This past fall I was given the opportunity to both intern with and study at the Institute. I will graduate from Ohio Wesleyan University in May 2014, and my college’s New York Arts Program gives students the opportunity to spend a semester off campus in New York City undertaking internships that match our professional interests. As I began to do research on the Institute I was fascinated by the dedication to preserving Lee Strasberg’s Method and legacy and when I met members of the staff and faculty their passion for theatre and Lee Strasberg’s legacy was both very clear and very admirable. I felt immediately that this was the place I wanted to be, and I was lucky enough to be given the internship.
Though I was only enrolled for twelve weeks, I learned a great deal in my time there. We were challenged to be honest, daring, and open to whatever happens in the classroom and most importantly to never doubt ourselves. One of the most important things I learned is that in order to cultivate your talent, you must first trust in your talent. The Method is based on working from the inside, from who we are at our core—trusting, loving, and accepting everything that makes us who we are gives us the confidence to utilize it in our work. Hard work and discipline is key at Strasberg, but the faculty is so dedicated to each student’s success that there is always a support system to help and inspire you.
My time interning at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute has been incredibly valuable. I have learned a great deal about the Method that works for me as an artist and I feel confident in my abilities to apply the sensory work and relaxation outside of the classroom. I can honestly say that I never had a bad day and I was never unhappy to be there. The staff’s enthusiasm is absolutely contagious, and I can only hope that as an intern I became an asset to their office. The memories I made at LSTFI are ones I will always cherish—it’s one of the most magical places I’ve ever had the privilege to be in, and truly felt like home.
I arrived at Strasberg Los Angeles after 18 years UK military service and a life-time dream to be an actor. Two years later I graduated from the Two-Year Conservatory having performed in the school’s Industry showcase and having worked in the invite-only acting class. It was never easy, it was often frustrating, exhausting and tearful but the opportunities and support are always there if you are dedicated and work hard.
All my teachers and the support staff (Marian Tomas-Griffin in particular) unceasingly provided apposite guidance not only when I sought it, but also when I didn’t know I needed it. Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give is, that in a town overflowing with acting classes, when I return to Los Angeles, my first stop will be Strasberg LA where I hope I can find a place in The Lee Theatre with Hedy Sonntag and Studio One with Marno. I can think of no better way, place, or people with whom I would prefer to invest my money and my time.
People usually associate acting with the glamor, the flashes, the red carpets. Nurturing the craft of acting doesn’t have anything to do with the prestige, but requires instead to get your hands in the dirt and dig deep, which isn’t always charming. The greatest thing that a school could teach is to unravel all the external layer and allow the actor to reach the most hidden point of human behavior – and this is what is taught at Strasberg.
Here, the actor is required to be absolutely honest, to have loads of courage, and to allow himself to put aside any judgement – about himself, the character, the script and other people’s craft. To learn how not to hide behind the idea of how a scene should be, but, rather, learn to trust and follow the actions of that scene.
If the actor commits to a truthful acting, he will learn, with time, to accept any aspect of his personality, to embrace anything of himself that can make him different from others and also special among them. He will eventually experience that being less perfect leads to being more real, both as an actor and as an individual.
In our modern education system we are constantly told that we are not enough. That we are not this, that we are not that. That we should be more like him or more like her and that what we feel and what we have lived through pales into insignificance compared to the others who have gone before us. Although this might be very informative and may be very “educational” and good for us it very often does not give one the confidence or inspiration to break the mold.
Fortunately this is not the case at Strasberg. All that you will be asked for at The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute is that firstly you work hard and most importantly that you be truthful. A teacher of mine at the school once told us that Lee Strasberg was the first person who made him feel that he was enough and that he was all he needed to be. That same teacher made me feel the same way and thus inspired an inner confidence in me that in this fast moving, crazy, maybe ridiculous industry is worth its weight in gold, and, more importantly, is a very rare and precious thing indeed. So to the wonderful teachers and people at Strasberg – simply thank you!
After two years at The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, I am truly a more grounded, determined and confident person. But it’s not something I have become. I have discovered what I have always been, through the relaxation og sense memory exercises. I have learned to take risks and to break away from doubt, limitation, inhibitions, habits and patterns, to discover my true potential. The teachers have always given me the encouragement and constructive feedback I need to feel safe and grow, and as they all have different approaches to the method, they inspired me in different ways that made it easier to understand and approach the techniques. Being able to tailor your own schedule and choose within a vast variation of classes to learn about script analysis, theatre theory and history, character work, scene work, improvisation, movement and acting both for camera and for stage, also made it easier to develop according to my own individual needs.
By trusting yourself, behaving truthfully in the moment within the specific elements of the craft, and using your own vivid life experiences and personality to relate to the work, you will stay inspired and able to tell real, belieavable, approachable and relatable stories. I believe an actor is never finished training, as we are never finished discovering, experiencing, growing, learning and living. But The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute has helped me begin my path in the professional business with the confidence I need and the ability to believe.
