Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Craft...An Inside Look

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the door of an acting class?

I can tell you that first and foremost an acting class is a place of discovery. It's a magical, sacred sanctuary where once you are inside the room, nothing else outside that door exists. You always leave with some nugget of wisdom or moment of truth, even if it's just to laugh at yourself after having tried something and failed.

A truly gifted acting teacher can impart wisdom and help cultivate an actor's raw talents to perform this 2,000 year old craft to the fullest. Adam Hill is one of these teachers.

"Know that you cannot be hurt by growth," he says in one of his class lectures. I have been invited to observe his class to write about Adam, a respected new member of our entertainment industry here in Las Vegas (by way of New York and Los Angeles).

Adam Hill
 Adam has taught and performed for many years. He knows that when you explore a performing art such as acting, you are delving into many facets of the mind, body and senses and the philosophy and psychology of all combined. You have to be able to trust your instructor not to twist you into an emotional pretzel but to guide you to find your inner depth and talent, whatever that may be.

Like a number of fortunate actors and teachers before him, Adam studied with Stella Adler. As an actor he says that he was not nervous for auditions because he trusted his training and script analysis.  However this does not mean you don't have to prepare. Everyone must in order to bring a character to life. To do this you must create what is called a backstory. An example of this as explained by Adam is when we meet Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire...

"She is in a very unhappy, unrewarding period in her life when we see her in Streetcar. But the actress playing her needs to know those moments when she was happy, and what were those moments when she was joyful, when she was young and spirited.... when she believed that life held a wonderful adventure for her, before she became so disillusioned and became the Blanche that we see in the play. The actress needs to know those things. All this needs to be imagined and felt in order to bring her character to life."  

Adam goes on to say..."You need to look at your imagination like a muscle. It needs be to worked."

Adam's lecture on creating a backstory is one of the best I've ever seen. If you want a spend a few minutes with a true master acting teacher, I have included the link at the end of this story.

On a few recent nights in Las Vegas, I joined Adam and several actors to observe his class.

In a scene with actors/students Isabelle and Don, Isabelle's character is finishing a conversation with her criminal sociopath ex husband. Having to hide what she knows about his crimes, she has managed to contain herself until the end. As she is getting up to leave, he asks where she is going and if he can come along. At that point her hands start shaking as she nods her head and stands to go. I asked her after the scene if she remembered her hands were shaking, and if it was from being nervous or for the character, but she didn't even remember them shaking. It just happened...because she was living the character. Beautiful!

Comedy is also studied in Craft Acting Studio. In the scene below, a detective has just arrived at the character's office and is about to start questioning her regarding her missing boss. The first time around the scene works, but not nearly as well as it could. Adam suggests the actors speed it up...interrupt and speak over each other, like in real life. After this adjustment is made, the actors are able to let the characters the writer created show through and the laughs start to come.

Corinna Harney-Jones & Don Creque, Craft Acting Workshop, Las Vegas

Craft Acting Studio Las Vegas is a collaboration of Adam Hill and Actor Brad Garrett.  Special thanks to all actors from both classes, Jim, Charlene, Don, Isabelle, Joan, Corinna, Dee, Jane and Barbara.

"Adam, I was in your class when I was 19 years old and you said to me, 'you're getting angry. In comedy you can't be angry you can only be frustrated.'  I never forgot that. It was one of the best tips you ever gave me because when I was playing Gleason he was really just a big kid having a tantrum for not getting his way." .....Brad Garrett

"Craft" Acting Studio Website Acting School by Adam Hill and Brad Garrett

"Stages".....a new documentary by Adam Hill, Brad Garrett and Michael Schreiber.

Adam Hill is conducting a special weekend intensive on
Script Analysis for Actors, to be held in Las Vegas August 23 and 24, 2013.
For more information email him at


"Craft" Acting Studio Website Acting School by Adam Hill and Brad Garrett

For more information email or content by Adam Hill and Michael Schreiber

About Adam Hill...Excerpt from below:

Adam Hill has performed extensively on Broadway, Off-Broadway, in regional theatre, in touring companies, and in film and television.  He has directed over 50 productions coast-to-coast, including at Off-Broadway theatres.  In 1985 Adam opened the Adam Hill Actor’s Studio in Los Angeles.  In 1995, he accepted a position at Wilkes University (PA) to establish a professional theatre program.  In 2005, Adam started a professional actor’s class in NYC and now in 2013 he brings his passion for teaching to the Las Vegas acting community.  Adam has taught some of the bright stars of the theatre and film world including Heather Locklear, Laura Dern, Brad Garrett, and Doug Savant.  He is the author of Beyond the Moon, An Acting Manual, and You Got the Job! a guide to getting work in the industry. 

Adam Hill on Backstory...NYC actors workshop

Anna Wendt. Copyright 2013