Category Archive: Acting Classes NYC

Accessing Your Emotions with Ease

Laura Pensiero teaches Reiki classes for actors at the Maggie Flanigan Studio. In this video, Laura discusses the problems that actors face when forcing their emotions.

Reiki Classes for Actors - Laura Pensiero - Maggie Flanigan Studio

Reiki Classes for Actors – Laura Pensiero – Maggie Flanigan Studio

Forced Emotions Feel Inauthentic

One of the most significant challenges actors face is accessing their emotions with ease and authenticity. Often, when the actor has a scene that requires an emotional outburst, the initial instinct is to force the emotions. When the actor forces crying or anger, it feels inauthentic to the audience. The reason the actor tries to manipulate emotions into existence is for fear the emotions will not come naturally. This creates a lot of tension and tightness around the emotional life and makes the body look uneasy and uncomfortable. The throat gets strained, the muscles in the face clench and the actor stops breathing. When the actor stops breathing, they completely disconnect from their emotions. The result and what the audience sees is “bad acting.”


When an actor fears their emotions will not come naturally, they often try to manipulate emotions into existence. To the audience, this feels inauthentic.

Laura PensieroReiki Classes for Actors

What the actor needs is to remain relaxed, open and free of physical, emotional and mental tension. It can be confusing and counter-intuitive for the actor to maintain a relaxed body during a heightened emotional scene. It is crucial for the body, and emotional life to be tension free for the acting to be believable and engaging.

The work I do with actors helps release tightness and tension in the body and around the emotional life. By using the breath, the actor can move out of their head and into their body. The mind becomes quiet, allowing the body to be more present. The actor connects to their emotional life, their intuition, their creativity and their heart, allowing them to be completely open and feel safe in their body. Through the breath, the actor can release energetic blocks preventing them from utilizing their full range of emotions. I use Reiki, which is a Japanese relaxation technique using energy healing, to put the body into a deeply relaxed state. This turns off the fight or flight response and allows the body to enter the restorative and healing rest and digest state. When the body is deeply relaxed and free of tension, the actor can access their emotions with ease and readiness. This work helps release the fear the actor may have when working on intense emotional scripts. The comfort and freedom of the actor’s emotions make the performance genuine and truthful to the audience and sustainable for the actor take after take or night after night.

Reiki Classes for Actors at Maggie Flanigan Studio

Learn more about Laura Pensiero, the acting classes and acting programs at the Maggie Flanigan Studio by visiting our studio website at Prospective students can call the studio during open hours with specific questions about our acting programs and class schedule.

Actors Need to Study Shakespeare

Louisa Proske - Script Analysis New York NYThey say that Shakespeare is the greatest actor’s gymnasium. Speaking and embodying Shakespeare’s text demands the full gamut of your passions and emotions, every inch of your imagination, your intellect, and the full availability of your supple body and your trained voice. He teaches you to be the kind of versatile, commanding, subtle, engaging artist that can succeed in any medium – on the stage, performing new plays and classics, or in film and television.

Unfortunately, there are many hurdles to receiving this kind of training. Students are frequently afraid of Shakespeare. They feel that they don’t understand his language. Or they had a deadly boring teacher at school who drained them of all joy in connection to Shakespeare. Then, there’s an enourmous amount of bad verse speaking happening on our stages, which does not help to inspire students to want to study Shakespeare.

shakespeare class for actors - louisa proske - maggie flanigan studio

However, when teaching Shakespeare, it is always miraculous to observe how quickly these hurdles fall away as students get into the wide array of plain crazy, delightful, dangerous, sharply intelligent, and deeply human characters that Shakespeare has to offer. It is exhilarating for students to discover that Shakespeare’s “poetry” is never decorative or just pretty, but plunges you head first into the inner world of the character, into places that are frequently chaotic, violent, conflicting – in other words, great food for the hungry actor. Students also quickly sense how much Shakespeare keeps you at the top of your game as an actor – the thought and emotion of his characters moves lightning-fast, from here to there and back again, as thoughts and emotions do in life under the duress of greatest urgency, with no time to second-guess yourself. You have to get on the saddle and hold fast as the verse gallops forward.

And then there is another great gift that Shakespeare has in store: the audience. Many 19th and 20th century plays tend to keep the fourth wall intact, so that you cannot acknowledge the audience as an actor – and God forbid you should look directly at the camera when filming a television episode! But Shakespeare allows you to take in and respond to everything that is happening not only with your scene partner, but with the audience. All the wonderful Meisner work of living moment to moment with your acting partner is multiplied infinitely in Shakespeare, because the character can turn to the audience at any moment, and appeal to them, confess a secret to them, challenge them, even threaten them. In a soliloquy, the audience becomes your scene partner. Once you understand the freedom of that, you can discover a direct connection to the audience that is rarely possible in other kinds of work.

