No Recipes: Whatever Works.

Can you imagine if you went for a really expensive haircut and found out that everyone else, no matter how different they were, all received exactly the same hairstyle? And when you complained, you were told to keep coming back and getting the same cut, and that after 2 years, it'd all "come together"? Well, this is exactly what happened to a student of mine who happens to be a single mother. Check out this email I received from her not too long ago:

"I took the summer intensive at the ________ Studio. It was super expensive, and after paying for my son's camp, I used the rest of my savings to pay for it because I figured I needed to get back to studying in some way, shape or form. Anyway, I had a hard time with the method. I sucked and I know the teacher thought I did as well. But I wanted to tell her I'm capable of better, it's just that I was trying to stay true to their method and it was not working for me. They said, however, that if you continue with the 2 year program it will all come together."

This makes me furious. This is why Stanislavski said "No recipes; whatever works." How dare they take this young woman's savings and not only disrespect her individuality by trying to force her talent into some cookie-cutter mold, but also make her feel bad about her work. On top of which they want to take still more of her money. Training should adapt to the actor, not the other way around. And any training worth its salt should not take 2 years and a summer to bear fruit. Training should be practical and immediately useful, not fetishistic and one-size-fits-all.

If the actor's not improving, it's up to the teacher to change methods and arrive at a way that will work . What a poverty of imagination, what a rigid, punitive way to work, wherein, subtly, the actor's made to feel that it's their problem the "method's" not working. Those teachers should enlarge their own tool belt. Having only one way of working, they condemn all the unique actors who come to them to the same hair-cutting nightmare I spoke of earlier.

I know it's always alot easier when there's a recipe, but there can never, ever be recipes for human beings! And, last time I checked, actors are human beings (that famous movie repsonse :"Oh, yeah? Have you ever eaten with one?" notwithstanding.)

Teachers: each actor that comes before you is a unique event in the universe, a treasure chest it is your responsibility to figure out how to unlock. If you have only one way of working, then I feel sorry for you, for one way will never be remotely sufficicient for the needs of the bewildering variety of talent you will encounter. But to thrust your limitations on others again and again, now matter how different each actor is, is to damage their talent and to shame your calling. Enlarge your menu, don't shrink the talent with which you've been entrusted.

Would you really want to pay alot for a hairstyle that's totally wrong for your face?