At the core of the Strasberg curriculum are the Method Acting classes. Students are required to take two Method Acting classes per semester, each with a different teacher. These classes are designed to train the actor in Lee Strasberg’s systematic approach to acting known throughout the world as The Method. The technique develops the actor’s ability to respond with real behavior to imaginary stimuli and trains the actor to use their personal experience to fire their imagination.
These four-hour classes are divided into two parts: work on one’s self and work on the character.
The work one’s self employs Lee Strasberg’s relaxation and sensory exercises to train the actor’s concentration, and eliminate the actor’s individual habits of mental and physical tension, which limit their ability to express.
The relaxation is repeated in every class, building over the course of study a keen awareness of one’s body and the ability to relax at will. Sensory exercises are also done each class, but become more complicated throughout the course of study. Sensory work begins with recreating ordinary objects and sensations using the five senses and moves towards more emotional stimuli. This part of class focuses on training an actor’s talent.
The second part of class focuses on applying the exercises to scenework and learning how the sensory can help fulfill the demands placed upon the actor by a particular script. Students use the exercises to create organic behavior, make truthful choices, and also learn the way in which improvisation can be used to explore a character’s motivation and deepen one’s understand of the character and scene.
The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute strives to provide a diverse selection of course offerings to support the development of a well rounded actor. Courses are added in a variety of areas to support the evolving demands of the industry and the needs of actors. The benefit of the Strasberg acting curriculum is that it allows students to pick courses and create a schedule that reflect their individual needs and goals.
This course is designed to give students the skills to combine their Method training with a sense of what is funny……the what, why, and how of funny…..and how, perhaps, anyone can be funny. Breathing, relaxation, and concentration are perhaps even more important when one is assigned a comic scene over a dramatic one. Also, the intellect must be involved more, moment to moment…..to think fast, react quickly, while totally relaxing the whole time one is in the scene. Writers ranging from Mel Brooks to Neil Simon will be studied and scenes assigned each week.
BUILDING A CHARACTER
Students will develop a solid base and technique from which to build a character by utilizing Method exercises including the Painting Exercise, Animal Exercise, Need Exercise, Emotional Memory Exercise, Private Moment for the Character and Improvisation. Students will learn how to make informed and creative choices that serve the play by stimulating the imagination in the continual search for the subtext and the character’s logical behavior. Rehearsal procedures will be explained and practiced. Students will 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.
Students are introduced to character work in conjunction with, and as a supplement to, the Lee Strasberg “method”. Students will be asked to define character and its role within the play, and further to practice creating character biographies. This class will work further to explore the physicalization of the character through mannerism, voice, rhythm and tempo.
This class is only for students in their final semester of study in the Two-Year Conservatory Program. In this class students work with a director to create a showcase of scenes that display their growth as artists in the two years they have been studying at the Institute.
CREATING YOUR OWN WORK
Creating Your Own Work teaches the fundamentals of working with a group and creating original work. Writing exercises, acting exercises and improvisation are used to create and develop characters, ideas and stories. This is a class intended to fulfill our immediate needs as artists and hone skills necessary for creating original work – skills that will last a lifetime. Creating Your Own Work is for the actor who is interested in developing short and full length plays through improvisation. Both comedy and drama are explored. Among the components of a play that are explored through improvisation are premise, character development, structure and theme. (NOTE: the improvisation used in the acting classes NYC offers are NOT comedic improvisation. The type of improvisation used is more along the lines of rehearsal based improve used in Method class.)
Improvisation provides students with a powerful acting tool 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 the impulses of discovery.
LIFE OF THE CHARACTER
Explore your character–their memories, histories, and relationships to help you develop their character’s intricate details and self-awareness. Actors will be taken through a series of sensory exercises, including a day in the lives of their characters, “witnessing” their most precious memories, and cultivating a characterological backbone that will authentically build the life of their character. Be ready to explore, unfold and uncover your most deepest truths.