“The experience has truly been incredible! The level of commitment and determination that the staff puts in is admirable and commendable beyond expression! Let me say with the utmost sincerity that I have never been part of a school where the staff is as relentless and passionate as Lee Strasberg was with promoting this universal and timeless method of acting.
My time here has made me reveal such incredible inner truths about myself; certain realities that I thought never existed and indeed thought I could never release. This was life changing and I have only the staff to thank!
This school has taught me to never judge a character that you are playing. Always approach a character objectively and learn to appreciate whom you are playing. Because the more you learn to appreciate that individual, the easier you’ll find it to play him and therefore portray him more sincerely.”
Sybille T.C Wehrli
“Charlie Chaplin once said: ‘We think too much, and feel too little’, well at The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute we learn to be in touch with those neglected feelings. I came here thinking I knew it all about acting, indeed I’ve never felt so grateful to be so wrong. My time at the Institute was a life changing experience, a revival. The teachers just know what they do, and how to do it. Every single one of them has the passion, inspiration and experience to teach you the method in the way Lee Strasberg would have wanted his Institution to carry. I feel honored to be part now of that heritage that I cherish as the most important training of my 15 years Theater Arts study. The enviroment is propitious to the growth of any actor coming with the will to become better. I believe I have become a better actress, more confident, as I leave with the determination, fearlessness to enter the industry fully. I am also convinced to depart being a better person, keeping the humility that the Method implants in you: ‘You can always be better, so never stops the work.’ And for that, I can only say; thank you!”
“I knew that going into this industry, it wasn’t going to be an easy path ahead. I knew there’d be many tests, trials and tribulations along the way, (as there is I am sure with any career) but I do however know that each day so far, thanks to The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, it has been worth every second of every day. The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute has tested my patience and dedication to my art, leaving me to graduate as a more determined, focused and hard-working actor. The Method has trialled my admittance of my past, faith in the present and my ability to trust my future, leaving me with more passion for my art than I could have ever imagined. The tribulations we face that can be as simple as learning lines, meeting and working with fellow actors, or simple self discovery have helped me design an incredible tool box that I will take on my forthcoming journey. Thank you for the many performance opportunities I have had at the Lee Strasberg Institute, thank you to the incredible inspiring teachers I have had the privilege to work with and most of all, thank you Lee Strasberg for installing in me the knowledge, courage and faith required to be a proud, confident and ‘ready’ Method actor.”
“Attending The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute was a decision which I do not regret. The time I have spent at Strasberg Institute has helped me grow and reach new levels within my acting. I feel like I am able to delve into new depths of myself to really live on stage and not just act. Being able to incorporate “The Method” that Lee Strasberg has spent his life perfecting is an invaluable asset to my skill set as an actor. With many of the teachers actually having studied under Lee Strasberg, their grasp of his Method is uncanny.
However looking back upon my experiences at the Institute, I realize that I have not only made strides within my craft, but I have also matured as a person along the way.”
“As Mel Gussow wrote: “Strasberg revolutionized the art of acting and had a profound influence on performance in American Theatre and movies.” The Method drastically changed my life as a human being and actor. One of the main “rules” I have learned about this incredible technique is “You can only go out as far as you go in.” The deeper I explored and used my personal experiences, the more genuine and profound my acting becomes. The interesting aspect of this school is that you have this privileged opportunity to study with teachers who were directly taught by Lee Strasberg. Therefore, you discover the technique the way Lee Strasberg use to teach it at the Actors Studio.
The Two-Year Certificate Program is a wonderful journey for any person who wants to deepen his or her acting and be at peace with personal fears. It helped me open doors I would probably never have explored because of fear. Thank you to Irma Sandrey, Geoffrey Horne, and Paul Calderon who accompanied me to reach these places.
One word: Unforgettable!”
“There is a difference between practice and talent. Practice is what makes your talent better, and talent is what makes your practice a self-discovery process along with a journey that I will never forget.
The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute represents for myself an institute, along with its teachers, a balanced system of classes, where, has little three months, I began to understand and feel ok, not only myself, but “method acting” as well.
Today, not only do I feel more comfortable in my own skin, but also in any skin that I create as an actor. This would only be possible by having a great institute that is able to draw the talent out of its students. The craft of an actor is built like an assembly process, piece by piece, until it is complete.”
“What separates the Lee Strasberg Institute from the usual impression one gets from a ‘conservatory,’ is its impact on the maturing artist. The Institute gives young talent the tools not only to be a great actor in the present, but to evolve and adapt until the ‘Method’ becomes second nature. When you can apply what you learned five, ten or twenty years ago, into your living craft, then you can appreciate how successful your training was. This is the type of training that the Institute offers.”
Premiere photo from Two Days ‘til Dawn opening at the Gene Frankel Theatre, taken by Chris Vongsawat
“Passion – the one word that best describes the atmosphere of The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute: passion amongst students and staff alike for the craft of acting. Never before had I stepped foot into an institute that had such contagious enthusiasm for show business. The second I entered the institute, I could feel its infectious energy and decided right then and there that this was where my career would skyrocket.
