Moving To A New Home

Hello Everyone!

Starting on January 1st 2011 I will be putting all my articles onto my Blog at The Playground instead of on this site. I’ll have the same great insight gained from over 20 years of coaching young performers, it will just be in a different place. Please join me at

The Playground Los Angeles Blog!

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Why Formal Training Is Important For Actors – an essay by Gary Spatz

Hello all…

Portrait of Gary Spatz, Acting Coach, taken in November of 2010

Gary Spatz

In my last post I spoke about the necessity for passion which is the bedrock for any artist and the engine that drives them to achieve.

Today I wish to talk about training. Once you realize you have an enthusiasm for acting one must acquire a skill-set and this takes training, as with any performing arts discipline (dance, singing, or acting). This training can come in different forms and not just acting workshops or theatrical experiences (local plays, dance classes, etc.,). A background in gymnastics, martial arts, or sports also help the young student actor to focus their mind and energies into a performance. Eventually a young student actor must take the steps to work on the specific skills they must have to understand the craft of acting. Look for acting classes and workshops that allow you to exercise your creative muscles and not just your imagination. The physical side needs attention too, such as vocal warm ups, articulation, relaxation. Eventually the two come together when working on improvisation and scene study.

As with any craft, there is an apprenticeship that takes place. That word comes from American and European history, of a long-standing policy where young men apprenticed from a very young age (8,9,10 yrs. old) for seven years with a master craftsman. It might be a printer or a carpenter, but in those years the apprentice would learn the craft until they became a journeymen and had the prerequisite skills to perform that craft. Now here we are in the twenty-first century, but it is still important to recognize the discipline of learning a craft. Eventually good habits are instilled in a novice acting student, such as truly listening and being in the moment – so that one can respond genuinely. Also, an understanding of the importance of making specific choices about the material and making these choices personal. This process helps one understands the physical and emotional “imaginary” circumstances inherent in the material.

Once all these good habits come together with practice and repetition, they eventually will form the foundation for an actors technique. Technique is a collection of good habits that each artist develops for themselves, and that is their way of approaching and executing talent. It’s true in dance, song, and playing a musical instrument. One must develop a technique. For an actor, and this has been said many times before – their “instrument” is themselves. An actor uses their body, mind and spirit to inhabit a character to create the authentic emotional and physical life of that role. “Living truthfully under imaginary circumstances” is in effect the goal every actor should be trying to reach. What we are talking about here is human behavior and how that is manifested in a character.

This happens through the specific choices the actor makes regarding their character. Making the choice obviously is not enough. The real training comes when an actor is able to gives themselves permission to believe that specific choice. For example, the scene calls for the character to be alone in a grave yard. That is not specific enough. Adding that it is graveyard at midnight. Now we are getting somewhere. And it’s Halloween on a full moon. Right away these choices should begin to create a certain mood inside the character. This will manifest itself in the behavior of the character that is expressed on the stage or screen. Even before the first line of dialogue, that actor is in a specific time and place. This is just one of many choices the actor must make throughout the scene. We will get into more specific details about making choices in the next blog.

Eventually everything we are talking about regarding the various skills and techniques that an actor acquires over time, comes about through training. I believe in the common sense idea that in order to do something well, one must practice the skills and focus their energy with all their heart. I believe this is true, whether your learning to play soccer, or basketball, the guitar, or dance on stage, and I certainly believe it’s true when it comes to the craft of acting.

This is the reason I created The Playground in the first place. A place where young students could learn the craft and enjoy the process. It’s important that this be a joyful experience.  Parents, keep checking in with your young actors to make sure that they are challenged, engaged and nurtured throughout this adventure. NOW GO PLAY!

Passion of the Young Performer – Editorial Comment by Gary Spatz

Hello Everyone!

What follows is the first entry in my blog. This whole endeavor is an attempt to create a series of “open letters to young actors”… Anyway, here’s the first ‘letter’.

In later posts I will be addressing everything from “creative play” to “the childlike art of acting”. But, as I’ve said to everyone that ever asks – I believe everything begins with one primary enthusiasm – a passion to learn.

I hope you enjoy reading these in the coming months (and years) – please let me know what you think!

Thanks,

Gary

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Portrait of Gary Spatz

Gary Spatz

Passion is the essential quality any young performer must possess to be successful at their art.

I believe learning any art form begins with an individual’s desire to express themselves. It may be through music for some, or dance for others but, for me, it’s been through teaching the craft of acting. However, before any artist can get an opportunity to share their talent, they will need to develop a skill set. Those skills allow you to be confident in your performances. And passion is the engine that drives a young performer to learn these skills.

For the beginning actor, it’s about creating good habits in classes ( workshops, play rehearsals, etc.) This will eventually allow the student/actor to develop a personal technique – a way of working on their craft. Technique is just a collection of good habits the student has created for themselves over time. I’ll get more specific in later posts about the development of technique – which eventually becomes very personal for each individual actor. But without passion, a young student won’t put in the necessary time and energy to develop their technique.

Whenever someone contacts me about getting involved with the world of acting, the first question I usually ask: ‘Is this something you really, really want to do?’ Of course, I’m sometimes talking to parents who ask on behalf of their children so the question becomes about the child’s desire.

Let me be very clear about something. Sometimes we’re just talking about exploring acting as a way of building a young person’s confidence and ability to express themselves. That’s a terrific goal and it, along with and other communication skills (like listening, focusing, memorization, and reading skills) are a by-product of studying this particular craft. For most parents, that’s all they’re looking for. Not that their child will pursue acting professionally.

But if someone, of any age, plans to sincerely take this path with an intent to become a professional actor, the industry expects you to have very specific skills. An actor, like a professional athlete must have the ability to perform on cue, at a specific time regardless of whether the actor is 7, 17, or 57. That’s what they’re being paid to do. The dedication to perform “on demand” requires a real commitment from the actor, and that commitment can only come from passion.

Some outtakes from a TV Guide Channel interview

Here is a video with some outtakes of a Q&A session that I did a while back with TV Guide Channel. Lots of good stuff in here to whet your appetite!


Who is Gary Spatz?

Gary Spatz is one of the most respected acting teachers for children in the United States. He regularly coaches actors for auditions and callbacks for feature films and episodic television.

Gary’s been teaching classes for children and teens for over 20 years. Gary Spatz has completed his third season as the acting coach for Dylan and Cole Sprouse, the stars of the hit Disney Channel series “the Suite Life of Zack and Cody”.In the past, Gary has served as the Children’s acting coach for many television productions, including the Emmy award winning CBS sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond”, “Rosanne”, “Sister, Sister”, “The Jeff Foxworthy Show”, and “The Smart Guy”.

It has been Gary’s privilege and pleasure to work with some the best and brightest kids in the world of entertainment over the past 20 years. This web site highlights some of his adventures as a teacher, and as an on-set acting coach for several TV series. Gary feels blessed to have had the opportunity to support the evolution of all the young talent that has come his way and it has been very exciting process to witness.

Whether his students become professional actors, writers, directors, musicians, dancers, or painters, his goal as a mentor is to nurture the creative source and be a positive influence.