Spotlight on L.A.’s The Acting Center

This week zeeBigBang shines the spotlight on The Acting Center, a renown acting school located in Los Angeles, California.

The Acting Center was founded in 2006 by a group of seasoned stage, television and film actors and teachers. Since then it has quickly become one of the most respected places to study acting in Los Angeles.

We spoke with one of the founders of the centre, Tamra Meskimen and her husband, Jim Meskimen who is a seasoned actor as well as student at the Acting Center. We asked them what makes this school so different from other acting schools.

“I’ve been in the industry for a long time. Both Jim and I started in New York and I’ve seen over the years how different acting schools approach this subject [teaching actors]. I’ve seen a lot of actors feeling less confident and not feeling like they can, or actually want to, go on being actors after some of the things that have been put upon them in acting class. It can be a very harsh environment, with a lot of critiquing. It’s that whole, ‘gotta break you down to build you up’ kind of attitude, that I saw happening with a lot of people and I thought, ”there’s gotta be another way to do this that helps an actor build confidence.“ So that’s what we’ve researched and put together [at The Acting Center],” explained Tamra.

According to Tamra and Jim, The Acting Center focuses on helping actors with character development with little  or no critiquing. Their curriculum is based on a set of over 150 different types of drills actors can use to help them be great actors, including working on emotions and character, in particular being able to make these characters real with the actions they are expressing.

“We have a very character-driven curriculum and basically the difference is that we don’t critique. Art is very subjective; what one person thinks is great, another person might not like at all and vice versa. When you put one person up as a the judge about whether something is right or wrong, the actor then starts to just please the teacher – rather than taking chances and trying different things that could really enhance or bring out their abilities to their utmost extent,” explained Tamra.

“We wanted to make it [The Acting Center] for the work-a-day actor. I mean, you get a scene or you get an audition, you only have maybe a day or so to prepare, so you don’t have a lot of time to dig into it, so we’ve developed a bunch of drills that enable an actor to go, ‘ok who is this character? What do I need to do, how do I have to be? What’s the emotion?’ We help them with everything that goes into it, how to memorize it, how to really get the concept of what’s being said, everything you can prepare for an audition very easily,” continued Tamra.

Jim has been professionally acting for over 30 years, with credits in films like Magnolia, Frost/Nixon, and Apollo 13. He finds the classes he’s taken at The Acting Center to be very useful, even as a professional actor.

Poster for Jim Meskimen’s  show at the Acting Center, photo courtesy of the Acting Center

“They’ve really assembled some marvelous drills and now when I get an audition, I do it completely different than I ever did it before. I’m much more comfortable and much more creative and so I’m a big advocate for it [The Acting Center]. I’ve also seen the work of these students. There are performing opportunities after every class and plays that get put on and I’ve been very impressed by the work and how easily people, who are even very new to acting, can tackle a scene and can really get behind a character,” said Jim.

Jim, who is also known for his celebrity impressions, says emerging actors need to find what it is they’re good at and stick with it rather than find a niche to fit into.

“When you approach it from the viewpoint of ‘find a niche’, it’s almost like you find something outside yourself you can fit into. But the way that I think is more productive, is to find that thing that is special about what you like to do; something that is unique to you. We’re individuals, we see the world with different eyes so it’s good to ask yourself, ‘now what makes me different? How do I see things?’ It’s the same thing as following your dream or your goal – find out what you’re good at and what you’re interested in – and go for it,” explained Jim.

Check out The Acting Center’s website for more information about how to register for acting classes.

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