Training in Shakespeare goes hand in hand with Meisner training. It helps you become a more expansive, present, expressive actor – and this will serve you no matter which medium you end up working in.

Why Actors Need To Study Anatomy

marta reiman anatomy teacherIn my experience as a professional dancer and actor I always felt I needed to know more about the human anatomy and how my body works.  Long runs of shows, ill fitted footwear, raked stages, shooting scenes in the rain or extreme cold, combined with the repetitive athletic physical demands of various roles often lead to injuries and illness. Nearly every production I’ve worked on, someone has gone down with some type of injury and in some shows it’s been nearly half of the cast. Finally, I decided it was time to add to my skill set, so I went to school to become a New York State Licensed Massage Therapist.  In my training I learned in depth about the human anatomy and various self-care techniques, which now serve me greatly in my career as a performer. Happily, I am now also an anatomy teacher for actors, because I believe the information I’ve obtained will greatly add to an actors’ craft.

anatomy class for actors at Maggie Flanigan Studio

Before learning in depth about the human anatomy and its very specific needs, I would allow the long hours of a very demanding profession to wear me down. I know many actors who have experienced sprained ankles, pinched nerves, chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety and other various health related issues that derailed very promising careers. Actors deal not only with the demands of the work but also with the requirements of getting the job in the first place. Long hours at a computer, doing temp work, or late night hours in bars or restaurants can be hard on backs, feet, hands and the heart. It’s easy to feel aimless and that more time is being spent making ends meet than on being the creative and artistic person we set out to be.

We think our bodies should be able to do everything we ask of them and the good news is usually they can, but only if we know how to take care of it properly and train ourselves as athletes would. By learning how our bodies are intricately designed we are more capable of working smarter, not harder. Knowing your physical limitations, understanding how your instrument works and why, is the key to sustaining vivid organic behavior. For any serious actor, learning all you can about anatomy, fitness, and various self-care techniques along with professional actor training, will serve you in all aspects of your life. It also puts more tools in your bag so you can be the best and most authentic actor possible.

Why Should Actors Study Film History?

I studied film as a graduate student, I teach a film history course, and I spend my days working in a film library, and I’ am still routinely humbled when I browse the “Top 10” section on the Criterion Collection’s website and come across a famous young actor gushing about a film I’ have never seen. It always reminds me that filmmaking is truly a world of cinephiles. From the director to the technicians, a majority of the folks you’ll find on a film set have a passionate knowledge about great movies. They watch them, they study them, and they aspire to make them. Studying the history of film should not be considered a bonus for an aspiring member of the industry – it should be considered a necessary step towards becoming a complete artist and professional in your field.

film history for actors maggie flanigan studio


"Studying the history of film should be considered a necessary step towards becoming a complete artist and professional in your field."

Jeff RichardsonFilm History for Actors

This is particularly true for film actors. There’ is a reason it seems like every magazine article about the making of a film mentions the director screening movies for the cast. Great art demands great inspiration. As Quentin Tarantino said, “”I steal from every movie ever made.” Great artists steal.” Having shared references and common inspirations is incredibly important for the collective process that goes on between an actor and a director –and among actors themselves. Familiarity with great works of cinema, having a catalog in your head of performances and scenes, will pay amazing dividends. And not just on a film set, but in other contexts as well: auditions, industry parties, chance introductions. Film is a collaborative art form, and being able to connect with others who love and study cinema is a tremendous professional asset.

It i’s also important to recognize that film is not just an art form, it’ is also a business. A very expensive business, where “indie” films routinely cost millions of dollars to finance – and millions more to market. As in other walks of life, if you want to become a paid professional in the film industry, it’ is important to learn a thing or two about it. Where has it been? Where is it now? Where is it going? The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) was formed in 1933. Why? Who are the major studios, and how did they get where they are? Why did Steven Soderbergh “retire” and why did Hollywood just announce a slate of over two dozen superhero movies in the next five years? Like any other industry, working in film demands an awareness of the past and an understanding of the present. On both a professional and an artistic level, studying film history gives an actor an important leg up, and it is a process that should not be underestimated.

A Crisis in American Acting Pt. 2

Charlie Sandlan - Acting Coach NYC - Acting Coach in NYCI believe that the crisis in American acting is not simply an issue of aspiring actors and their misconceptions of the art form, or their aversion to working obsessively hard on their craft. The swamp of mediocrity also has a great deal to do with the training itself. Overall, it’s just not that good. What qualifies someone to teach acting? In many cases it takes no more than a few notebooks and memories of classes taken years ago. Worse than that is the “celebrity”, who uses their fame and commercial success as justification to claim the ability to teach. And then there are the casting directors, agents and managers who charge hundreds of dollars to lure people into thinking they have anything of substance to offer beyond line readings and a “Good job”.

