Method Acting is the core class that all students take throughout their studies. It is designed to train the actor in Lee Strasberg’s systematic acting technique known throughout the world as The Method™. The technique develops the actor’s ability to respond with real behavior to imaginary stimuli. This four-hour class consists of two parts: work on one’s self and work on the character.
The first part of each Method Acting class begins with Lee Strasberg’s relaxation technique and then moves to his sequence of sensory exercises which train the actor’s concentration, ability to respond to imaginary objects, and organic expression. The relaxation exercise is done each week to ensure that the physical and mental tension within the body, which inhibits the actor, diminishes throughout the duration of the course. The sensory exercise starts with the actor’s ability to recreate objects which they encounters every day. The exercises become more complicated when additional objects of concentration are added and when the frequency with which the actor encounters the objects of concentration diminishes.
The second part of each of the acting classes are devoted to improvisation, scene work, and monologues where students apply what they have learned in the exercise work to fulfill the demands of a play and the creation of a role.
The core of every program is enrollment in two Method Acting classes with two different teachers. Elective classes are included in all full-time programs and may be added at an a-la-carte rate to the Part-Time Program.
The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute in Los Angeles is constantly evolving just like the city. As we seek to meet the actors’ needs, new acting classes are designed and added to our curriculum. Each class is carefully selected or created in order to expand the training of the Method actor. The following is a guide of elective classes that are frequently offered at the Los Angeles campus. Courses may be offered on rotation or seasonally. Please check the class schedule for our most current class offerings. Please note that some courses below may be program requirements, program specific and/or have pre-requisites.
ACTING TECHNIQUE CLASSES
ACTING FOR FILM/TV
Acting for Film and TV I will provide students with the required skills, fundamentals and experience that an actor needs in order to successfully perform in front of a camera. We will explore all facets of on-camera acting, and every exercise and scene will be shot in front of the camera, to help enable the student to become comfortable and confident.
ACTING FOR FILM/TV II
Acting for TV & Film II is conducted in the James Dean Soundstage, utilizing high-definition film equipment to capture students as they gain invaluable experience performing on-camera. This class focuses solely on on-camera scene work, with a minimum of four scenes per student with single and multi-cam shots and a variety of shooting locations. (Second year only.)
Scene Study offers students the opportunity to move beyond class work and act in fully rehearsed scenes on stage. This class guides students as they gain a deeper grasp of the complexities of a scene by examining the dramatic elements of the material.
Improvisation provides students with a powerful acting tool that helps that helps explore material on a spontaneous and collaborative level. Students delve into a diverse range of unscripted scenes aimed to stimulate the imagination and engage in the impulses of discovery.
Improvisation II builds upon previous work and challenges the students in a variety of new situations to further develop their improvisational skills. Improvisations will challenge the actors’ personal connection with a topic of their choice, while interacting with basic scenic elements found in dramatic literature and then given an in-depth evaluation. (Second year only.)
EMOTIONAL MEMORY: MAKING IT PERSONAL
Students learn how to find an authentic and deeply personal connection to their character by the exploration of emotional memories through sensory work. The focus of the class is to guide students on how they can effectively explore their personal experiences for every role that they take on. In this process the students will explore place, relationships and need. (Second year only.)
VOICE & MOVEMENT CLASSES
Method Movement (2 M’s) develops the actor’s physical instrument in a series of exercises that promote fluidity, balance and strength, in order to follow physical impulses that are activated by the character’s function in telling the story. Instead of pantomime, the class explores and creates symbolic meaning of the story through physical emblems. The actor explores his or her own physical awareness and how it shifts from moment to moment by the intrusion of another character—the shadow. The exercises in this class are valuable and can be used in any area of the actor’s training.
Movement 1 is an introduction to movement and relaxation techniques based on the principles of the Alexander Technique. Students will learn fundamental Alexander Technique principles and apply them to their everyday life, as well as their actor training.
