thoughts on “Improv Classes

  1. Had the best experience in this class…I can't wait for more!! Sommer and Andrew Have fun in FLORIDA!!!

  2. I will say as a student of both Andrew Gallant and Sommer Austin, I have gained an understanding of what real truth is, as an actor and human being. Two of the best Meisner teachers I've had and the most influential ones.

    Matthew Helms-(Current Level 4 Student)

  3. Re: Actors Access, spring for the Showfax subscription. The $65 annual fee includes unlimited electronic submissions; I've yet to have a year where I didn't submit enough in the first three months to make it worth my while.

    The other Showfax perks, like access to sides, are less useful outside the LA market, but Chicago projects do occasionally make use of them.

  4. Hello Andrew,

    I was interested in your post "Loving the Questions Themselves." How do you feel about Interpretation? I was thinking that on stage everything, every single moment is meant to be worked out in a specific way. So in that way you're not really allowing the other guy to do you as they would do you in the exercise because well as you probably understand but I'll say it anyway – each actor has worked out their part, their moments in a particular way so you're really not working truthfully off the other guy are you? You're satisfying the playwright. What are your thoughts.

  5. Oh by the way Andrew, my name is David Perry and I'm a long ago graduate of the Goodman School of Drama and taught for a number of years. I ran across your site and got to reading comments on your blog. Thought I'd shoot you that question.

  6. I'm enjoying reading this post of your thoughts on your experience in class. Regarding "character" allow me to relate for you what a the "first generation Meisner teacher, Fred Kareman, typically said to his students, in one form or another, as part of his introduction of the work. “The reason I’m such a stickler that you don’t play a part, that you don’t play some character, yeah, and yet on the other hand that part is never about you, it has nothing to do with you and your life . . that part is invented, that’s an invention from an artist, isn’t that true? From a playwright . . . so that if it’s real you take the art right out of it. Acting is not real, it’s truthful. And we create the illusion truthfully, we have a curtain, we have costumes, we have makeup, we have people who do the lighting …everyone contributes to create this illusion on the stage , isn’t that true? It’s not real, if it were real it would be boring. We’d be bored to death. It is truthful and its done by people who can come alive under imaginary circumstances and they’re called actors.”

    What Kareman would say is “character” is simply you living out each of those moments as you’ve rehearsed them and thus you become the “character”.

  7. I am also interested on what is meant by 'honesty" and "HONESTY" and how you view honesty as a necessary part of acting. Thanks!

  8. And just one last thing. I've noticed that you speak of your work in beginning classes as working on the first part of the phrase "living truthfully under imaginary circumstances." So the work is "living truthfully" but I'm interested in what you think that means. I always thought the phrase was meant to be taken in total and not separated out. “Living truthfully” seems a rather roomy abstraction into which many feelings and ideas that are not quite at home anywhere might find a place. Anyway just my thought for the moment and I look forward to hearing from you should you wish to comment on my comment. Keep up the good work Green Shirt Studio and thank you for the opportunity to blog.

  9. Hi Acting Theory,
    I agree with you about the idea of character. Character exists in the space between performer and viewer. I also think that our job as actors is to find our point of view within the “character’s” (all the words on the page that indicate a human being experiencing and doing) point of view. As for “Living Truthfully” I understand your point that it might seem abstract, but we mean it in a very specific way. First, it is about this idea of “The Reality of Doing,” meaning we do not pretend to do things on stage. If we are meant to be reading a book during a play, then we need to be actually reading a book. When we really do things, natural behavior and truthful emotion take care of themselves.

    Second, everyone has an act that they’ve developed by living in the world. Some people are terrified of conflict, some people are crass, some people are indirect etc etc etc. Most of that comes as a very natural response to life experience. In our work in class though, many of those conditioned behaviors are masking deeper, truer impulses and we need to begin at least to unearth them. So in that sense, Living Truthfully is also about getting closer to purer instinct and impulse so that when you play a part that doesn’t share your life experience, you can respond with less of your own baggage in the way.

    I hope that makes sense. Thanks again for your feedback and good luck!