During my time here, I have grown on multiple levels. Not only do I credit the Institute for the advances in my acting career, but also for my view of the performing arts and technique. My training has encouraged me to delve into the performance, supplying me with the tools to do so. It has allowed me to realize my full potential as an actor and taught me how to literally become the characters that I play. Most of all, the school has allowed me to experiment, while sharpening my strengths.
To close, I would like to stress that the institute has done the impossible job of maintaining the ideals that Lee Strasberg himself created. It is composed of educated and passionate staff and equally passionate students who come together and become a family of actors. “
“The most important lesson that I have learned at Strasberg is how to relate the character I am playing to a real life experience, in other words, to make it more ‘real’. We do a lot of work on different scenes each term, along with improvisation. Also, as we get older, we learn more sensory/relaxation methods. For example, just recently we did an imaginary circumstance in which we had to imagine being ‘taken away’ from our families. In response, I began to cry because of the devastating thought. It made me realize that I could use the emotions from the exercise in my acting in the future. It was a great learning experience.”
“I can say that going to The Lee Strasberg Institute was one of the best things I’ve decided to do in my life! It is for sure the best place to study acting. The teachers are amazing; they treat everyone the same way and as professionals. I am proud to say that there is a ‘me’ before and after going to the school. I’ve grown so much, not just as an actress, but also as a person. I’ve made so many good friends, whom I know I’ll never forget and will cherish forever. And there are so many people from around the world, so that you get to be close to a variety of different cultures. Not to mention that New York is awesome! The only bad thing I can say is that your time in the school passes by way too fast! I’m completing my first year at the school and hope that I can return one day in the future. It has been the most important and amazing thing in my life and I recommend it to everybody!”
“You just saw the latest Harry Potter movie, right? After a couple of minutes of awe and wonder, you say, ‘How did they do that?’ or ‘I want to be like them when I grow up’. What you don’t think is, ‘What exercises did he do to achieve that?’ I love that at Lee Strasberg, they combine the exercises like relaxation, where you shake out you limbs to pin-point any pressure, with the sort of juicy exercises that get you mind flowing and spill your emotions into a scene. Through exercises like smelling fruit or feeling an object, we learn to ‘express, not show.’ Even the simplest thing, like letting out an ‘ahhhhhhh’ sound can enhance your vocal ability.”
“What I like most about my acting class on Saturday is that the teachers brilliantly combine vocal and mental exercises with improvisational acting, in a fun and effective way. We always start the class with a vocal warm up, then relaxation, calming our bodies’ muscles to be able to freely express them, without having tensions that don’t help the scene. Then we have sense memory-practicing re-creating memoires, to be able to access the real emotions and feelings in a scene. This is the key to acting-that acting should be like breathing, it should pure and natural. Sense memory helps build this purity.”
“The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film institute has really helped me progress as an actor and director. The sensory exercises have taught me a lot about myself, which has enabled me to relate to characters more fully. I have learned how to break down and analyze plays and characters, which ultimately allowed me to understand and play characters more fully. Even if the character is far from you, the teachers help you find a way to play the character truthfully, while staying within the parameters of the play. The teachers’ expertise and passion help you take your art to the highest level possible. The teachers are helpful and approachable, and they allow you to be yourself. The school teaches you to do what all actors have done when acting well-living truthfully under imaginary circumstances.”
“The most important lesson I have learned at Strasberg is to always remain in the moment while acting, which pairs with the idea of always being authentic and honest. This lesson has been instilled in me since I started taking classes at Strasberg, and is something that I feel is crucial in all my acting and performances, and also something that I have tried to carry into my daily life… Though throughout the years I have had many different teachers, I learn for the most part, from familiar faces. Being able to work with the same teachers over and over again has given me good relationships with many of them, and a security and comfort in knowing that I can comfortably experiment and explore.”
“The people at this school are very supportive, which I think is very important as it helps to create an environment in which you can truly feel safe. This gives an actor the freedom to try new things that could either work very well or make you fall flat on your face. I think this is very important for an actor. I also love the way the classes are set up to provide you with the exercises Lee developed to help train one’s craft, and then you are able to put into practice what you have learned with scene work.
My concentration was poor when I first arrived at this school, and for an actor this is the key. This school helped my concentration develop consistently with these classes. Lee’s exercises also helped to unlock whatever raw ability I had and also exposed what I need to work on. I can safely say that these classes helped me to have instant access to my own strong experiences in life that had heightened emotional states. I don’t think you can ever master anything in acting, but what these classes did do was to help me gain access to them.”
“Every artist needs a family, a home, a place which will enable him to sprout, unfold and blossom.
The entire Strasberg faculty is to be commended for never letting the profound work of Lee Strasberg to fall into oblivion and therefore always remain unique. My sincere respect goes to them for that admirable dedication.
The Lee Strasberg Institute has become my second home and it is an immense honor for me to be a part of this passionate family who gives me warmth, inspiration and encouragement in mastering and nurturing the craft of acting.”