Santa Maria Sun / Art
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 45
Acting from the inside outAcclaimed acting teacher Peter Frisch teaches actors to tap into their imagination in Santa Maria
BY JOE PAYNE
The Central Coast is teeming with talent, and among the many artists who call the area home are actors. Many actors. Between PCPA, Cal Poly, UCSB, and the myriad community theaters dotting the coast, throngs of thespians make up quite the community.
A rare chance for local actors is approaching in the form of a class offered by the Frisch Studio. Founded by Peter Frisch, an acclaimed director/producer/acting teacher/coach, the program reflects his unique approach to acting.
“Fiction, for me, and diving into fiction, can be more important to me than real life,” he said. “I take it very seriously. It’s about diving into that world—that’s what I really love—and finding out about what is true in the story and what is important.”
Frisch, known for his work for the show The Young and the Restless on CBS in 2002, first came to the Central Coast when called upon to direct a community program in Santa Barbara, which ultimately didn’t pan out. But before he left town, he was approached to help with the renovation of the Granada Theatre on State Street. He started on a strictly consultant basis.
“After about three months doing that, and everything progressing very well, I decided I would just stay on for the effort,” he said.
Frisch became the executive director for the Granada Theatre, presiding over renovations and prep work from 2002 to 2008, when the theater opened. He continued as executive director for the first two years the theater was open, directing several productions, including the Granada’s opening production of A Christmas Carol.
“I decided to step down and create [The Frisch Studio],” he said, “because my career has always been about half directing around the country, and half teaching, and I noticed there was a need for it up here.”
Frisch certainly is an experienced teacher. After receiving his M.F.A. in stage direction from Carnegie Mellon, he began teaching all over the country. He held faculty positions at some of the most acclaimed acting institutions, including Carnegie, the Juilliard School, Harvard, Boston University, Cal Arts, and UCLA, all while privately teaching and coaching professional actors.
When he was teaching at Juilliard, Frisch started experimenting with a new form of acting preparation. Up until that time, the prevailing form of acting was the “Actors Studio,” a form of method acting made famous by such stars as Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe. The style recommended that actors tap into their emotions and transmute them into the character they were playing.
“So you had to dig down into the deepest darkest places of yourself,” Frisch said, “so that you could then bring them to the stage or screen.”
Frisch’s method, rather than have the actor tap into his or her own emotions, asks actors to tap into their imaginations and discover their emotions as the character.
“I have a favorite saying,” he said. “You should not bring the character down to your own limited self, but expand yourself, the actor, to incorporate the new character.”
This specialized type of preparation makes use of what Frisch called “projecting.” When projecting, actors go through a form of self-hypnosis in which they envision themselves as the character, having experiences relevant to the story.
“It’s a method of developing the imagination to such a powerful degree that it is as powerful as something that happened in your actual life,” he said. “In fact, it’s even more powerful, because you have designed for the work.”
The technique, Frisch explained, enables the actors to put a context and depth to what they are portraying, allowing for a more honest, freeing performance.
“It allows them to be perfectly free in a scene,” he said. “A lot of actors have made a decision about a scene, and as a result they have to think about what they are doing in the scene when they are doing it; but the best acting is when you completely give yourself up to the scene and the other character.”
The first class in “The Actor’s Craft” focuses on rehearsal and techniques to maximize early rehearsal time. The second half covers projection.
Frisch recommends that his actors make bold choices early in the rehearsal period to get to the heart of the material. Some actors, he said, will essentially rehearse the same way from the beginning, making small changes as they go.
“I have an analogy for this, and it is with two different kinds of sculptors,” he said. “The first actor, who does the kind of slow building, is like a sculptor that puts together little tiny pieces of clay and hopefully comes out with something at the end. My way is a little more like Rodin might have sculpted, where you take a big hammer and a big chisel and you split the stone a certain way, and you step back and take a look at it.”
The upcoming class, Frisch explained, isn’t for beginners, but for intermediate to advanced actors looking to sink their teeth into a complex technique.
“It’s serious training,” he said. “It’s not casual; it’s very specific work that they can use for a lifetime. As a teacher, that is your job: to see that every student, long after they leave your class, has the tools to achieve that kind of goal.”
Arts Editor Joe Payne can act like an actor if properly motivated. Contact him at email@example.com.