Acting Class Take a Seat excerpt All You Can Be


Milton Katselas

Don t minimize your acting because of your life. Please try not to justify that you can t do something in your acting because of what you can t do in your life. Don t use your psychology as an excuse for not being able to execute something in your art. Instead, use acting to do that which you can t do in your mundane life. So, in a sense, to hell with psychology. Go for the art. Get interested in art, and who knows maybe the psychology will improve. In your art you can bound over and beyond anything that you believe is limiting you.

Art is not just about you, but about the possibilities of you. It s an odd part of my teaching, but sometimes when a student in a critique offers up some personal fear or insecurity as a reason the role was difficult, here s my answer: No one cares. Not a single person. No one in this room. No one in any other room. It sounds a bit harsh, but, unfortunately, it s true. No one cares about how your problems limit your art or your life. We ll only care if you take a problem, like your fear or insecurity, and turn it into Joan of Arc s courage. We care about how you surmount that problem. It s possible that some actor, less talented than you, but without the excuse of having this particular problem, will snatch the part right from under you, and pass you on the freeway. I don t want that. I want you doing the passing.


This is where I am, this is who I am, therefore this is all I can give. No. Too limited. Instead: This is what I have in my fantasy, this is what I have in my imagination, this is what I can give. Not what I think I am, but what I dream I can be. What I truly want to be. I live in my art through my passion, my fantasy, not my mundane reality. The gossip is that Frank Lloyd Wright was at times petty. But he wasn t petty when he sat at a drawing table. Are you going to study his rumored pettiness or are you going to study his drawings, his buildings? An inflammatory pop biography portrays Picasso as an egomaniacal monster.

Just look at the humanity in the body of his work. His painting, his sculpture, his pottery were all sublime. Alec Guinness lived a quiet, conservative English country life. Put him on stage in a dress and he was wildly imaginative. So they tell you Martin Luther King is alleged to have done this or done that; who cares? I don t care if it was true; I don t care if it s untrue. What I care about is that he was one of the greatest speakers and spiritual leaders of all time. One of the greatest that has ever graced our planet. It was his dream that he followed, not the mundane reality of the world around him, which he was actually seeking to change.

An actor in my classes once said to me, I ve always been the second banana. As we talked, he spoke to me about having been the gofer for Marvin Gaye: Go for coffee, go for sandwiches. I replied, Jesus, you re a powerful, sexy man. You re no gofer. Something seemed to shift within him. Two weeks later, we played basketball together and he played very differently: Tough, in a new winning way. Immediately his work as an actor took an enormous leap. He ended up becoming a wonderful talent, quite successful in films and television, and later even developed into quite a powerful teacher in his own right. Second banana, see ya later.

As a teacher, I look at everyone not as they are, but rather in terms of what they re capable of being. I don t ever see before me some struggling, self-centered actor wrestling with his or her career or day-to-day problems. I just don t. I see artists. Powerful, influential artists. And I will only relate to you on that level, the level where you should consider yourselves to be. I m aiming towards and only interested in who you can be and what you can create as an artist.

Excerpted from the Beverly Hills Playhouse acting class book, Acting Class: Take A Seat. Copyright 2008: Milton Katselas. All Rights Reserved.

The Beverly Hills Playhouse Acting School has four locations:254 S Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211 – (323) 657-59661816 N. Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027 – (323) 657-5966154 Christopher St., New York City, NY 10014 – (646) 200-5790125A Hyde St., San Francisco, CA 94102 – (415) 449-1919For more information visit:

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