Scene study is the study of scenic structure and the rhythms, language and plot or story that the writer uses to convey and explore that structure. What type of language is used and how does your character use it? How does the actor determine what a particular scene is asking them to do, in terms of the actions and tactics of the character and circumstances they are living in? What process must the actor go through to fulfill these requirements, in a powerful, specific, living way? Method and Sensory work, physical awareness exercises and improvisational techniques will be woven into the step-by-step process of working on and developing scenes and monologues.
SENSORY / SCENE STUDY
The class focus will be in the area where sensory choices help to enter into the imaginary circumstances of the scene. Working physically and thoroughly with sensory choices the actor goes deep into character and the material. Lee Strasberg said that when he saw Eleanora Duse’s work on stage it was “simplistic” and “the essence of humanity”. This should be every actors goal.
This class focuses on learning how to prepare your script and make informed choices. Students will learn how to analyze scenes and scripts, find and notate beats, understand a character’s action and make informed choices based on the psychological, emotional, physical and environmental aspects of the character and script. A necessary tool to understanding how to approach a role.
WORKING WITH THE DIRECTOR
This course gives the student the practical experience of working with a director and developing a scene through analysis, rehearsal, and performance. In conjunction with the director, students will examine subtext, do character work, and ultimately build a truthful performance-ready scene.
FILM AND TV ELECTIVES
ACTING ON CAMERA
This is conducted as an immersion course that gives the student practical experience in the best acting techniques required by most narrative Feature Films and Television Series that are shot like Features. These are correctly known as “Single-Camera” productions as distinct from “Multi-Camera” Studio productions.
ACTING FOR FILM & TV
This course is designed to help the students understand and master the demands made on them in the film and TV mediums. The class is developed to be practical and relevant and will guide the student in utilizing their technique for an on-camera performance. Because of class size there’s a possibility that not everyone will act in front of the camera each week. But students who are interested will have the opportunity to handle the camera and film scenes. Others will have the opportunity to direct (under supervision) in order to understand the dynamic between actor and director.
Designed to give the actor the experience of building a character on camera. Actors will be assigned a role in a screenplay. They will rehearse and shoot all the scenes in the screenplay for that character. Since the actor takes the script home with them they can prepare for each shoot day the way they would in the real world.
INTRO TO ACTING FOR FILM & TV
This course serves as an introductory class for actors who have no or limited experience auditioning and acting in front of the camera. Students will learn the basics of executing an audition and call back for a professional film or television show. Students will also learn how a film is shot, the language of film, the responsibilities of different crew members on a set and what is expected of him/her on set. Students will work on scenes and experience all of the demands that acting in front of the camera entails. These acting classes also serves as a way to learn and practice applying The Method to their work.
Class is an open level open gender ballet class. Everyone from the new beginner to the experienced dancer is welcome and will be challenged according to their experience. Class covers ballet terminology/vocabulary, technique, turnout, feet, balance, posture, carriage of the arms, barre, center and across the floor work, jumps, leaps, turns, and class etiquette. Strong emphasis is placed on structural alignment so that dancers can work correctly without causing injury (as well as learning how to work with an injury without doing further damage). Level is geared toward median level of the group and exercises are designed with the members of each specific class in mind. While the class is based in traditional classical ballet, a strong emphasis is placed on the actor/dancer integrating the acting training.
DANCE l is a class designed for those who have never studied dance before and for those who need a refresher on the basic techniques . Through a series of exercises a basic dance vocabulary and execution of technique is taught in both Ballet and Jazz disciplines. You will explore and learn total body awareness, more confidence and the joy of moving the body in space.
DANCE ll An understanding of and a familiarity with the basic terms and steps of Ballet and Jazz is required. The class alternates dance disciplines week to week, i.e., one full class of Ballet on odd weeks and one full class of Jazz (which is preparation for Intermediate Jazz) on even weeks. Prerequisite: DANCE 1. Those with significant dance training may take this class upon teacher approval.
INTRO TO JAZZ
This class will introduce or reintroduce Jazz Dance to beginners or those who have had some experience with Jazz, but no real training. Each class will start with a warm-up designed to stretch, align, strengthen, isolate, and create awareness of the body. The class will move through a series of exercises across the floor, building in complexity. Students will learn mini combinations of dances in basic Jazz styles throughout the session, while learning and building on one longer combination simultaneously.
