The Maggie Flanigan Studio New York acting programs prepare actors for long professional careers based on Meisner Technique training. Jillian Blakkan-Strauss talks about how she learned first hand in this acting program the power of passion and perseverance.
There are a lot of studios in Manhattan. Why did you decide Maggie Flanigan Studio was the only place for you to study?
That is an excellent question with an answer. I say it’s a good question because I think that choosing a studio and choosing a place to study is a personal choice. It’s important to give it full consideration, and I did. I knew I wanted to study the Meisner technique because it appealed to me. Because the idea of listening and the imagination aspect, I didn’t know that much about it, but I thought this feels good.
I’ve looked at a few other studios that also train in the Meisner technique. The reason that I decided to go here is– I mentioned the community before, that was important to me. Sitting down and talking to Charlie was a big part of it. Because right away, I got a sense of his dedication and passion for his students. I could tell he meant what he said. It wasn’t going to be a repeat of classes where you do scene study, it ends, and you’re like, “I don’t know. That didn’t feel right, but I don’t know why.”
I could tell I was going to learn and develop a technique. Charlie is someone who I wanted to learn from. Those two things, Charlie and the community, were instrumental. Then, I also spoke with alums of the program. Everything they said resonated with me. Mainly, I did my research. I liked what I saw and what I learned about Maggie’s and took the leap. I’m happy I did.
What would you say to any actor who thinks that they do not have the time or money to enroll in a two-year acting program?
Well, the first thing I would do is ask him a question. In response, I would say, “What are your goals? What do you want to do?” If their goal is to become an actor or if their goal is to become a better actor, maybe they feel they lack something, they need to train. I would say trust your gut. If you’re investigating places to train, but then you’re making excuses for yourself, you’re getting in your own way. If you’re investigating places to train, it means you know you need to train; you know you’re missing something.
Regarding the time commitment, two years go by fast. It goes by really fast. It’s nothing if you fast forward ten years, you haven’t done the training, you’re not booking gigs, and you’re frustrated. Put in the time now. Concerning finances, it can be difficult, for sure, it’s New York City. To say that it’s not, it would just be dishonest, but you’ve got to invest in yourself.
This studio is an excellent place to invest because if you put in the work, you’re going to see a change in yourself and growth as an artist. You only get out what you put in, so to learn, to cultivate a technique, that’s going to give you something to bring to your work as an artist that you don’t have right now.
What did you think Meisner training was before you started the first year program at Maggie Flanigan Studio or the Meisner technique?
I had some exposure to it because I did a lot of research before applying. I read a few books about it, I had minimal training, at my graduate school that I went to. I knew about repetition. I knew that there was an exercise of sorts that got built upon as a work, but that was it.
Now that you have finished the first year of actor training, how has your understanding of the Meisner technique changed?
It’s evolved and deepened a lot, every single class. It’s so much about listening. It’s a craft. It’s paramount to everything you do. That was something I didn’t know about or understand about the Meisner technique before I started. The idea of being done, too and not being a part of listening and letting your partner affect you. Indeed before I started this program, I thought of acting like something that you did your homework, you came in prepared, and then, you did this scene. I’ve learned, over the course of the year, it’s not about doing this scene, it’s about letting it unfold and letting the crafting influence the quality of the work.
What did you learn about yourself over the course of this year that changed you as an actor and as a person?
Yes. It’s both. I’ll start with as a person because the first year work deals so much with who you are as a person. Who you think you are is so different, or at least that was my experience, than who you are underneath all of these layers of societal influences and parental influences and friends and culture. When I began this program, I don’t think I had a clear sense of myself. I thought of myself as someone who could kind of hold herself together, was very driven, was empathic. What I didn’t realize is how difficult it was for me to stand up to people, how suppressed my points of view were about things that happened around me, things people said to me.
I had no concept of that. Right away, when the work began, I was just floored. My gosh, I don’t know what I think about what that person just said to me, I don’t know how I feel about what’s happening. As the work progresses and as it improved for me, I began to cultivate a point of view, I began to feel justified in how I felt. Now, having finished the first year of work, I have a much stronger sense of how I think about the world, about my place in it and what I want to do.
How has this year changed your idea about what it means to train as an actor?
I’ve always thought of actor training as involving a lot of hard work. I did not know just how hard and in-depth that work could go. One of the first few weeks in class, my appreciation for what it means to craft and put in the time and the effort and energy, it just tripled. Then, it continued to do so throughout the year. The dedication, the passion that’s required to keep going really, the grit. I have a copy of Grit by Angela Duckworth next to my bed. Whenever I feel like this is getting tough, I read a few pages of that. It takes a lot of commitment and dedication and love. I have such a sincere appreciation for that now.
Schedule an Admission Interview Today
Admission to the acting programs at the Maggie Flanigan studio is by interview only. To schedule your admission interview with Charlie Sandlan for the Fall of 2018 Two-Year Acting Program, call the studio today at 917-789-1599 or visit the acting programs page on the studio website (http://www.maggieflaniganstudio.com/).