  10. Hi David,
    Thanks for your feedback and thoughtful comments. I believe very strongly that our interpretative work as actors needs to be done in a way that does not get in the way of what I believe to be the most important thing, the moment by moment connection between human beings. We teach interpretation (actions, beats, adjustments etc etc) but we do it in such a way that it does not become just an intellectual exercise, but a way to unlock the work happening between actors. I don’t think that actors who work out at home just how they’re going to do something in a play are doing themselves or their partners any favors because it negates the other person. What we need to do is very carefully set up the dominoes with our interpretative work and then let them fall in rehearsal and performance. And the thing about dominoes is that they NEVER fall the same way twice. They may come close, but there are always nuances. That’s why I love theater so much: because by its very nature, it is unrepeatable just like life. Every performance is a once in a lifetime experience and we should embrace that incredible fact in our work.

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts! Thanks again for your feedback!


  11. This is tremendously exciting! Can’t wait to celebrate the new Green Shirt Studio space. I will spread the word!

  12. I just took your workshop on Saturday and I really liked it. I’m not an actor, but as a musician who plays Renaissance and Baroque music, it made sense to me. Sure, everything is worked out ahead of time. There’s room for personal interpretation and even improvisation, but mostly, we do work from scores (even if sometimes they’re incomplete). And everybody has to agree on lots of things, or else it would all fall apart. But when it comes to the performance, you want to be in the moment, listening. You’re interacting with the other musicians, your instrument, the space you’re in, the audience. Repetition seems like it wouldn’t help, but actually it does, because you need “motor memory” to help you get out of your head and really hear what’s going on. It’s the repetition that gives you the flexibility to respond, when another musician suddenly floats a new idea. The idea of an actor copying out the text without punctuation is the same kind of exercise as copying out music without the bar lines, or playing it in weird rhythms, or whatever. That’s what allows you to get away from the score. Even if I’m playing classical music, I want to be playing as if I were a jazz musician. It seems like that might also be true for actors?

  13. I love this, Andrew! I’ve been all commerce this morning, with craft coming in tonight. But I neglect art…hadn’t really considered that part. Not sure how I’ll fill the well, but I’m going to try! (Does gazing into the eyes of my kitties and getting purred at count? ) 🙂

  14. True that! There is always something to do, but balance is key! Uh, True Dat!

  15. Great assemblage of resources! I’d like to add one additional place I would recommend: The Jeff Awards website. It is a veritable goldmine of great theaters from around Chicago. If you have some time, go site-to-site and peek at each company’s audition policy/schedule. It never hurts to go straight to the source!

  16. Great post. I’d like to add another place I’ve found success in searching for auditions: The Jeff Awards website. Because they post all the nominations and winners of the prestigious Jeff Award, it is basically a catalog of great theaters in Chicago. If you have time, go site to site and look at each company’s audition policy and schedule. I hope this helps!

  17. lovely article and well written except that it is not just applicable to acting but also life 🙂 VJ

  18. This is a very well-written and wonderful article for all actors to read. I apprciate the insight that Andrew gives as a casting director who is also an actor and understands the dynamics of both of these roles.
    This article is a relief as it takes the guesswork out of auditions and frees the actor to do what actors are supposed to do; explore and play, not over-think and worry about being “perfect” for a role; a role that may not even have “perfect” defined for it yet!

  19. Thank you for your advice. I have hear this many times and have not believed it. But coming from a director who posted this comment on line is support i need to change my point of view. What i have been doing isn’t working. I don’t want to be considered crazy, so i will do somthing different. I hope uncle Albert likes that.

  20. I am a high school theatre teach. I always tell my students I am looking for two things: choice and change. Can you make a strong choice and can you alter the choice based on a note from the director.

  21. This article is correct, assuming the casting director isn’t one of the many disrespectful, bitter ones out there. I recently read for a casting director who spent the entire read standing behind the reader, changing their clothes. In my eyeline. It was infuriating. Distracting. I was prepared with a ton of material and this jerk was a distraction the entire time. And this is a casting director of a high profile project, so stopping the audition would have done me no good.

  22. Thank you for this article. As our struggles ensue it’s nice to know the other side of the table is nervous for us. Much like watching a figure skater in competition, attempting to land that big triple. The first role I landed was when I went in relaxed and was no one else but myself. I was able to administer what I had learned. I will save this article and refer to it often.