INTERMEDIATE JAZZ is a class designed to promote the experience of dancing with the total being. Through a warmup that has Ballet, Modern and Afro-Carribean exercises; across-the-floor exercises that expand the sense of space; and finally a routine that connects emotions to technique through varied use of physical energy so that the art of storytelling begins in the body. Prerequisite Intro to Jazz or by teacher approval.
MOVEMENT OF THE ACTOR
Utilizing various techniques, awareness exercises, physical explorations and improvisations this course gives students the tools to better understand how their bodies work and how to use themselves more efficiently and less habitually. By learning how to use relaxation to gain control over their physical expression, the actor can use themselves more effectively and creatively and thus slip more easily into the skin, the essence, the passions and needs of the character in response to the circumstances of the scene.
As actors we physically embody the character. This class uses the Feldenkrais method of body awareness to allow the actor to develop and master this ability to embody and give full, unique life to whoever they play. As physical artists the ability to be aware as we act involves sensing ourselves on multiple levels at once so the character created is perceived as multi dimensional and rich. The class connects to the sensory and relaxation work done in the Method acting classes. The class also explores themes such as creativity, challenge and being in the moment through improvisation, short scenes and studies.
MUSICAL THEATRE SCENE CLASS
This class is designed to teach the actor how to blend the three disciplines of acting, singing and dancing in seamless act of storytelling; focusing on personifying the characters through those disciplines. This class also teaches the student how to work in an ensemble with ease; performing at least two or three group numbers. There is a performance at the end of the semester, therefore the class lessons will mostly be treated as rehearsals for the performance. The musical scenes selected (duets, trios, quartets) will be taken out of the context of a variety of shows and presented in a show with an audience. A knowledge of the three disciplines is highly recommended.
STAGE COMBAT I
Unarmed stage combat will teach the foundation skills necessary for performers entering either stage or television/film productions where unarmed combat may take place. Fundamental safety skills are stressed, as well as techniques common to conflict situations from all periods in history. The focus of this class will be to learn safe and dramatically effective techniques of unarmed staged violence.
The focus of this class will be to learn safe and dramatically effectivetechniques of unarmed staged violence. This training is a specialized form of actor/movement work – helping students to develop physical and spatial awareness, grounding, centering, emotional control, economy of effort, extension of line, focus, timing, action and counteraction, clarity of thought in situations of character conflict, and moment by moment acting work. A modern stage actor must be able to conjure the illusions of violence without injury to him/herself, his/her fellow performers, or the audience. This course provides a basic level of that training.
STAGE COMBAT II
Students will work upon the foundational skills acquired in Stage Combat I, bringing them up to a performance level. Participation in Combat II is by permission of the instructor. The focus of this class will be to learn safe and dramatically effective techniques of unarmed staged violence at an advanced level. Students will perform a scene involving a complicated fight routine. There will be a fight test at the end of the term, where students present their work to an outside judge, a recognized Fight Master from the Society of American Fight Directors. More information about the S.A.F.D. can be had on the web at www.safd.org.
STRETCH is designed to deeply explore and meditate on the potential of the body through slow and thorough stretching. The result is a greater flexibility of the body; the release of stored musculature tensions; and increased awareness on many levels including body/mind/emotions/spirit. No prior training or knowledge needed.
TAI CHI I/II
Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art, meditation and health practice based on the Taoist principles of balance and harmony of mind-body-spirit. Tai Chi teaches the student to cultivate awareness and sensitivity of intention, action, and effort through the practice of breathing, posture, alignment and movement. Emphasis is placed on learning how to be “present and responsive” to internal and external stimuli by applying the principles of grounding, centering, focusing and listening.
TAP is designed for those who have never danced or tapped before. The arc of the class begins with Basic Tap through Intermediate Tap dance. Utilizing the concept of ATap [email protected] (like language emersion classes) the student will learn the discipline of Tap through repetition, trial and error, and consistent practice until overall comprehension is achieved. In the first half of the semester students will be introduced to single, double, most triple, quadruple and more sounds. Cramp rolls, perrididdles, riffs, shim shams, pullbacks and exercises 1-4 will be introduced and practiced. In the second half, students will learn and practice time steps, turns, drawbacks, more pullbacks as well as more advanced paddle and roll combinations through a process call Asee, hear, [email protected]
Dialects class will provide the actor with the ability to utilize the primary dialects found in musical theatre, as well as to understand the process of researching all dialects and accents first-hand.
