Monday, September 09, 2013
HB STUDIO REFRESH
FALL TERM BEGINS
WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 18, 2013
From the moment of its founding in 1945, the HB Studio has been one of the best places to study and practice the art of acting.
For the Fall Term 2013, the Studio refreshed its curriculum. It strengthened its roots to its founding principles, and continues to modernize its offerings.
HB stands for Herbert Berghof, a European émigré and distinguished actor/director who arrived with a European philosophy: to create a Studio where professional actors could continue to practice and refine their craft while young actors could come and study along side them. It was a community acting school and a professional Studio at the same time.
The Studio taught (teaches!) naturalism in acting: Don’t “act”.
Under Herbert, later joined by Uta Hagen, HB Studio nurtured and trained many of the great actors since the mid 1900’s. Many HB students became the next generation of teachers.
Among the unique and terrific features of the HB Studio are:
• Excellent teachers! (See below!)
• Master classes
• Students can take a full-time program, or select classes a la carte
• Fairly extensive selection of courses
• Relatively non-doctrinaire approach to acting
• Auditing is allowed (encouraged in fact, with some restrictions)
• Opportunities for performance
• Low cost
• Young people’s classes
• Very supportive of foreign students
• Supportive of all students, actually.
As Uta and other teachers of that generation grew older, the Studio remained somewhat static. Then, over the last decade, new leaders of the Studio began to work on refreshing both the buildings the studio lives in and the offerings it provides to actors, culminating in the major refreshment that begins with this Fall term.
The refresh consists of three parts:
• Actors will be evaluated on coming into the school, with three levels, and with courses correspondingly tiered, allowing a more structured progression of more and more advanced courses. For example, any and all students can take any of the level one courses; intermediate level classes, including for example, contemporary scene study, are on level 2; level 3 includes advanced scene study, classics, and more experimental theater.
• Some classes have been restricted in size and made longer, to allow every student to have more time to present work in class.
• Workshops and performance opportunities have been added to allow for more diversity in topics and more opportunities for high level performance, strengthening the connection between the current Studio and the founding concept of a place where professional working actors can practice and refine their craft.
• Prices have been raised. HB Studio was ridiculously cheap. The price increase leaves HB at the lower end of cost for training in acting, but better reflects the excellence of the school and the cost of maintaining quality. Classes with too few students are being dropped. In addition, the Studio is doing more fund-raising (hopefully it has many successful and generous alumni).
• The Studio (actually for the last decade) gradually improved the physical condition of the Studio buildings; and it has plans to further improve and develop the Studio.
The refresh is – of course – not free from controversy. Nobody likes to spend more for anything. Some teachers have seen their classes removed from the curriculum. Some students who have taken particular classes for years fear a “musical chairs” effect when the max size of classes is reduced.
I’m personally disappointed that improv has been reduced. It used to be a very strong offering at HB. Improv seems to me very basic and very important training: for listening and watching; for understanding and conveying subtext; for developing freedom onstage; for understanding story structure, conveying character, maintaining concentration, and many other acting, writing, and directing skills.
There are other areas that are under-represented. Offerings in writing are limited, and there is nothing, even in workshops, on new technology: ie web video, interactive theater, transmedia, etc.
I also hope that the tiering of student levels will be applied flexibly – some students may be expert in one area (eg. comedy, or vocal skills) while not so good in others (eg classics) – and students should not, I think, automatically be prevented from taking some classes which may be above their "level".
In a different vein, it seems to me the Studio should devote more energy to marketing and promotion. (Many classes should be but are not completely full.) Internally, it has been steadily improving its newsletters and notices. But it could do more to attract outside attention. Advertising, reviewed productions, and more Master Classes with world-famous teachers would all help. (While I never really had any bad teachers at HB – though a few did have a little too much “attitude” -- some of the best classes I had were probably in special Master Classes over the years, taught by Master teachers, including Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, Sam Waterston, and Jill Clayburgh.)
Among the distinguished teachers currently teaching are
• Geoffrey Owens, a brilliant Yale educated actor and director, who is an alumnus of the Cosby Show and is currently playing the Prince in the Broadway Production of Romeo and Juliet; (Classical Scene Study)
• Arthur French, a gentle soul currently on Broadway in A Trip To Bountiful; (Contemporary Scene Study)
• Austin Pendleton, who seems to be everywhere these days, and may be the most popular teacher at HB, given the number of classes he teaches and how quickly they fill up; (Advanced Scene Study)
• Jack Hofsiss, Tony Award winning director; (Directing)
• George Bartenieff, constantly in very interesting theater pieces, recently playing Cadmus in The Bacchae in The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park; (Currently directing a Student Performance Project)
• Christopher Martin, the founding Artistic Director of the Classic Stage Company; (Macbeth Performance Lab)
• and many others.
The Fall Term begins September 18. There are current auditions for new students. (Check http://hbstudio.org/classes/auditions/ or call the studio for the latest information.)
HB STUDIO IN WIKIPEDIA
Here are some stories in QPORIT related to the HB Studio:
FALL NY 2005: THEATER CLASSES -- HB STUDIO
HB'S STILLER AND MEARA GALA
JILL CLAYBURGH RIP - REMEMBRANCE
THE MASTER AND MARGARITA
DAEL ORLANDERSMITH, WHITING WRITING PRIZE, HB STUDIO
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