I am a beginning actor who is interested in LA based training. I have been researching and talking to friends about various acting schools. Some friends of mine are saying that the Stephen Book workshop is great because it brings improv to acting. However, some of my friends have taken the workshop with Larry Drake and dropped out saying it is not worth it although cheaper. Unfortunately, I don't think I can audit classes or I would. Any opinions on the workshop? Is it as cracked up to be but depends on the teacher? Should I take classes with Stephen or does it make a difference? I keep hearing great things, but like many actors, money does not come easily to me.
Thank you Truthteller for your time on this. This is really revealing. I have spent hours researching on the workshop, even read the book, and I hear great reviews... only, which is very strange. I have only seen one bad review saying on how the teacher is very dogmatic. It was slightly fishy to me that people I knew were saying counter comments to the good reviews. If anyone has any comments on this workshop, I am all ears. Plus this could be very telling on the reviews.
I've taken Stephen Book's Improvisation Technique class all the way through with Stephen himself. I also know people who have taken the class with Larry Drake. Typically you need to get on a waiting list; classes (both Stephen's and Larry's) open up at the same time. There is no audit, so you can't attend to see what it's like in detail. On the other hand, that works to your advantage because you don't have visitors gawking at you when you're trying to do good work and take risks. Once a class begins, no newbies are added. The only exception is that if someone drops out part way through, they may pick up later where they left off (with another group when that group reaches the same point in the curriculum). You can attend a free seminar in which Stephen tells you how classes work, and he does a little song and dance about how good the class is and what advantages he thinks his technique offers over many other options available in Hollywood. If you're interested in it, I'd recommend that you go to the seminar and see what you think of Stephen and what he has to say in person. He teaches what you've become familiar with if you've read "Book on Acting," and more that isn't in the book. A lot of his technique was developed as a result of his experience with Viola Spolin, although he has also developed his own style, emphasis and etc. An important point is that the class is sequential: later parts build on earlier parts.
If you choose to take the class, I highly recommend that you go into it eager to stick with it and learn everything you can. Some people drop out too early to really "get it." When I took it, I was very clear about wanting to develop my *own* acting technique using the tools I could study in class. I didn't want to be one of the multitude of actors who can't do a good job without calling their teacher to help them make every little decision.
If you approach it prepared to take real risks while also respecting the craft of acting, you can learn a lot. Reading the book isn't at all the same as being guided through the exercises and doing the work on the floor yourself week after week. No one can predict what inner obstacles you may or may not discover, but the emotion work you do in this class will point out any emotional blocks you have. Not everyone "succeeds" at it, but the class includes training in learning to cry on cue. I learned to do so myself and I'm not the only one. As for whether to take from Larry or Stephen, that's a decision probably best left to yourself and Stephen. If he thinks you're up to it, then you get to decide. He may require you to audition before he decides. Or perhaps you'll choose to go with Larry based on that little voice inside you. I suggest you notice what goes on inside you - your intuition is not only significant -- it's a big part of what acting is all about.
Posts: 1 | Location: Los Angeles area | Registered: August 26, 2012
Thank you for your response. I am very intrigued. As a matter of fact, like I said, I have heard good and bad reviews. The problem is that when I asked about what goes on in the class. Some of my friends who are with Larry say that he does not delve too much into a discussion about the work and he always reads from the book. He even leaves some work undiscussed and assumes that the students understand. I haven't asked the students who took Stephen but they always say he is great. Does he advocate and practice this style of teaching as well? I guess my real question is what are the key differences.
I attended Stephen Book’s Improv Workshop back in March 2012 with Larry Drake. You are required to pay tuition for two months up front. I dropped out after one month and did not think twice about losing my tuition for the second month. I literally dreaded going to that class. I really wish I could have taken the class with Stephen Book but my schedule wouldn’t allow it. BTW: I wasn’t alone in dropping out. After each class I felt extremely weird. As others have mentioned, he literally read out of the book the entire class. Questions were not allowed. You basically had to figure things out on your own or stick with it long enough for it to make sense. Having said that, please keep in mind this was my personal experience. Someone else may have a completely different experience. Stephen has seminars coming up on March 3rd and March 13th. Check it out for yourself. What does not work for one just may work for another. ~Peace & Blessings!