SINGING FOR THE ACTOR
Lee Strasberg placed Singing in the curriculum for the enhanced development of the actor’s voice. The purpose of this course is: to introduce voice technique and establish good vocal habit through relaxation, alignment, respiration, phonation, support, registration, resonation, and articulation. Additionally, a daily warm-up routine will be developed suitable for auditions both spoken or sung. It should be noted that even for acting auditions actors are often asked to sing something. For those who already have a singing practice the course is structured to build on the individual’s current repertoire. The songbook, developed by the students in conjunction with the teacher, will continue to grow and augment over subsequent semesters so that it covers a vast range of audition needs. The aim is to create a body of work that will prepare the singing student for the demands of the musical theatre industry and the actor for the extreme dramatic demands of voice on stage.
The purpose of this course is twofold: to continue the process of voice technique begun in Singing 1, including relaxation, alignment, respiration, phonation, support, registration, resonation, and articulation; and to build the individual’s songbook containing musical theatre repertoire. Additionally, a daily warm-up routine will be developed and habituated. The songbooks, developed by the students in conjunction with the teacher, will continue to grow and augment over the coming semesters so that it covers a vast range of audition needs. The aim is to create a body of work that will prepare the student for the demands of the musical theatre industry.
SPEECH I (ACCENT REDUCTION)
The purpose of this class is to first address the underlying accent issues the student has. In order to do so, the student must be able to speak English understandably with their given accent. Students will learn the basic differences between Theatre Standard American English and General American English in addition to fundamental concepts like voice and unvoiced consonants, vowel and consonant combinations, consonant and consonant combinations, vowel and vowel combinations, American English intonation, general word stress, phrasing, etc. This class is formatted around students reading and performing excerpts, corrections being given, and questions being addressed. Additionally, the students will learn the International Phonetic Alphabet to ensure that the student is speaking with proper intonation. Conversational correction is also utilized as there is an inextricable link between knowledge of grammar and idioms and the student’s ability to concentrate on accent reduction.
The purpose of this class is to continue the removal of the accent and to make clear the distinction between Theatre Standard and General American speech. The student will learn the appropriate application of these separate dialects through the introduction of various texts throughout the course. The teacher continues to engage the student in conversational correction addressing grammar and accent as inextricably linked issues that can be worked on in conjunction.
VOCAL PRODUCTION I
This course endeavors to impart a vocal technique that is open, free, flexible, lively and possessing an extensive and colorful range. Vocal production is a dynamic vocal technique specifically designed to compliment the work of the Method actor. The goal of the course is to develop an open and embodied instrument and provide the artist with an effective “neutral,” allowing for optimal exploration of human emotion and physical expression. This class begins its training process in the recognition and release of constricting, tension-related habits that impede the full, free, flexible, and expressive use of the vocal instrument. This release and recognition is achieved through exploration and exercises in relaxation, alignment, respiration, phonation, support, registration, resonation, and articulation.
VOCAL PRODUCTION II
The class endeavors to impart a vocal technique that is open, free, flexible, lively and possessing an extensive and colorful range. Vocal production is a dynamic vocal technique specifically designed to compliment the work of the Method actor. The goal of the course is to develop an open and embodied instrument and provide every artist with an effective “neutral,” allowing for optimal exploration of human emotion and physical expression. This class continues the work begun in Vocal Production including exploration and exercises in relaxation, alignment, respiration, phonation, support, registration, resonation, and articulation. In addition, this year of “application” places an enhanced attention on clear speech and expressive language use. Further, dramatic material and storytelling are called upon as devices through which to inspire and enhance the sensorial experience of form, structure, rhythm, tempo, and dynamic variety.