    Thanks for this post

  23. I’m sorry to hear about your bad experience. As with anything, there are some people who behave badly (on both sides of the table). I would still say that focusing on what you want to put forward is still going to give you more satisfaction and ultimately more success. In those cases where the CD or director aren’t making the atmosphere a positive one, I think it’s even more important to forget about figuring out how to please them. You can’t win them all, but you can get through it with dignity in tact.

  24. Yeah. But you also leave out the fact that you also have to LOOK the part. You can KILL an audition and be confident and everything they want – except they lack the imagination to see how you can also transform physically into the role. This is great advice for young actors/singers, but you leave out the necessary fact that sometimes, you’re just not their type. And there’s no amazing audition that can make up for this fact.

  25. I agree with you completely Barbara that look/type enters into casting decisions. Of course that’s the case. Every actor has a type or energy or vibe that is uniquely their own and sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, you can put forward the work you’re proud of and that is rooted in your own artistry instead of trying to please people you cannot control. I’m not saying you’ll get every role you go out for, but you will begin to have real confidence and integrity in the process.

  26. wow. thank you, how can we as actors decide we are perfect for a part when usually the part is organic and grows with which ever individual that get the role”rehearsal” doesn’t just mean learn your moves and remember your lines, what starts as one thing can end up as something completely different. That why this advise is fabulous and in many ways common sense. we should enjoy more auditions, not nervously await some ones approval. Be bold, be bright, be fresh and fearless. Enjoy your auditions. Whats the worse that can happen……………

  27. Pingback: The Worst Thing You Can Do In Audition | North Delta Theatre Department

  28. WOW! Very impressed with this article. My observations working behind the scenes in Theatre, Film and Television, and noticing the anxiety, fear, and stress that actors have when they have an audition coming up they set themselves up for failure. Your thoughts create your reality, and when you question your ability, talent, and go into fear mode to deliver your best performance from deep within, you have lost the chance to shine. This I discovered recently from a Spanish Doctor. Stress, fear, anxiety put you in the fight or flight mode, which activates your Sympathetic Nervous system, and your mouth goes dry and you shut down your immune system and your brain function is out of whack. In order to put you in a state where you can deliver or accomplish anything with passion and confidence you need to activate the Parasympathic Nervous System, which is the calm, level headed, focused thoughts and emotions for what you want to achieve, you must produce saliva, mouth must be wet. This is how you achieve this state. (Try it) take two deep belly breaths you must expand and contract your abdomen for this to you have a wet mouth state your command to your hard drive (Your Brain) what you want to achieve. I tried it at the dentist and commanded that my mouth was anesthesized and that I was calm. I asked the dentist not to give me a needle, I felt no pain or discomfort during the procedure. You can do a demo with just pulling the hairs from each arm, choose which arm you want to anesthesize, produce the saliva and pull the hair on both arms and see if the arm you selected was devoid of pain. I blow people away when I do this demo. Your mind is powerful but you must be in the Parasympathetic state to produce results.

  29. Too true. Decades ago I was asked to create a seminar on audition techniques. Drawing on my years of experience – and just about every book on the subject – I reached the same conclusion, to which I added the point that, “Whatever the auditor is looking for, you can only present him or her with what you are, so be fully and joyously yourself.” I tried passing this on to many people, but the process always seems to drive them back to the ‘A Chorus Line’ cliches: “I hope I get it, what do they want” etc. I hope your excellent post can help people accept their own power and seize the day.

  30. Then there are the directors who have already cast the show with their friends and are just going through the motions to look good. Nothing convinces them to consider anyone else.

  31. My son and I have been doing this for years
    the only thing we still don’t understand on some big audition is you get ready ,prepare and even coach your self to give them the best audition they send three scene to read and when you get to the room they only let read one and rushing it. I still don’t get it

  32. Pingback: Auditioning | magic2motivate

  33. You have just given the actors who read your article, permission to be themselves. How refreshing! AND although I have been given this advice many times……my mind was OPEN! I truly understand what you said and it will help immensely in my call back tomorrow!

