The Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio (EMAS) is proud to announce registration for our Winter 2017 Playing Shakespeare Class. Playing Shakespeare can be one of the most challenging yet rewarding endeavors for an actor. Whether acting on stage or on screen, the ability to bring a full, living character to life using Shakespeare’s words is an invaluable skill; one that is evident when watching the many greats of screen and stage who have their roots in Shakespearean drama.
Held on Mondays from February 27th through May 1st, the class will consist of both monologue work and group exercises to use voice, physicality, and authenticity in connection with playing their character.
The class will be taught by Diana Jellinek, who has deep roots in Shakespeare in addition to her other work in Los Angeles.
Well, you’ve got to take pleasure in life’s little surprises and, last night, we had an excellent little surprise: Seeing the Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio pop up in the answer to a Jeopardy question!
This New Year get into another person’s shoes, try out their voice, feel their pain and their joy by developing THE CHARACTER. Learn to quickly bring life to a script through a set of tools that help you to grow into and fill out your character.
This 11 week course is not only about books and text, it’s about developing a personality. THE CHARACTER class at The Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio in Los Angeles (EMASLA) will provide you with a foundation in creating truthful, dynamic characters and expressing the way that you will be heard. Doesn’t matter if it’s a movie, television or audition, beginner class will help you find a technique to develop character’s psychology including voice and body language. Through exercises, improvisations, monologue and scene work, students acquire a comprehensive set of “acting tools” to draw upon when approaching a role. At the end of the course you will know how to bring a character to life and apply their techniques in scene work.
Up for the adventure? Then register and start your New Year with THE CHARACTER!
Find more information about our philosophy and the beginning technique class here.
Time: Wednesdays at 1:30pm or Thursdays at 7pm Date: January 11 – March 23 2017 Place: 11423 Moorpark Street, North Hollywood Price: $510 for 11 weeks – 50% due at registration
The second in our four-part play play reading series at the Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio (EMAS), a cast of EMAS students will stage a reading of Spike Heels, by Theresa Rebeck.
Pygmalion goes awry in this contemporary comedy of manners which explores sexual harassment, misplaced amour, and the possibility of a four sided love triangle. The combatants are a sexy, volatile young woman and three Back Bay types a writer, a lawyer and a fiancee in sensible shoes.
Featuring EMAS students:
Directed by Andrew Rodgers
The Acting Studio stages these events for our acting students, our faculty, and the larger artistic community. Admission is open to the public but any donations are appreciated and help us to continue staging these and other events that benefit the community.
If you would like to attend, Reservations are required due to limited space. Please RSVP to email@example.com
When: Sunday December 4th, 2016
Time: doors open at 6:30 for wine and cheese mixer and reading begins at 7:15
To read a detailed account of our last play reading and what this particular form has to offer, please click here.
We hope to see you there!
About the Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio: Located in Studio City, Los Angles,The Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio (EMAS), our mission is to empower actors and acting students with a strong foundation in acting technique and a discipline that will last a lifetime. From our core Meisner classes, to acting workshops and seminars, each class aims to help students gain the “acting tools” that support successful acting careers.
4 Actors, 4 Music Stands, 4 Chairs and an audience. No props, no costumes, no lights. Just the actors with their scripts – and the audience.
On October 29th EMAS presented the first play of the 2016-2017 Play Reading Series with Dinner with Friends by Donald Margulies. EMAS took this opportunity to allow the acting studio’s faculty members Diana Jelinek, Jordana Oberman, Ken Weiler and Michael Yurchak to star in this Pulitzer Prize winning drama – a rare opportunity for our students to see their teachers practicing the craft. “It was wonderful to see our instructors in action! Seeing them putting on such a great performance without any props, blocking, or anything that can help create a “scene” made me appreciate their skills even more (and really solidified my trust in them as instructors) because they were only able to use their instrument and the power of relationship to tell the story.” said EMAS alum Tessa Brennan. She added, “I love that I can continue to stay connected to the community through events like these staged readings. I’m always so grateful that I found the EMAS Meisner program when I did, not only for the foundation it has laid in terms of my craft as an actor, but for the support and connections I have garnered through the studio.”