THEATRE HISTORY ELECTIVES
A study of Anton Chekov’s plays and characters is essential for any student of the Method. His work was a major influence on both Stanislavsky and Strasberg as well as many great writers to this day. Woody Allen cites Chekov as his biggest influence, as did Neil Simon. The Seinfeld Show and all of its off-spring are totally Chekov in their lively mix of laughter and tears. Students table-read and discuss his greatest plays in class while presenting rehearsed scenes and monologues every week. This is a 2 hour History and Acting Elective.
Clifford Odets was, arguably, the most influential playwright of Lee Strasberg’s early career. His unique use of the English language and his essential American voice became the perfect vehicle for Strasberg’s formation of The Method. Students read/discuss his greatest plays and present rehearsed scenes, making this an intense performance workshop.
Students will learn three verse speeches- early, middle and late. Shakespeare wrote clues into the verse which help us understand the psychology and emotional life of the character. Suggested reading: Thinking Shakespeare by Barry Edelstein.
COMMEDIA DELL’ARTE: HISTORY AND PERFORMANCE
This course will trace Commedia dell’Arte’s historical legacy through lecture and discussion, but a large emphasis of this class will be on experiential learning including mask work, Commedia performance practices, learning slap-stick comedy routines (lazzi) and scene improvisations. The class will culminate in a performance featuring the characters and scenes developed during the term. Commedia dell’Arte, the largely improvised street theatre of the Italian Renaissance, was the dark mirror to the Renaissance’s beauty and elegance. While the Renaissance brought grand innovations in art, science and philosophy, Commedia dell Arte was a theatre of the people; crude, scatological, exaggerated and subversive. The stock characters of Commedia dell Arte pitted master against servant in a battle of wits, which exposed the masters as hypocrites and buffoons while the servants are presented as wily and cunning. Commedia dell Arte elevated the common servant while Renaissance Art elevated the elite. Many of the stock characters of Commedia eventually evolved into the beloved archetypes of theatre, film and television but they never lost their populist and anti-authoritarian roots.
Sam Shepard is without a doubt among the most important American playwrights. He tapped into the American mythos, creating a searing portrait of American family life. He work is beloved by actors; his characters are timeless, universal and also specific in time and place and perfectly matched to the demands of Method Acting. Reading, discussing, analyzing and acting all of Shepard’s major plays; this is a theatre history course that incorporates week to week acting work on scenes and monologues.
HISTORY OF METHOD ACTING IN FILM
Students will watch great method oriented performances on film. The film collection will highlight Russian and American actors. After watching the films, students will analyze and discuss the performances from the point of view of the craft.
SHAKESPEARE AT THE GLOBE
The plays of William Shakepeare are the foundation for the last 400 years of theatrical history and great acting. A working knowledge of Shakespeare is essential for any serious student. In this class we will table-read, analyze and discuss four Shakespeare plays while presenting rehearsed scenes and speeches every week. Al Pacino once said to Lee Strasberg “I could act this stuff if only it weren’t for all these words” and Lee responded, “that’s Shakespeare.” There is no need to fear the language. Beginners are always welcome. This is a two-hour History and Acting Elective.
STANISLAVSKY TO STRASBERG
Stanislavsky to Strasberg provides a clear understanding of the development of Stanislavsky’s work in both the Russian and American theatres over the last 100 years. Instruction includes, but is not limited to lectures, class participation, Q & A, audio/visual presentations and acting exercises.
STRASBERG AND SCENE ANALYSIS
Several years before Stanislavsky understood the logical evolution of his discoveries and insights into how an actor and a director needs to analyze a play, what is today called active analysis, Lee Strasberg intuited Stanislavsky’s ultimate practice from his acting classes with Richard Boleslavsky and Maria Ouspenskaya at the American Laboratory Theatre in the mid-1920’s and effectively demonstrated in his legendary productions with the Group Theatre. The organic form of a truly acting and thus theatre-based rehearsal process is built on the use of rehearsed improvisations, called etudes by Stanislavsky. These etudes “actively” analyze and explore the dramatic action of the play – i.e., the given circumstances, events, facts, objectives, psycho-physiological-action, counteraction and adaptations or adjustments, the text-based means through which an actor builds a the playwright’s character. Before one can “actively analyze” a play one must know how to break its text into the bits of action that make up the actual play, which is “hidden” or embedded “sub textually” in the text. This is the architecture of acting and directing and the basic material of theatre. This class teaches the student the process of action analysis as the foundation of acting.