The Alexander Technique is an education process of teaching yourself to recognize patterns of habitual tension that interfere with performance; it helps to change those habits which may be causing stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Students will apply the principles of the technique to the craft of acting by exploring warm-ups, character development, efficient movement, audition anxiety, and partner dynamics.
Movement 2 will continue the exploration of Alexander’s principles as they apply to different aspects of the actor’s craft. The class will delve deeper into the work of coordinating movement and release to create authenticity and truthfulness in the actor’s work. The advanced students will continue to apply the Alexander Technique to scenes, monologues, songs, and stage movement. The class will continue to build the foundation of the actor’s awareness of space and self. The class will be a combination of group work and individual tutorials.
Movement 3 will work on creating release in our whole self (mind & body) while also strengthening our kinesthetic awareness of the space around us. We will work on developing partner and ensemble dynamics. Our group work in class will be a laboratory for physical expression and ensemble building exercises.
Tai Chi is an ancient form of Chinese meditation based on the Taoist principles of balance and harmony that Lee Strasberg believed to be an important part of Method work. Students enhance their concentration, will, and awareness through the practice of controlling breath, posture, and movement. Emphasis is placed on learning how to be “present and responsive” to stimuli.
Theatre Dance focuses on all aspects of musical theatre dance and performance with an emphasis on learning and performing contrasting Broadway choreographic styles and staging, enabling students to build on performance and adaptation of varied dance styles. Classes begin with work on basic technique incorporating Ballet and Jazz with an emphasis on building strength and flexibility. Use of the body through space, anatomy, posture, stance and technique are stressed.
Animal Exercise builds observational skills and expressive habits through rigorous physical characterization. The exercises make the actors aware of their body and how to use it in an unaccustomed ways through the final portrayal of the animal. (Available after 6 months of study.)
Dialects teaches both American and international accents, the phonetic alphabet, and the formation of sounds. Students learn the process to master the skills needed to fulfill the demands of a character’s specific voice.
Singing introduces the beginning steps towards developing a solid vocal technique. Students will explore the pitfalls of singing, explore ways to integrate good technique within all music genres, and explore ways to maintain good breath and voice in every performance situation.
Each week, the class will focus on vocal exercises, assigned repertoires, listening and discussing their instruments, and codifying their sounds with their muscular activity and discuss each artist’s own musicality and solidifies and integrates healthy vocal technique for every performance situation.
Vocal Basics is for the beginner singer or anyone who wants to firm up their vocal foundation. Through a variety of vocal exercises, songs and sight singing / ear training techniques, students will get individual and group instruction to improve their vocal technique, pitch and musicality.
Voice 1 primarily explores the basics of Fitzmaurice Voicework®: specifically Destructuring and Re-structuring. De-structuring is the process of letting go of any unnecessary tension which inhibits the breath and voice, through Tremorwork® and adapted yoga positions. Through De-structuring, students explore spontaneity of breath, deep release of tension and a greater awareness of the body.
Re-structuring is the process of activating the intentional breath for communication that is free, yet focused. Students learn which muscles in the body consciously engage in order to connect breath with voice, resulting in a voice that is communicative, imaginative, and able to meet vocal demands without strain. Material is explored through play, partnered work, observation and discussion.
Voice 2 builds on the basic understanding Fitzmaurice Voicework® as experienced in Level One, while exploring new aspects of the work for creative inspiration and character development. Students play with nuances of voice/speech, and find deeper release of tension. Re-structuring focuses more on its application, especially during heightened states of emotion or stress, but also in more subtle communication. Partnered work will be conducted on a deeper level, and play observation and discussion continues to be an integral part of each class. Specific classes are also dedicated to individual/scene work.
Voice 3 will be a continuation of the work explored in Levels 1 and 2. Students will explore deeper release and awareness in the destructuring process, as well as further applications of restructuring. Students will have more individual opportunities to work on text and have feedback. Additional focus will be given to speechwork. The voicework taught in this class will be the destructuring/restructuring techniques of Catherine Fitzmaurice.
