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Faculty Spotlight: MJ Karmi

MJ Karmi Headshot

Going into her 12th year working at The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute, MJ Karmi is seasoned in both acting and teaching. MJ teaches Method Acting, Improvisation, Scene Study, a new class in Los Angeles called Making It Personal Through Sensory, and many others. She is also a lifetime member of The Actor’s Studio and is currently work-shopping a new play titled Dear Murderess by Barbara Bane.

“I feel like everything being taught at Strasberg is what I learned in my Masters [Degree]… Students learn how to be the best possible artist”

MJ Karmi

A Passion for Lee Strasberg’s Method

When I asked MJ what her favorite part of Lee Strasberg’s Method was, she replied, “all of it.” She has been doing Method Acting for over 30 years, originally training under Elizabeth Kemp at LSTFI New York. “You fall in love with the work,” said MJ about The Method.

MJ is particularly passionate about sensory exercises. “I would not be the actor I am without sensory… It is the foundation of my work.”

“Sensory is so important in terms of opening up our instrument… to make [us] available to all the stimulus… It connects us to our unconscious mind.”

MJ Karmi on Method Acting

At LSTFI and The Actor’s Studio, “there is an understanding that members and trainees… are very serious actors.” There is power behind LSTFI, “when [casting directors] see Strasberg on a resume… they know that person is highly trained.”

Teaching at The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute

“For me, to pass on the work that I love so much is important to me… It is really special for me to pass it on.”

MJ Karmi on teaching The Method

“When I walk into Strasberg I feel myself lift,” said MJ. She loves the atmosphere of LSTFI and the values the institute promotes. “I know I am going to experience something today that will be artistically exciting.”

Working with students for two years brings joy to MJ. “I get to see a student grow over a two year period… I am soaring while they are soaring.” There comes a time in the student’s training when “everything [they] have learning has all come together,” and for MJ seeing that discovery “is amazing.”

The new class she is teaching, Making It Personal Through Sensory, builds on the techniques learned in Method Acting Classes and provides guidance on how to “connect to this person I am creating” on stage. “The difference is night and day with authenticity”

Benefits of Method Acting Exercises

Image result for mj karmi the discovery

Some of the most important Method Acting exercises for MJ are sensory, animal work, and improvisation. “Improv is so so so important!” It teaches actors two things, “one: how to listen… and two: how to use themselves in improv.” Improvisation encourages the actor to use their own experiences and feelings to generate a genuine performance, “in other words don’t act.”

“Animal work is instrumental,” said MJ “very important for the students and for my own work.” Animal work helps actors develop and understand their characters’ ” body language, the unspoken, behavior” and more.

In her own career, MJ uses sensory techniques and also works hard to make every production personal. “I have a document with pages of questions for the character.” In every show there is subtext to a scene, or “what’s underneath the event in the scene,” that MJ digs into the scene to find. It is all about “how am I going to make it personal?”

Current Acting Projects

MJ is in a movie called Juke Box Hero showing at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival on February 16, 2020 at 6:00pm.

One of MJ’s other recent movies, The Discovery, is now streaming on Netflix. The film stars Rooney Mara, Jason Segal, and Robert Redford. The movie explores what would happen if someone could prove that an afterlife existed. Such a discovery caused millions of people to kill themselves in the movie. The movie is haunting and dark, worth a watch for a good movie and to support MJ Karmi!

On stage, MJ is currently rehearsing on a staged reading of an Irish play titled Woman in Scarecrow by Marina Carr. The staged reading will be at LSTFI at the end of March.

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