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Book Review: Acting Class – Take a Seat by Milton Katselas

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“The study of acting is the study of life,” Milton Katselas states in his book, Acting Class: Take a Seat. He expounds on this thought with a quote from Stella Adler: “I’m not teaching acting… I’m teaching actors to be people.”

Previously only available to his students at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, this book presents the knowledge and tools that have impacted actors, including George Clooney, Michelle Pfeiffer, Alec Baldwin, Blythe Danner, and Bette Davis.

He wants actors to be able to do anything that is required and go after the roles that would be the best fit of who they are as actors and people. He understands that type casting happens but you can break out of that if you work hard enough. It all comes down to business.

Actors have to believe in themselves before they can get anywhere. They also have to prepare for any situation and script. There is a time and place for improvisation but not in the preparation of one’s acting career. An actor has to get along with others as well as to cut out the gossip. Readers will feel as if they are sitting in Katselas’ classroom, mainly because much of the book is taken from transcripts of his classes. Broken down into three sections, Acting Class addresses everything an actor needs to perfect his craft.

Section one is on acting and begins with lessons on “The Checklist,” what every actor needs to prepare for a scene, including evaluating the character, specific choices that define a character, and how to make the character believable. This section also includes class exercises in song and dance, improv, monologue, audition, relaxation, and the shoot exercise which allows the actors to feel what it would be like to be part of a film or television scene, with little or no rehearsal.

Section two looks at attitude and what it takes to be an actor who others like to be around and directors will want to work with again. Katselas claims that this not only makes the actor a nicer person, but it also actually increases his or her art, as they are willing to take critique and to grow as a person and an artist.

Section three is on administration, which the author defines as the choices an actor makes regarding his career and life, and determination to follow through on these choices. The choices Katselas speaks about in this section are less artistic and relate more to the business aspect of acting, including: networking, developing relationships with people in the industry, practicing old fashioned courtesy, appearance, promotional tools, and continuing to study.

Acting Class is easy to read, approachable, at times funny, at times earthy, and loaded with practical and helpful ideas. The exercises and tools will help actors at all levels of experience improve their craft.

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