Film History provides students with a broad overview of the history of motion pictures including major developments, movements and advancements. The course emphasizes an understanding of the historical, cultural, commercial and aesthetic contexts of film, but also great Method acting performances and the role that Method acting has had in film development.
Script Analysis shows students how to understand material in more depth by developing a character; applying analysis to the work of a scene and integrating Sensory work to either a play or screenplay. The approaches learned on breaking down and analyzing material as developed by Constantin Stanislavsky and Elia Kazan are the basis for the class.
SCENE STUDY FOR TV – COMEDY
Scene Study for TV – Comedy takes the concepts of Script Analysis and applies them to comedic TV sides. Focusing on the History and evolution of Comedy TV then playing with Multi-Cam scenes (Family, friend, workplace), Single Cam (breaking down story vs. documentary style), Sad Com TV, with a real world Final of bringing in outside people working in comedy and see if the students can Identify the script they are given. Timing, finding jokes, relationship, and character structure in the relationship to comedy.
SCENE STUDY FOR TV – DRAMA
Scene Study for TV – Drama takes the concepts of Script Analysis and applies them to dramatic TV sides. Work with the students on Procedural vs Relationship Drama and getting detail work on Crime, Legal, Political, Romance, thriller dramas in the Procedural and Relationship drama. Students would get to work on high drama, playing with language, physicality in scenes (action, intimate, restrained) proximity. Learning to create the style of show that is required by show. With a real world final having students perform with a working actor in a chemistry read.
Character development will delve into the exploration of the physicalization of the character through mannerisms, voice, rhythm, and tempo. Students will develop a solid technique from which to build a character by utilizing Method exercises including Painting, Animal, Song & Dance, Emotional Memory and Private Moment. Students will learn how to make informed and creative choices and gain the tools to better engage their impulses and imaginations to analyze text thoroughly and accurately resulting in the ability to create rich and believable characters.
LEE STRASBERG LEGACY
Lee Strasberg Legacy examines the legendary teacher, Lee Strasberg, through exclusive audiotapes, archival footage, and video recordings teaching the fundamentals of the work: Sensory, Relaxation, Scene Work, Song & Dance, etc. Students participate in interactive discussions and physical demonstrations to expand their understanding of how Method acting is relevant to our times and their work.
Legacy Continues explores the fundamental concepts of Method Acting and how they translate on set. Text and video from Strasberg, Stanislavsky, Vakhtangov, and others will form the basis of each week’s discussion. Exercises will be used as necessary to demonstrate application of the concepts laid out by the masters. Students are expected to experiment throughout the week and be prepared to report in class on their experience.
THEATRE HISTORY I
Theatre History is a survey of the history of the theatre from primitive origins to modern times. Through the use of historical documents, contemporary writings, and illustrations of architecture and costumes, the major periods of theatrical history are seen from an artistic and cultural point of view. Theatre as a cultural force, set in its historical context, is a major theme of this class. Theatre will be explored as reflection of the time and culture that produced it. The course will examine the pivotal theatre artists, plays and movements that shaped the history of the art form. (Required for One-Year & Two-Year Conservatory.)
THEATRE HISTORY II
Theatre History II will focus on the formation of The Group Theater, its development, purpose and accomplishments. It will hone in on the founding members. Instruction includes, but is not limited to: lectures, class participation, research, Q &A, audio/visual presentations and acting exercises. (Offered on rotation. Required for Two-Year Conservatory.)
Shakespeare offers students an introduction to Shakespeare’s language, play and characters. Students work together dissecting his language in a variety of group exercises to extract the emotional meanings behind the poetic form and achieve a clear understanding of what is being said. Students have the opportunity to work on several monologues, sonnets and scenes in this introductory level class.
