nothing at first, so be persistent. Just realize that if they don’t respond, it has nothing do with your talent; agents are busy people. Don’t give up. If you don’t hear back, send out another mailer. We encourage you to be clever, be funny, but be brief. You want to stand out and not end up in the garbage.

Talent Agents in Chicago
Here is a list of some of the talent agents here in Chicago that can send you out for TV, film and commercial auditions:

Actors Talent Group Inc.

Big Mouth Talent

bmg Talent

DeSanti Talent Agency

Gill Hayes Talent

Gray Talent Group

Grossman Jack Talent

Innovative Artists

Lily’s Talent Agency

Naked Voices, Inc.

Paonessa Talent Agency

Shirley Hamilton, Inc.

Stewart Talent