Posts: 1 | Location: Los Angeles | Registered: January 30, 2013
I just finished Larry Drake's class and was in it for a little over three years. I think I missed class a total of four times over the three years due to being out of town. Let me just say, the technique is brilliant and Larry was nothing less than a passionate and dedicated conveyor of it. These three years have changed how I move my body and how comfortable I am in my skin in regards to auditioning and ACTING!! Larry got me so out of my head and put my acting in my body. The technique is very unique and I often wondered where it would lead to (like the kid in Karate Kid did with Mr. Miyagi). Well, after the three years, I can honestly say that I have so much confidence in how my body can and will respond to a character that I don't panic, I just do the work. Larry is a fantastic storyteller and really funny, but he makes you do the work! And everything you do builds on the last thing you did and it all just slowly comes together until it is IN you. I highly, highly recommend this technique and Larry's class to anyone who wants to get out of their head and out of their own way and is serious about acting.
Posts: 1 | Location: Los Angeles | Registered: April 28, 2013
I have taken some of the Larry Drake class. First, let me say that Stephen Book is extremely nauseatingly pompous.
That said, Larry Drake's class is a total waste of time and money. 7pm-11pm doesn't work too well for the working-class, especially when he decides to run the class til almost midnight!
He sits in his chair and reads totally from Stephen Book's book. No questions are allowed, no note-taking is allowed. Hell, if I wanted someone to read to me before I go to bed, I could ask my husband to do it for FREE.
As much as I hate to waste money, I will just say to hell with the $300 I paid, and find myself a better class. This one is horrible.
Posts: 6 | Location: California | Registered: May 09, 2013
For anyone @ any level of acting expertise looking to enhance their abilities and broaden their skill I recommend Stephen Books Improvisational Theatrical Acting Technique and more importantly as taught by Larry Drake. Larry is an award winning actor with an incredible insight on what it takes to develop as an actor since he's been there, done that in every since possible. His understanding of Stephan's method goes far beyond the structure that Stephan has developed. You not only get an incredible technique but the seasoned experience of a professional in Larry Drake teaching it to you. I completed the entire 3.5 years with Larry. I was broken and disheartened from years of too many classes that stunted rather than improved me. I emerged at the end a new person with incredible tools I never thought possible both physical and intellectually as an actor from start to finish how to analyze a few lines and present an audition and interact with the room/interviewer that will continually elevate me from the masses. I can never repay Larry for what he has done for me, I'm a changed person as well as actor. I can now compete.
Posts: 3 | Location: CA | Registered: February 08, 2009
I for one have decided on a new way in deciding what coach/workshop to study with. First, is in the specialty area that I'm looking for, Film, TV, Commercial, Theatre, Improv and as I wander through the myriad of "coaches", "teachers" and "Gurus" I'm finding that few if any have actual current credits including the so-called celebrity coaches. So from this point I've decided that I will only study with coaches that have a long list of major acting credits and more importantly those with current credits. After all, they're the ones out there doing it, which means they know it. So as I check out each teacher(s) I go right to IMDB and check out them out. Example, Stephen Book has just two or three old credits, I have more credits than that, so what the hell is he going to teach me? No credits, no classes. You know what they say folks, those that can't, teach" Oh, and no Casting Director Workshop. They are bozos when it comes to acting.
Funny you should say that. Book denied me access to his "advanced" class, stating that I was just an amateur. Hell, I have more credits that he does as well. He also boasted about having the whole cast of CSI: Miami in his class. I was never able to confirm this. That raving positive review above smells of a paid testimonial, because that class is absolutely AWFUL.
Posts: 6 | Location: California | Registered: May 09, 2013
Any Intelligent response to this forum should understand that no class works for everyone & should agree to disagree. People are looking here for positive recommendations, not petty bickering because you obviously have frustrations in your career of some kind. If you have a great teacher, state that, and why they are, instead of lamely indulging in character assassination. - Grow up people.
Posts: 3 | Location: CA | Registered: February 08, 2009
Originally posted by talanad: Any Intelligent response to this forum should understand that no class works for everyone & should agree to disagree. People are looking here for positive recommendations, not petty bickering because you obviously have frustrations in your career of some kind. If you have a great teacher, state that, and why they are, instead of lamely indulging in character assassination. - Grow up people.
So what's your point? Newbies are stupid? I thought both of the posts above yours were quite meaningful as opposed to yours which was arrogant and full of mumble jumble. Skybyrd and Actress 92021 both made very valid points and I too agree that teachers/coaches should be actively working as actors in the business.