So what exactly is a Play Reading? It almost sounds academic…but trust me it’s not! A good play reading can be full of magic. Like a great radio play or audio book, it takes you on the journey – unencumbered by complicated production values. It’s the story, the actors and the audience. That is it. With minimal rehearsals the actors work with script in hand and can really commit to their craft as storytellers and revealers of the human experience. . Believe it or not, when actors do their job well…the audience actually stops seeing the actors flip pages, they stop see the bare set, and become transported to the world of the play. As EMAS student Stephanie Hoston shared “This reading taught me just what a good actor can add to a script. The script is nothing but words on paper until the actors make choices to bring it to life. If I had simply read this play, I may have dismissed some of the more controversial characters, however because of the actors I was able to see the human sides of each character. I left the reading feeling enlightened about circumstances in my own life as a child of divorce, and inspired as an actor. As an audience member, this is all I can ask for.”
I decided to develop this program because being exposed to great writers, having knowledge of genres and styles is an important part of being a fully trained actor. It’s inspiring to see the great breadth of material that has been produced by our master playwrights. If an actor is not familiar with the work of our great playwrights, they are taking advantage of the creative inspiration they offer; the juicy roles, the imaginative circumstances. They won’t know entirely what is demanded of the actor. Remember – plays are the actors medium, movies the director’s. Many of the today’s directors ground their vision in their knowledge of theatre, Kenneth Lonergan and David Hare to name a few. Actors might mmiss important references by directors (like the idea of a scene being “Pinter-esque” or a reference to Mamet’s rhythm) and they certainly are not grounding themselves in the rich history of acting that allows them to understand the roots of the craft itself.
So we decided to offer monthly play readings to whet the appetite and help our students develop a deeper understanding and love for the best plays our western cannon offers.
We will be focusing on reading plays of the 20th and 21st centuries, giving our students an opportunity to use the training they are receiving here to approach some of the most coveted acting roles of our times. It’s a great work out for the students who are cast in these readings, as there is really minimal rehearsal. They have to do the work themselves and call upon everything they have learned here. But it is also an amazing time for the entire studio to come together as an artistic community and hear some of the greatest plays of our times.
Upcoming Plays in our Play Reading Series are:
December 4th, 2016 – Spike Heels by Theresa Rebeck
January 29th 2017 – All My Son’s by Arthur Miller
March 26th 2017 – Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks
Admission is free – but requires an RSVP, and donations are gratefully appreciated to help us continue this program. All readings end with a post-performance discussion that always inspires and leaves us wanting more!
Hope you come and join us for one of these events in the next few months.
The founder of EMAS, Elizabeth Mestnik is an acclaimed actress, director, and acting coach . Having spent her formative years in New York City studying under William Esper, her commitment is to bringing the best of the Meisner technique and New York Acting to hollywood and the craft of acting more generally.
This is L.A. The pressure is on to get going with your acting career. Living here can make you feel like you’re in a race to “make it” before you get too old, too broke, or too cynical. You’ve got to be at the top of your game at all times: trained, represented, available, confident. And so, to keep all these balls in the air, you go to the gym, you keep your wardrobe spiffy, you network, and you keep training – all while finding myriad ways to pay your exorbitant rent and keep your car running so you can get to the audition to book the job to pay your rent and pay for more classes to get you to the next audition. It’s exhausting. And difficult. And expensive.
Granted, playing Shakespeare may seem like the broccoli of acting; do your Shakespeare so you have a nice balanced diet of contemporary and classical roles in your repertoire. And let’s face it, most of our English teachers did us a disservice by asking us to drudge through reading one of the plays in the canon – a process sure to discourage even the most enthusiastic among us into any further study. And then there’s the prospect for employment – it’s not like Shakespearean actors are in high demand for high paying roles.
Or aren’t they?
When you think about really great actors that you admire in contemporary film and television, chances are they’ve done some Shakespeare. In fact, more and more, casting directors rely on those British thespians with a background in the Bard for coveted roles. Here are a few you may have heard of:
Ben Whishaw (Q in Skyfall)
Jeremy Irons (Alfred in 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice)
Tom Hiddleston (Loki in The Avengers and Thor)
James McAvory ( Steve McBride in Shameless, X-Men)
Alan Rickman (Harry Potter)
Emily Blunt (Girl on a Train)
Clémence Poesy (Fleur in the Harry Potter films)
Patrick Stewart (Professor Xavier in X-Men films, formerly Jean-Luc Picard)
Felicity Jones (Theory of Everything)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Khan in Star Trek Beyond – sorry, spoiler)
Judi Dench (former M in the James Bond franchise)
John Hurt (Harry Potter films, Hellboy II, the last Indiana Jones)
Maggie Smith, Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh (Harry Potter)
Anthony Hopkins (Odin in Thor)
Ian McKellen (Magneto in X-Men)
Helen Mirren (RED & RED 2)
Kenneth Branagh (director, Thor)
So what are these “mad skills” I am suggesting you develop by learning to play Shakespeare? Without launching into a tome, here are the three biggest:
DECODING AND DELIVERING HEIGHTENED LANGUAGE
We are becoming increasingly accustomed to language short hand – as if texting has seeped into our verbal communication and renders us unable to articulate a full, complex, and emotionally-rich thought. ICYMI. OMG. WTF? ROTFLMAO! Just getting my students to fully embody the interjection “OH!” can be incredibly challenging.
