Listen up. I’m an actor. First and foremost. It’s like, my life, guys. And lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of bad talk about Los Angeles being a bad place to learn about acting. People say you can’t be considered a “serious actor” if you start out here. Well, I am serious.
Serious about acting, that is.
For three months I’ve been studying with Don Welton. I’m sure those of you who are IN ANY WAY involved with the industry know who Don is and what an institution he is. For those of you who don’t, he’s the foremost practitioner and the creator of the Welton Technique. If that weren’t enough, he was also best friends with Stella Adler. Yup. That’s right. Stella. I remember one time, in class, Don was telling me how he and Stella were rehearsing Streetcar (that’s actor shorthand for Tennessee William’s A STREETCAR THAT IS NAMED DESIRE). He was playing opposite her Ophelia, and when his turn came during the balcony scene to sing the “Memories” duo, he told me she was so nervous, he had to hold her hand the entire time. From that day on, he told me, she attended every single one of his classes. You see even Ms. Adler herself was a student of the Welton Technique.
Now, I’ve been around for a while. It’s not like I just jumped into this class without checking it out. Hell no. I have a list of free class audits (on my resume) that include but are not limited to Mary Gillstein, Larry Mossberg, Hendry McFarlane, and Alon Detara. Yeah, I know. Pretty much everyone good in town. So even if I’m not in class with them now, I at least sat in on one of their classes. And that’s half the battle.
So the next time I hear some New York actor talking about how great Jewelyard or Y.A.L.E. was or some London-trained jerk bragging about what a good school RAMDA is, I’m just going to put on a big grin and let them go their own sad way. Because I know they wouldn’t have a chance in Don’s class. You see, Don doesn’t put up with that stylized, pompous acting. No games with Don. Unlike those places where they make you run around in silly costumes and speak in Shakespeare, Don’s got four simple rules that summarize his 70 years of acting experience. We call them the Four Pillars:
1. ACTING IS ABOUT PHYSICAL CONTACT.
2. CLOTHES INHIBIT THAT CONTACT.
3. THERE ARE NO GENDERS IN ACTING.
4. WHAT HAPPENS IN THE CLASSROOM STAYS IN THE CLASSROOM.
If those snobs in New York and London had any idea how simple acting was! You don’t need to go to school for a year! Or two or three! God no! A few classes with Don, and I was so loose and free, in my craft, that I could do any scene. Don’s feedback is always accurate and in depth too. Lucky for me, he tells me I need to work on very little as a consequence of my innate talent and my openness, to his technique. I always leave class feeling full, full of a new life force, full of Don’s inner being, his strength. You see, a good acting teacher - and Don’s the best - gives of himself as much as he expects from his students. And Don gives! “Free time” means nothing to him. He gives so much he even organized a softball team for our class. Don’s the pitcher. I catch. Now that’s a teacher!
And that, fellow thespians, is what the craft is all about: love, attention, and trust. But I’m just a simple actor, so what do I know?
Skobie Lawrence has studied with over 15 cold reading teachers and has appeared in the background on JAG twice. He is eligible to join SAG in July. He can currently be seen in the Welton School’s production of BURIED CHILD in the lead role of Cole Porter. Tickets on sale now through the Alley Cat Theater Box Office, West Hollywood, CA.