THE WORLD THROUGH CINEMA
From the earliest days of filmmaking cinema has found its voice in the countless tongues of all peoples. Each country’s cinema has been built on the bedrock of their cultural specificities whilst borrowing cinematic language across borders. No other art form translates so easily and readily from one nation, religion, culture, ethnicity and society quite like cinema. It is a universal language that we all speak.
This class will endeavor to expose, discuss and question world cinema. This class aims to introduce students to the various worlds of filmmaking both native and foreign to their palettes. This is an introductory course and the class will plant the seeds of thought, while introducing the contexts of culture and history in which the films that we will screen were produced. The purpose of this course is to plant the germs of curiosity in each student to learn and discover more about the cultures, films and filmmakers we study. This class requires an imagination, a sense of humor and willingness to adventure beyond everything that you may think you already know.
This course 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 study. Theatre will be explored as a reflection of the time and culture that produced it. The course will examine the pivotal theatre artists, plays and movements which shaped the history of the art form. This is a required class for the One and Two Year Conservatory programs.
ADVANCED DRAMATIC WRITING
Advanced Dramatic Writing is open to students who’ve already taken at least one other Strasberg Writing class. You’ll learn how acting and writing can mutually strengthen an actor’s professional opportunities. This class will refine story-telling approaches for Stage, Film and TV; practice pitching completed work; and cover other practical aspects of script-writing, such as research and protecting one’s work.
PLAYWRITING FOR THE ACTOR
Don’t wait for a role to come to you, write a role for yourself. In this course, actors will complete the first draft of a full length play or two drafts of an original, one-act play. Students will learn how to craft character, dialogue, and plot structure by using the lens of Strasberg’s teachings. With a focus on character development derived from personal experience and sensorial writing, the actor will open up a new form of expression and character exploration.
The goal of the class is to examine the formats and the inner workings of a three-act screenplay in the United States. In 12 weeks each student will learn the tools to complete a screenplay like a professional. The unique structure of a movie script will be laid out so well that there will be no guess work on what to write. Students will also learn which stories sell, and how to make their scripts more attractive to producers and actors. The class will also make the students better actors because it will expose them to what makes a great script work.
SKETCH COMEDY WRITING
Sketch Comedy Writing explores the foundations of a comedic premise, comedic characters, comedic dialogue, genres and scene structure. Writing exercises are executed during class. Homework assignments are given. Students share their homework assignments in class.
This class is designed to prepare the method actor for auditioning in a variety of casting situations. Students will learn to refine their type in addition to learning the basics of marketing through head shots, resumes, and finding an agent. Students will be introduced to a variety of techniques and audition materials suitable for specific types of work such as plays, movies, soap opera, commercials and more. Students will develop a thorough understanding of the casting process from answering a casting call, to taking direction at the audition, through the call back, and ultimately, the offer of a part.
THE BUSINESS OF ACTING
This class is designed to help bridge the gap between studio training and the professional demands of the actor. It will help students develop a strategic plan to get work and will provide students with a better understanding of industry expectations and how to translate their in-class work into a successful career and become self-sufficient artists after finishing their training. This class encourages students toward specific career goals, creates a framework for their achievement and ensures that they are prepared for what the industry requires of them. Students leave with a greater understanding of themselves within the industry, as well as the tools to tackle auditions in various media and meet with representation.
Topics of discussion include but are not limited to: agents, managers, casting directors, breakdowns, creating a reel, managing your time efficiently, unions, websites, headshots and resumes, and more.
This course is designed to assist the actor with finding the best individual monologues suited to them. The actors will work on several 1 minute and 2 minute audition monologues (the standard audition time) during the 12-week course. We will explore classical and contemporary monologues, learn how to break the monologues into beats, analyze the text, and block them. In addition, audition outfits and photos and resumes will be covered. The actor will leave the class prepared with audition monologues to get the job.