Playwright Spotlight explores the work of pivotal playwrights throughout history. Each session highlights the work of a different playwright such as Tennessee Williams, Anton Chekhov, Clifford Odets, and Sam Shepard. Students learn about the author’s works while focusing on one play—doing in-depth character work as they read and analyze the play, as well as practicing cold readings. The course allows students to not only understand the historical value of the author, but to develop essential skills of an actor such as cold reading, characterizations and performance.
PULITZER PRIZE PLAYS
Pulitzer Prize Plays discovers how to read and analyze plays as literature from an actor’s perspective focusing on only plays that have been awarded a Pulitzer Prize. Each term will focus on 4-5 plays in which students will discuss the social relevance, themes, personal impact, author’s intention, structure, tone and rhythm of the play. Students will discover how research and sensory work would apply to their own preparation of the play.
PLAYWRIGHTS OF COLOR: DISCOVERING UNDERREPRESENTED VOICES
Most artists’ voices in the country are underrepresented. There is only one group that is readily visible and that is Caucasian males. In this class, we will explore the extraordinary Other voices in playwriting that have been recognized with Pulitzer Prize awards and nominations, circulating through works from women, Black, Latinx, Asian, Native American, and LGBTQ+ playwrights.
The purpose of this course is to discover how to read and analyze plays both as literature and from an actor’s perspective. We will be exploring each playwright’s intention and each play’s structure, tone, style, language, and relevance. We will be discussing how to craft your own personal connection with the material and characters.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT CLASSES
Audition Technique teaches our students how to find representation, impress casting directors, and become professional working actors. Students learn how to define an image that works, market themselves effectively, and launch a practical strategy for success. Agents, managers, photographers and casting directors participate in selected classes. (Available after 6 months of study.)
Cold Read teaches the fundamentals as actors learn the different “beats” of drama and comedy for their auditions. Auditioning successfully is the single most important piece of the acting puzzle. Confidence, skill & eliminating “acting” from your auditions will lead to booking brilliance. Our time will be spent learning how to audition for film, television & commercials. Learning to trust your work and believing in your choices are the keys to auditioning mastery.
Self Tape is structured to mirror real world self-taping scenarios. Students will receive audition sides via email and it will be their duty to use the skills learned in class to record their self-tapes and submit them. Students will learn how to create an environment conducive for taping in their home (lighting, sound, etc. with iPhone/camera), edit their tapes and export for submission.
Commercials provides the techniques to book TV commercials: how to navigate the audition, what to expect on the callback, and the importance of set etiquette. Students will also learn many elements of the union contract, improv for auditions, eating, drinking and handling a label on camera, how to breakdown a commercial script, and how to keep your head on straight when dealing with rejection and after you achieve success.
CRAFT TO CAREER
Craft to Career provides a personalized assessment of where students are now and how to put themselves on the career path that is uniquely theirs. Actors spend a great deal of time and effort working on developing certain characteristics in their craft: being expressive, staying present, establishing relationships, and inspiring themselves instead of just hoping for the best.
The same qualities that go into being a successful actor can and should be harnessed in pursuit of one’s career. Your craft feeds your career, and vice versa. Students will learn to express themselves with representatives, casting directors, producers and directors, to be true to their talent, to understand how others perceive them and to take responsibility for their own career. (Second year only.)
Students will, through instruction, shooting and editing a series of exercises and scenes on their smartphone, build their directing muscles and knowledge of the director’s role in prep, production and post. Emphasis on visualization of scripts, shaping the script to make it production-ready, setting up a successful casting session, scouting locations, working with actors in rehearsal, building your directing vocabulary, shaping performance, creating shot lists and storyboards, scheduling, understanding flow of day, efficient use of time, learning and executing set protocols, working with cinematographers and editors.
Additionally directors will spend some specific time on cinematography and editing.