Fact is, we just don’t have a rich tradition of rhetoric in America. The seeming inability of our current political leaders to deliver inspirational addresses is yet another example of our shift away from practicing and honoring the deliciousness of language.
Acting Shakespeare demands that an actor operate at the highest capacity of intellect, emotion, and vocal and physical expressiveness. His characters are intelligent and complex, his themes cover the breadth of humanity’s extremes, his words are evocative, colorful, descriptive and alive in their mere vibration. It’s our job as actors to reach out with those words and grab the audience and, as the great Shakespearean director and co-founder of the Royal Shakespeare company John Barton reminds us in the brilliant series Playing Shakespeare, we must MAKE them listen.
BRINGING YOUR IMAGINATION TO A FULL AND RICH LIFE
Most actors have heard Sanford Meisner’s definition of acting: to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances. And there is no greater playground of imaginary circumstances than Shakespeare’s plots. They are jumbo blockbuster movies, colossal melodramas full of heroes and villains, intrigue, danger, deceit, love, hate, clowning, slapstick, twists, monsters, and magic. Learning to give yourself over to, and splash around in these extreme circumstances and bring them to life is one of the true joys of being an actor.
Patrick Stewart once explained how Shakespeare prepared him for his career: “I think that the experience that we get in making a 400-year-old text work is exactly what you need for giving credibility and believability to fantasy, science fiction, and the like.”1 It’s quite an artistic stretch to get related to a circumstance, like Titania’s in Midsummer Night’s Dream, where she, the queen of the fairies, falls madly in love with a “rude mechanical” (laborer), Bottom, who has the head of a donkey. Or Lavinia’s predicament in Titus Andronicus, where she is violently raped and butchered (tongue cut out and hands cut off) after her lover is murdered. We must “live truthfully” under these circumstances if we are to bring these characters to life for our audience. It’s a tall order indeed.
Let’s remember, too, that Shakespeare’s plays during his time were created upon a bare stage, with minimal props and only functional set pieces. Creating an island, or a majestic throne room of a palace had much more to do with the actors use of their vivid imaginations and language to bring the audience into the setting with them. This skill serves an actor well today when an increasing amount of film work will be acted in front of a green-screen, with digital effects added long after the acting has been captured. An actor’s ability to bring to life what does not exist in reality is vital to a compelling performance.
CONNECTING US TO OUR HUMANITY
As fantastical and outrageous some of Shakespeare’s plots and characters may be, the reason they still resonate 400 years later has to do with their deep understanding and reflection of the human condition. Famed Shakespearean director Trevor Nunn, in an interview with The Telegraph, even argues that the Bard’s themes resonate more than religion: “Shakespeare has more wisdom and insight about our lives, about how to live and how not to live, how to forgive and how to understand our fellow creatures, than any religious tract. One hundred times more than the Bible.”2
Certainly today, any theatergoer experiencing Henry V can feel the reverberation of the consequences and cost of going to war. At the same time, the play Julius Caesar reminds us how the fears of the masses can be exploited and manipulated by unprincipled leaders (presidential politics). Even our teenagers, whose first foray into Shakespeare is most likely Romeo and Juliet, recognize the fatal consequences of feuds and unwarranted hatred between and among human beings (immigrants and refugees).
An actor’s journey, though very personally enlightening, is also demanding in a more universal way. We are the harbingers of humanity’s empathy. We must be willing to explore, discover, and understand the depths of the human condition if we are to invite our audiences to open their eyes with us. If our profession is to be anything more than vanity, we must embrace our role in opening their hearts and minds.
For more information on Shakespeare classes for Hollywood-minded actors, see EMAS’s Playing Shakespeare workshop.
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 8, 2016 /PRNewswire-iReach/ — The Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio (EMAS) is adding “Singing Performance” to their fall schedule taught by Tony Award winning producer of American Idiot and Book of Mormon, Chris Bensinger. This is an 8-week class beginning September 26th. The class runs 8 consecutive Monday evenings at 7pm.