That said, we do have many wonderful teachers thriving in theater departments of universities all over the country; passionate, inspiring, demanding and energetic teachers who have made profound impacts on the students who have crossed their path; those that consider teaching as an art form, who have an inviolate sense of truth and an ability to communicate and instill the important fundamental skills that any serious actor should strive to master. I was fortunate to have studied under Rich Rand at Purdue in the late 80’s, and with Maggie Flanigan and Bill Esper in Rutgers MFA program in the late 90’s. But there are thousands of young actors who aren’t that lucky. They flock to LA and NYC with a dream, but not much insight on how to vet and interview prospective teachers and programs. Rare now is the artist who devotes their life’s work to the art and craft of teaching acting. I believe that teachers are born, and hopefully at some point they realize their life’s work. When I discovered this for myself, I reached out to my mentor Maggie Flanigan and told her I wanted to commit myself to teaching the technique of Sandy Meisner. She said, “Ok, get back to NYC and start watching classes.” What has transpired for me over the last decade is what I wish for any dedicated teacher, an opportunity to soak up and devour everything that an incredible master teacher has learned over four decades at the top of their profession. My life and career is dedicated to honoring her belief in me.


I believe the best teachers know what a privilege it is to shape young artists. It is a true skill forged out of years and years of hard work, dedication, insatiable intellectual curiosity, and a deep need to become simple, clear and insightful. The best create a safe, nurturing space that encourages risk, and supports failure. They have a standard that an entire class strives to meet. They have deep insight into the human condition. They can teach to the class, but also the individual student and his/her particular issues. They are not abusive or engage in personal attacks. They have no desire to humiliate a student in order to validate their own ego. They have the ability to return the actor to their inner-child. They help to remove the defenses and intellectual barriers that come from decades of parenting, socializing and education. And they can do it in a slow and highly sensitive process. They send hungry actors, complete artists into the world with a solid craft, work ethic, and professionalism that has been earned through struggle and hard work. I believe we need more teachers like this for the advancement of our wonderful art form.

A Crisis in American Acting

In a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly, Jeff Labrecque writes about the incredible influx of British actors in America, and the crisis that is unfolding for American acting. He correctly states that it comes down to one major weakness: training. I believe that the American actor is lazy.

The Dedication of British Actors

The thousands and thousands of twenty-somethings who flock to LA or New York, pursue not art, but fame and celebrity. The British actor, however, spends years training as an actor to define their instrument. They collectively realize the importance of a resonant voice, clear speech, a pliable body, a versatile temperament, and the technique of acting. They also hone their craft on the stage. Harold Clurman spoke of this in the 40’s and 50’s as America found resurgence in actor training thanks to the Group Theater and the amazing artists that went on to influence the future of the art form. Sanford Meisner, Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Bobby Lewis, and Elia Kazan understood how important well-rounded training was to the actor (these are not the only influential teachers to be sure). This no longer resonates today.  Click here to read more »

Tony Award Winning Actress Cherry Jones Visits Maggie Flanigan Studio

cherry jones maggie flanigan studioNew York, NY, July 15. 2014 – Maggie Flanigan Studio, New York’s top professional actor training program, is excited to welcome Tony and Emmy award winning actress, Cherry Jones on July 31, 2014.

Ms. Jones, is the recipient of numerous awards, most notably the Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Best/Outstanding Actress in a Play, for her work in The Heiress and Doubt. She also received a Prime Time Emmy for her role on the television series 24. Ms. Jones, considered to be one of the foremost theater actresses in the United States, will discuss her training and professional experience with the Maggie Flanigan Studio students.

Ms. Jones, originally from Paris, Tennessee, graduated with a BFA from Carnegie Mellon University. While at CMU, she was among one of the first actors to work at City Theatre, a professional theater company in Pittsburgh. She was also a founding member of A.R.T. in Massachusetts. Ms. Jones achieved her star status winning two Tony Awards, three Drama Desk Awards, and one Emmy Award in her career thus far. This year Cherry Jones was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.

About Maggie Flanigan Studio

Located in New York City, Maggie Flanigan Studio, founded in 2001, is the top two-year conservatory-based acting program in the United States. MFS students receive the highest quality Meisner training beginning in First Year with Executive Director & Senior Acting Teacher, Charlie Sandlan. In Second Year, students work with Charlie Sandlan and Artistic Director & Master Teacher, Maggie Flanigan. In addition to the Meisner technique, the curriculum at the Maggie Flanigan Studio provides support for serious students, interested in voice/speech and physical training, as well as Shakespeare, theater and film history, script analysis, cold reading, monologue, on-camera film and television class, and an audition only based Business Class, where students are given the chance to audition for NYC and LA’s top agents, managers and casting directors.

For Immediate Release

Maggie Flanigan Studio
Bridget McKevitt
(917) 794-3878

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