FILM MAKING FOR THE ACTOR
Filmmaking for Actor will empower actors to write, prep, shoot and edit your own short films, to test your ideas, to develop your voice, to write and rewrite, to consider production issues, production design, shooting, etc., to see the shooting period as another rewrite, and to do the final rewrite as you edit.
The course will not focus on the technology but rather on emotional storytelling and how to capture good storytelling imaginatively. Students will each write a short script with limited production challenges, prep and cast the script, and work either alone or within their circle to shoot their projects.
FILM PRODUCTION I
This class will focus on technical terminology used within a film production, lighting and sound basics, storyboard basics, set and production design basics, makeup and costuming basics and camera technique basics. As actors, it is important to understand how filming works from beginning to end, and this course is designed to lay the groundwork for Film Production II. (AOS priority)
FILM PRODUCTION II
Film Production II is a production course. Students will develop an appropriate short(s) or original work(s) (chosen by the instructor/director) into a short film or web series. Students will be responsible for lighting and sound, costume and make-up, and camera operation using the knowledge gained in Film Production I. (AOS only)
THEATRE PRODUCTION I
Theatre Production I focuses on technical terminology used within a theatre production, lighting and sound basics, stage managing basics, set and production design basics, and stage makeup and costuming basics. As actors, it is important to understand how a show works from beginning to end, and this course is designed to lay the groundwork for Theatre Production II. (AOS only)
THEATRE PRODUCTION II
Theatre Production II is a production course. Students will develop an appropriate play or original work (chosen by the instructor / director) into a culminating performance. Students will be responsible for staging, lighting, costume and make-up, as well as promotion using the knowledge gained in Theatre Production I. (AOS only)
STORYTELLING & MONOLOGUES
Storytelling and Monologues helps you find your artistic voice as an actor and writer by revealing the hidden truths in established monologues and creating your own through improvisation, experimentation and written exercises that you can put on stage or film. This is a production course.
LESSONS FROM THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE: PERSONAL STORYTELLING IN TIMES OF CHANGE
The Harlem Renaissance was a time of awakening for the Black artist in America. This class ventures into and asks what the renaissance of today is for artists, inexperienced and experienced alike. Exploring the work of Black playwrights and how they told the stories of their time, students will discover their own way of relating the world around them to their art. This class will pose the question: what is the story of this time, as seen by young artists? And it will challenge: how will they tell it?
SCENE STUDY ON CAMERA
This class is designed to help students to be prepared to break down and shoot a scene. Students will break down the script, block the action, and ultimately shoot the scene.
Each scene will be shot over at least two class days, to give students the experience of working through a shot list and maintaining continuity.
The scenes will not be edited, but the students will gain experience performing on camera that will help prepare them for working on a professional set.
STANDARD AMERICAN DIALECT
Standard American Dialect, or Accent Reduction is designed for those who speak English as a second language and natives with a prominent regional accent. Students are instructed on how to be understood in Standard American English by solving speech problems and readjusting vocal habits through practical vocal exercises. (Required if deemed necessary by Admin/Instructors)
Comic Improv is the ability to think on one’s feet and to make bold, specific choices in the moment, without fear of getting it “wrong” are essential tools for every actor. More and more, directors are looking for actors who possess a solid understanding of the fundamentals of improve; this class will provide students with exactly that. Through a number of games, exercises and improvised scenes students will learn to say “yes and…” the ideas of their scene partners, identify “the game,” and create dynamic scenes.
FILM FIGHTING I
Film Fighting I demonstrates various styles of martial arts and how to maintain safety in the midst of full-contact action. By examining their work on camera, students discover how to transcend fight choreography in order to convey a story physically and express themselves through movement.
FILM FIGHTING II
Film Fighting II challenges the actor to grow mentally, physically and spiritually through intensive training in self-defense and advanced fighting techniques. Jumping, acrobatic movements and weapons are incorporated into the stunt choreography. This class emphasizes fundamental combat skills while preparing actors for filming a complete fight sequence.