  34. Hey!

    Good article and well written. However there are of course borders to the freedom of interpretation given by the format and style of the planned project. There is a difference whether you audition for a drama or a stand up comedy. But my perspective is (as an actor), I look at the scenes and descriptions (trailers if available) and other information and imagine myself in it. Then I go back at the material, I am responsible for and try to come up with an idea. In my opinion the casting director can judge me better than I can and I cannot read their mind. What I can do is creating a (for myself!) convincing possibility through my performance. Trying an absurd theatrical performance or a commedia-esque artificial playstyle completely out of “assumed” context might be risky and the reactions might go from “OMG that’s amazing!” to *facepalm*-> “Next!”
    However I take responsibility for what I think is convincing and that should be the main point. If an audition happened, I think over, what I actually did and what I might have done differently. Sometimes there are communication problems, when I do not completely understand a proposal on how to play. Sometimes I don’t see having anything done wrong, sometimes I was not having the perfect day due to other preferences, which is to a certain extent, my responsibility. But I think it is an illusion to think that we actors are empty bottles just to be filled by whatever someone wants us to contain. We are bottles with something in it, which has a unique flavour. We can change the design of the bottle and it’s label, but that’s it.

  35. Yup. Yup. Yup. Yes!

    Those are the words above that were flying out of my mouth reading your article. I’m currently in the same situation – I’ve been acting since age 10, graduated with an MA in Theatre a few years ago with an Acting concentration, and then found myself directing more than acting the past few years. And what you say is TRUTH!

    >>Instead of asking “What do they want to see?” ask “What art do I want to make with time I’m given?” <<

    The above is an amazing way to look at an audition. (Yet easier said than done, of course!) And one that I will be sure to share with my students, fellow actors, and be sure to remind myself of when prepping for an audition.

    Thank you for this great article!

  36. Andrew, obviously we have worked together, but you have hit the nail on the head. I too, have to remind my students to take the things that happen in the work “personally”. My students all know each other, so I believe that many of them hold back from taking things in the work personally because, “that’s just Joe, I know he doesn’t really mean it.” The familiarity with one another is a kind of safeguard. Keep up with the great work. I’m sharing this with my students.

  37. You really cover the delicate balance of it all – it ain’t easy (said the actor who took to writing and directing in his own frustration with this very difficult hurdle). I love that you also focus upon the fact that taking things personally doesn’t just mean being “insulted” or enraged – that it means having your sensory channels flowing in both directions, you take in full and let it come out fully, unique to your own POV. Brilliant, concise article my man.

  38. Val Verge–I just went through yet another one of those a couple of months ago. There were three roles within my extended age range (40-plus); I read each the way the director indicated. Then he gave one, a part calling for someone no more than 50, to an almost-80-year-old who is on the board; another to another board member; and the oldest role to a former teaching colleague. Asking me to the callbacks was, upon reflection, a complete waste of time and an insult.

    Since then, I’ve “let it all hang out” at a couple of auditions, saying, “I’m doing my own spin on these characters”, and it paid off both times. Got the parts, and I’m really looking forward to each.

    My worst was over a decade ago, with the vocal director who left the room right as I started to sing, and his pal the director who spent my entire reading audition chittering away with a pal who was “auditioning” yet sitting at the table.

  39. Taking it personally is usually good. Taking action on every little thing is usually not. You have to pick your battles.

    I know that taking up acting in my mid-thirties was a great thing. If nothing else, it caused me to re-engage with the world emotionally after a time when I had mostly shut down. The trick has been in channeling my “taking it personally” into the roles rather than towards the less exemplary people among those whom I meet in this racket.

  40. The first thing I felt when people asked me what I do was shame!

    I couldn’t accept any admiration, because in my head all I could feel is scorn.

    Could it be that they were jealous? That they were starved of expressing emotion, but then I woke up and started to enjoy myself, then it all went away!!!

  41. Great article. I love acting and being an actress is not easy however I cannot imagine myself doing anything that does not involve it.

  42. Phenomenal techniques….Thank you for describing the Alexander Technique… I studied this technique at NYU School of the Arts in 1980-81 but back then, the teachers never explained why you were doing this class. You just did simply and elegantly… you must be an amazing teacher, thank you.

  43. How do I do transitions or legs in the script. Do I practice them as I memorize the script and trust they’ll be in my muscle memory later? Thanks for your time.

  44. I am a college grad with a degree in theater, I have performed in various plays while in school, I have also done stage set and production work.

