As We Remove the Scar Tissue...
Here's an example of a typical day; it's 12:36am, I get home from rehearsal and crash in bed. And in six hours I have to get up, sit on my couch, work on a script, and head to another rehearsal for another three hours.
This is what I have been doing everyday, where I have consistently been everyday, every morning, afternoon, and/or evening for the past two months.
No, I'm not doing another play. No, I didn't book a series regular or the next hit sit-com (yet). No, I didn't book the lead in a major motion picture (yet).
I've been in rehearsals because rehearsing is something actors need to do regardless of whether or not they are in any of the above. It's our gym.
I've also been in rehearsals because I've been taking Lesly Kahn's acting/comedy intensive at Lesly Kahn & Company Actor Training in Los Angeles.
It's really her gym.
You may have heard of her? Lesly Kahn?
So when I first landed in Los Angeles and had the opportunity to study with Lesly, I didn't.
Why? I don't know. Fear. Stupidity. Cynicism. Maybe I was just burnt out?
However, I am also a creature of recommendation; which means if it comes highly recommended by someone I know and trust, I will most likely do it.
I'm not saying I would jump off a bridge...well, I might bungee jump.
But then comes a recommendation; my good friend 'C' took Lesly's intensive and could not stop raving about it.
According to 'C', Lesly's intensive changed her entire outlook on her career, herself, and her craft.
'C' has since booked leads and supporting leads in two indie films with stars. So, was that enough of a recommendation for me to take the intensive?
Nope. Still didn't do it. And then this past summer happened.
Remember? The play in New York? The sudden red-eye flight to rehearsals on the other side of the country? Ah...New York.
My pounding of the pavement this whole summer in New York, ultimately led me to realize that the 'need' in my life, the need for 'more' in myself that prompted me to venture out to Los Angeles in the first place was still there.
That's when I finally decided to take it. I know! I'm crazy. But the inner voice of my intuition, who isn't crazy said, "Ann! Go back to LA and finish what you started!"
Now I had taken Lesly's triage in April before the summer in New York. Her triage is where you meet her and she assesses you, and you in turn get to assess her.
So when I signed up for the intensive this fall, I wasn't entirely unfamiliar with her. Nor she with me.
Walking into her studio, I felt immediately at home, but most importantly I felt safe.
This is my assessment; Lesly is not out to get you. Lesly is out to get your best acting. She is also determined to teach you how to keep the business from getting the better part of you.
And so it's only ever about you, not her; even though she may pull a reverse psychology trick on you just to light a fire under your ass.
I have never met a teacher whose teaching is inspired by nothing other than her obsession with making her students the best actors they can be and that they BOOK!
Lesly doesn't want you to be just a working actor, she wants you to have a career. And frankly, with the sacrifices we make today just to be in the business, it's not enough to just be working, is it?
I'm not going to write a dissertation on the 'Kahn' way of doing things. You have to do it to get it. I'm just going to say this...
...everything I learned in four years of conservatory/university was revived, relearned and reignited in only two months at Lesly's, and then some. Sparked.
Yes, I know what you're thinking, "Ann! You just did a world premiere play in New York!"
Yes, I did. And again, not ungrateful in the least.
But the gym of plays, I know. But sometimes if you don't right away 'get in your gut' a character for a film/television audition, you have to work it out, right? That's what Lesly knows.
Getting specific performance level results for film and television auditions in as little as twenty minutes, without the luxury of a four week play rehearsal, is a different kind of gym.
She's got the light bulbs and yet she'll be the first to admit that her light bulbs are just 'her light bulbs'.
I've had blessed opportunities my whole career to audition for great roles, meaty roles; be they in film or television.
And whenever it didn't pan out, I chalked it up to all the typical obstacles in the business; "I'm not a 'name'. It's my look. They were offering it to a celeb anyway. It's not my turn yet."
And though these reasons have some validity, so what? One of Lesly's philosophies is this, "There are already so many obstacles and challenges in the business -- acting can't be the problem."
Acting is supposed to be fun. It can be hard and taxing but it is also supposed to be fun. Fun is what lights the fire.
That something that may have been missing, that more that I was searching for, the fun of it all is not the problem, it's the solution.
At the same time, Lesly also understands just how hard this business can be on actors who want to make an impact, actors who believe great acting can alter the story of the world.
Like water and oil, sometimes art and business just don't mix.
In the 'parent/teacher' conference I had just one question to ask,
"Lesly, is it possible, that one day, acting can just be gone from you, almost as if it evaporated. Is it possible, to one day, all of a sudden, feel like you just lost the acting in you?"
This is what she says,
"No. It can feel that way, but it's not true. It's just scar tissue. That's all. I don't know how you do it. The business beats you up.
You go in audition after audition giving it your all, and when the reasons you don't get the job have nothing to do with you, what are you supposed to do?!
Not automatically protect yourself somehow?! How can you not grow scar tissue? That's why it feels that way, but it's not true. We're peeling away your scar tissue honey."
So, what really took me so long to get myself into the 'House of Kahn and Co'?
I still don't know. But I do know that sometimes the things you most resist are the very things you need to do in order to propel yourself towards the change necessary for that next stage in life, just like shedding old scar tissue.
And maybe there is a little serendipity to it after all. Maybe I waited until this past fall to take her intensive because the specific group of actors I met, has now become my artistic family.
And the six degrees of separation, no, the one degree of separation discovered between some of us is uncanny. Timing.
Watch for us.
I can't wait for my next audition! And there have been lots of them already, sometimes two or three a day. I just haven't had the time to write about them all.
But you know what? The victory is in the fun.
Twenty years from now when James Lipton, still alive and kicking, is interviewing the next 'Eat-Your-Heart-Out-Tour-de-Force-Hollywood Movie Star', about who he/she studied with back in the day; I guarantee you one of those names mentioned, will be Lesly Kahn.
At least...that's what I think.
(photos and illustrations courtesy of Lesly Kahn & Co., Kate Micucci, and Evan's Outliers)
Yours Truly -- Ann Hu