In light of the increase in television and film productions in which singing is a required skill, (Empire, Pitch Perfect, Glee, La La Land) this class has been developed to fill a gap in the Los Angeles acting community for professional singing performance instruction. Limited to 10 students, each singer will work every class. Singing training/experience is strongly encouraged, as this is not a class where students learn to sing, but rather where they strengthen the performance aspect of a song. The final class will be a performance night for invited guests.
Before the Meisner program, I felt like I was stuck in my head and wasn’t able to fully let go. I was intrigued by the Meisner technique’s emphasis on moment-to-moment work. I heard about the Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio (EMAS) through a couple of friends and they both had great things to say about the studio and the Meisner program. My curiosity grew each time they talked about it and wondered what they meant when they said it was ‘hard’. Up to that point I had been lucky enough to have had excellent acting teachers who demanded a lot from their students, but I never considered acting ‘hard’. The more I heard about the program, the more I wanted to see what it was all about. I told myself that I would wait until I was done with school to continue my acting training. Then, I saw my friend in a short film and was blown away by how much her work had grown within just a few months of training at EMAS. I had to check this place out ASAP!
My plan was to do the Meisner summer intensive since I was off from school and then enroll in the 2-year program the following year once I graduated. Ha! Plans changed because I was completely hooked. I learned a lot about acting and life in just those five weeks and was dying to learn more. I finally understood what other students meant when they said it would be hard. This program requires discipline, determination, and the courage to let yourself be seen at your most raw and vulnerable moments. In my experience, the people that leave the program or have negative things to say about it are the ones least willing to be vulnerable and put in the work, which makes them feel attacked when asked to do so. There is no ‘hiding’ behind other characters since you’re basically taking in and experiencing everything as yourself under the imaginary circumstances crafted.
First year is brilliantly designed to help you learn about yourself and your unique point of view. Through the exercises, you develop the highly important skill of listening, the ability to behave truthfully and spontaneously, and the strength to both stand up for yourself and allow yourself to be vulnerable. You become more emotionally available and more confident in your craft. What more could you ask for? If you put in the work, you’ll gain the necessary tools that’ll allow you to do consistently good work. I am now a few months away from completing second year which consists of character work where you learn to adopt different points of view and do impediment work. You get to let your imagination run wild and really have fun! The program also includes on-camera work, the business side of acting, and a showcase at the end to which industry people are invited. The Meisner program has been life-changing and it’s crazy to think that it’s almost over!
But I can’t wrap this all up without talking about the Fitzmaurice voice class which I just finished taking with the incredible Michael Yurchak who is certified in the technique and studied with Catherine Fitzmaurice herself. I am so glad that they added this 12 week course option to my Meisner training. I never really received notes about my voice per se, but I wanted to incorporate this class into my training in order to keep my instrument sharp and have a more conservatory style of training. After all, the Fitzmaurice technique is also taught at NYU, Julliard, and Yale so it clearly has it’s merits. I went into this class not expecting much since it was ‘just’ a voice class, but man, I was wrong! In class you are guided through the sequence, which is a series of positions that usually produce tremors. You ‘destructure’ and ‘restructure’, which allows you to access your full voice without excess effort and tension so that it is more expressive and resonant. The Fitzmaurice class feels like a yoga class except for the fact that everyone is making sound and some people end up having strong emotional reactions (crying, laughing, etc). The sequence helps shake up ‘emotional goo’, as Michael says and is highly effective. It works so quickly, that I always left class feeling grounded, extremely relaxed, and with a more resonant voice. There is a lot to be gained from this class both technically and personally, and it complements the Meisner program nicely.
Overall, the classes offered at EMAS are phenomenal and all of the teachers are amazing. They truly care about their students and everyone is really supportive. You also get to meet a lot of other great people, especially at EMAS events, such as the monthly staged readings, which gives students and alumni a chance to act, direct, and get familiar with more plays. Taking classes here has been one of the greatest investments I have ever made for my career and has been worth every penny!
An alumnus of Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio’s Meisner program, Juliana Mendez is an LA based Actress currently making a name for herself in film and on stage.
I’ve been teaching for about 15 years and I recently got into a conversation with someone who asked, “Why bother training? Isn’t that what instincts are for?”
To me that‘s like asking a spark why it needs kindling to create a fire. Training is your fuel as an actor. The genius of being an artist is that different fuels create very different fires – you the artist must know what the moment demands and then serve it.