  45. Wonderful insight. Reminds me that I don’t have to try to do “something” to act, it’s the courage to be vulnerable.

  46. Loved it. I’ve taking one acting class and was heading for more until I realized it is more like work than all the improve I’ve done. Being retired this got scary. After reading this I guess I’ll plod on and call today to take the second level class

  47. I read it. I disagree. I don’t think the writer of the article understands what it is to “not take things personally”. They argue that not taking things personally is an attempt to feel less. That’s not true. Not taking things personally is feeling more. Increasing your empathy and compassion to extend beyond your self centered view, not to disregard it, but to find the deeper truth in the humanity of our interactions, that what others say and do reflects their point of view and being able to see from other points of view is the trademark of acting. Unfortunately, the writer of this missed the mark.

  48. The danger in taking things personally as an actor is that you could very well lose your sanity, ability to accept rejection, ability to collaborate with others. If you as the person, who is an actor, begins to take things more personally, and engage in ego growth, your path will be much more turbulent. If you shed your ego as a person, who is an actor, the deepest truths about your characters will come forth. Yes, Hamlet takes things very personally, but the actor playing Hamlet, must release his/her judgements (personal attachments) to get to the truth of their production and collaboration. Taking things personally leads to defensiveness and that can’t be very challenging to let go of. Opening your heart to the true vulnerability of what it means to see the actions of others as reflections of themselves allows the actor to approach Hamlet in the deepest sense of what it is to be human. The emmensely important events that take place in any play for any character must be approached with an open mind and an open heart, then, the truth can prevail.
    Not taking things personally isn’t a trick that can be accomplished by, “playing it cool”, it is a life long journey. Seeing ourselves as unified with infinite potential is a spiritual path for the actor who is looking for divine truth.
    Taking things personally, and encouraging others to lock in their mindset to their own understanding can be damaging and difficult for those who do it. Be careful with this advice.

  49. Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! Personally, it’s a struggle for me too and I think that’s at the core of why I enjoy acting so much. The big stuff is in me (all of us) and it’s magic when I let it take control of me.

  50. Yes! This! All day! Especially the second half of that. Everything in the second half is 100% correct.
    And Improvisers can use this in scene work as well, it’s not just scripted work that can.

  51. Andrew, I simply love your blogs. Thank you and please keep writing. Recently, I felt horrible about an audition and instead of trying to ignore it or push it away, I’m trying to allow all of the feelings. That will make a better audition next time.

  52. Bravo, It’s always a great moment when it clicks for an actor. Just starting out in my acting career, I get those aha moments. I enjoy my acting class and am looking forward to the day I can put what I learned to work.

  53. One of the best articles that I have read from this last week of many articles. Thanks for this!

  54. Very interesting! I continue to be impressed by your thoughtful writing and your dedication to your craft.

  55. Wow! Thank you so much for this! Your Mom and I are sitting here crying, inspired by your words. I know we aren’t actors, but people we are, and your thoughts have moved me,at least, to try to awaken myself to what dreams I have long pushed aside or forgotten. Keep reaching for the stars! Much love…

  56. Thanks Andrew. Oh I wanted to be in the stars too, badly. Took astronomy in Madison too. What a shock, analyzing photos of star spectra, lost deep inside a textbook by Fred Hoyle. Got a C by the skin of my teeth. But I cut a wonderful photo out of that textbook, earthrise on the moon. I have it with me still, made paintings of it. I also took a freshman stagecraft course, because I was too ashamed to say out loud that I wanted (desired!) to be an actor. Hundreds of students in a big lecture hall in Champaign. The teacher snarled at us on the first day that this was not going to be any easy A you lazy bums…very inspiring. I decided to opt out of that SHAME! Well, not all the world is Green Shirt Studio!

  57. Well, said Andrew. Brought me to tears. Thanks for showing up to life and building out the Greenshirt community <3

  58. “Grief is the price we pay for letting ourselves love.” Such an important truth to remember during dark times. Thank you for you beautiful essay, Andrew. I feel honored to have read it. Much love.

  59. Wow Andrew! Your words are amazing! Writing about your feelings is so healthy for you and for others. You express yourself so well, and so honestly. Nate was a wonderful guy, who I remember fondly.

  60. Hi,
    Nice Article! Thanks for sharing! I had given an audition & did the same mistakes, that’s what I realised after reading this blog.
    Thanks once again, this tips will surely help in increasing confidence level.

