Sunday, November 3, 2019

3-2-1 Acting Studios


Well, we are in Pasadena California, a few minutes from the Hollywood Hills so what did you expect me to write about, another Museum?  

Seriously, we are visiting our brand new grand child but another birth does not stop the business of Hollywood.  99.9% of actors have a lot of down time between gigs and wish to continue to earn a living and contribute to their community.  So it is with our actor son, Hunter.  Therefore, twice a week he teaches at 3-2-1 Acting Studios and we have joined as spectators  for some of these sessions.


The studio was founded in 2007 by Mae Ross, known in-house as Miss Mae, as a place for kids to get the rudiments of acting.  Of course, I am always wondering where do the students for a children’s acting school come from. Is it the ambitions of loving parents who see their children as stars or do the kids themselves want to be like those who they idealize from stage or screen?

These students  are of all ages and our son works with the teens, age 12 to 18.  By this time one can see how serious they are. Some will just  gain skills through lessons in acting while others are serious about pursuing it as a profession.  After the class we saw, one father was asking Hunter if he would tutor his child for an audition  she was going to have in a few days time.  Of course, any such request within the school had to go through proper channels.

The class starts out with warm ups where they need to quickly come up with an action that someone else has to imitate and then immediately come up with something that the next person has to do.  Another exercise is called Zip Zap Zop where you quickly say one of those words hands pointing to someone else in your circle who must continue without  pause. Then, What Are You Doing?  Lessons for quick thinking on your feet.  You have to take up an action (for instance brushing your teeth) and when asked by the next student “What are you doing” you must reply with something completely different (mowing the lawn) without stopping tooth-brushing. The next person must act out  the verbal cue (mowing) and repeat the process. This forces the student to do one thing and verbalize another.  These are lessons for quick thinking on your feet, as well as improv and relating to your fellow actors.


After these warm-up games  they are given a fundamental  acting principle  to think about. What every student has to remember is— Who? (Who are you, what is your role) What? (What is your motivation) Where? (Literally, where are you located) Why? (Why are you where you are and with what motive) When? (What time period are you working in.)

If a student has an audition coming up they can bring their sides (scripts) and Hunter will help them rehearse and give notes for that piece.  If the student has nothing special to work on they are paired with a partner and given a short script which Hunter  picks out from a pile prepared for his students.  They  are  given 10 minutes to rehearse the piece before returning to perform and  watch each other  in turn.   We watched one impressive student deal with a script that had her being interrogated by an investigator and  confessing to drowning  the class bully.  The scene ended with her turning  to her (invisible) mother to plead “I am #1 now, aren’t you happy for me?”  I quote this line to show the kind of emotion that has to be demonstrated in the piece.


After each pair has done their bit the way they conceived it, Hunter gives them notes on how they might improve their performance and what their motives might be. He then films each vignette, plays it back to them, often with their parents present.


When I asked Hunter whether the children of working actors attended, he said only a few, because the school is not near to where most actors live.  I also wanted to know if any of these kids ever worked in the biz and he said that some actually did.  One acting coach that Hunter interviewed with when he was starting out said that you get one role out of every 100 auditions and that sounds like an accurate description, unless you get a break, which most actors don’t.  Talent, of course, is important but just as important is being in the right place at the right time- and having good basic training in the art form at an early age doesn’t hurt.

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