The only way to know how different fuels affect you is to try them on for size. This is where I believe the foundation of acting technique is a must for any actor to explore. As new actors begin their journey into their craft how can they tell if they want to study Meisner, Stanislavsky, Stella Adler, Strasberg, etc? Well, they can read about each and every technique out there. Okay, but that’s book smarts. How will you know which affects your fire and sends you soaring? The only way is to try the techniques on for size.
This is why Elizabeth, Michael Yurchak and I created a curriculum developed for this exact exploration. We want to give students a chance to test drive different techniques to see how they work. In our Foundations classes we explore Strasberg, Stanislavsky, Improvisation, Fitzmaurice Voice Technique and Rasa Aesthetics – just to name a few. We ask students to try them on, work within them and then move onto the next. This is a class specifically about trial rather than mastery. We teach individual exercises created to employ aspects of each technique, which allows our actors to actively apply them to scene work. We wouldn’t ever expect a new painter to jump into the Sistine Chapel – but rather to explore their mediums: oils, watercolor, acrylic…are you into realism, pointillism, abstraction?
In this exploration we hope that every actor feels like this is a place where it is safe to fail and to fail brilliantly. They need that safety net where one misstep won’t lose them a job or affect the next moment in their career. They need a place to spread their wings and make mistakes. I truly believe that every mistake or failure is a beautiful opportunity for growth. Mistakes are our greatest teachers. We fix those mistakes through repeat practice. Most of the time when everything clicks into place for an actor and you ask them, “What happened?” Their response will undoubtedly be “I don’t know.” So we have to create a muscle memory in the studio of what works vs. what doesn’t. Our class is where student actors can rehearse techniques over and over again. That way when the lights are on and the camera is rolling our artist instincts can click in and we can surrender to the ride.
Once a student has experienced all the different exercises and techniques we teach, then they can decide if there is one they would like to explore in more depth. In the end all the techniques work on each actor differently. We are all artists with our own points of view and this uniqueness is what makes each of us extremely castable. We just need to develop our tool-box to call upon whatever the moment demands. And the only way to build those tools is to train. Training is the kindling that lights the flame.
An alumnus of EMAS LA, Jordana Oberman currently teaches the Meisner Technique at the studio. Jordana’s career as a working actor has taken her back and forth between New York and Los Angeles working in Theatre, Television, and Film. See her staff bio here, or see more on IMDB
The Oscars are almost here – a time of year when everyone looks back takes some time to contemplate on their favorite movies and performances of the past year. From academy members to cinephiles to casual moviegoers, everyone has their own opinion about which work merits recognition.
Getting in the spirit of things, we asked our staff of acting instructors to share their thoughts on which films and actors impressed them the most in 2015. Below are their votes for the 87th Academy Awards:
Best Leading Actor: Eddie Redmayne Best Leading Actress: Brie Larson Best Supporting Actor: Mark Rylance Best Supporting Actress: Kate winslet Best Film: Spotlight Best Direction: The Revenant Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Best Leading Actor: Leonardo Di Caprio – just for shooting conditions alone (I also really liked Matt Damon) Best Leading Actress: Saoirse Ronan – a beautiful heartfelt performance Best Supporting Actor: Mark Ruffalo – I like him in everything Best Supporting Actress: Rooney Mara is the very soul Carol Best Film:Spotlight – it worked on every level Best Direction: George Miller – a great achievement so late in a long career [Mad Max: Fury Road]
Best Leading Actor: Leonardo Di Caprio or Michael Fassbender Best Leading Actress: Brie Larson Best Supporting Actor: Mark Rylance Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vykander or Kate Winslet Best Film: The Revenant Best Direction: Alejandro Iñárritu
Best Leading Actress: I’m going with Brie Larson. She won the Golden Globe for Room. Her performance was raw, and powerful. She’s new, even though she’s been working for over 20 years. Ha! Room is just the sort of movie the Academy gives Oscars to. Best Leading Actor: I’m going with Leonardo Di Caprio. He’s overdue. His body of work is remarkable and he hasn’t won an Oscar yet. And he was incredibly good in The Revenant. Best Film:The Revenant, Alejandro Iñárritu won last year for Birman and, as crazy as it sounds, I think he could win again. Best Direction: Alejandro Iñárritu, The Revenant is just so cinematically magnificent and, like Birdman,left me asking “How did he do that?”
Best Leading Actor: Leonardo Di Caprio Best Leading Actress: Brie Larson Best Supporting Actor: Mark Ruffalo Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander Best Film: Spotlight Best Direction: Alejandro Iñárritu
Have your own thoughts on who did the best movie work of 2015? Let us know what you think!