  61. This is perfect, I was thinking about this just the other day. I find it so hard to play someone who is genuinely not likable. It doesn’t mean I as an actor don’t like them but showing obvious characteristics that I myself would hate to see in others.

    I’m playing a villain at the moment, actually I’m double cast as bad brother and good brother (Shakespeare obviously!) which is a fascinating thing. Two brothers with initially similar circumstances finding two different ways to approach their lives. One, protecting his position through force and terror and the other through acceptance and love.

  62. Very good advice in this article, and as one that works both sides of the desk, so to speak…might I add that if you go into the audition and make it your own, use that time to dig in and find real satisfaction in the work for yourself…but then do not get the part? Remember, how your audition today might not get you the role that day, but you might just impress the CD or Director enough with your work, that you are remembered and called in for another project down the road.

    And please actors…get training…find a good program or studio and hone your skills and deepen your processes.

  63. Hi there,

    I am in town until Friday and wanted to see if I could get in a few classes. How much is each session and can I attend in such late notice?

    Please advise, thanks!

  64. As someone who has been told she is too sensitive at times, I really appreciate this article. Only in the last few years have I begun to view it as a gift. I feel things deeply and sometimes that’s tiring. I’ve learned I need to fuel up with rest, healthy food and good people. Sometimes I just need to unplug! And that’s okay. I wouldn’t trade the beauty of true connection for anything. Thanks, Andrew.

  65. Hi Meredith,
    Our summer classes are currently in their 4th week and aren’t structured as drop-in classes. We do however have free events every Friday ( that are open to anyone. We would look forward to meeting you!.


  66. Andrew ..this is so well done. Beyond setting the facts out there; you are a reliable, experienced voice. Lk the heart.
    With regards,

  67. This is great! With me, every part is the last part…at the next audition – they think I’m stupid, they think I’ve got some nerve wasting their time..who does she think she is…and on and on and on. There a little magic switch in your brain that can turn all of that off if you just relax and remember the kind of things that Andrew said here. Also I’d like to add that assistant stage managing, watching some wonderful actors do their thing, and trying to help all I can in the process, has done wonders for my feelings of rejection and despair!

  68. I’m a big proponent for the “Record Yourself” method. I use my phone and read a monotone version of my lines and other’s lines. My phone is always with me, so I can hear my lines any time, any where: toilet, train, pretending to work at the office, etc. On my phone I can speed up and slow down the playback and loop the whole recording infinitely.

    It also helps to pray to the gods of osmosis.

  69. Thank you very much for this list. I adore your tip and read all of them regularly!
    I recently moved to L.A. and was wondering if perhaps you had a similar list for L.A. auditions?

    Greetings from California,


  70. Pingback: Review: Chagrin Falls (The Agency Theater Collective) | Chicago Theater Beat

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  72. I think the biggest thing in taking acting classes is what you mentioned the warm-ups to me are the most important they put you in a different place from where you were before you walked in. When I’m in a play I think it best to do an ensemble warm up with the cast for me it gets me in the moment for whatever character I’m playing.

  73. Thanks for solid ideas and comments!
    We can all do and be better in 2017!!
    Love will always rule.. For yourself and anyone you can touch, with it.
    Thank You

  74. Hi Akiyo, we have actually made an adjustment to our schedule so this Friday (1/13) is going to be an Alexander Technique Monologue workshop. You are still more than welcome to attend and we will have the cold reading bootcamp again soon.

  75. Thank you for this!

    If anyone wants to practice being completely abosorbed in the NOW not the past or the future but the here and now to read ” The Power of Now – Eckchart Tollee 🙂

  76. Pingback: Green Shirt Studio News - 9/26/13 -

  77. Hi, I signed up for the VO class and have not heard anything from Green Shirt Studio. Will I be receiving information on the classes soon?

  78. So inspirational Andrew. It is so awesome that you encourage me and my classmates to imbrace that wild ride that is– the human experience at its most beautiful extremes. Reading this blog resulted in a big sigh of relief.

  79. Pingback: Is an MFA Acting Program Right For You?

  80. I had similar thoughts about older actors and John Mahoney. His story helps me feel good about my choices. Great article.

  81. I’m excited about attending this class on Friday, Kathleen! Thanks for offering it!