Being an Actor and an Artist: Two-Year Acting Program

byLeo Wayne

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The two-year acting program at the Maggie Flanigan studio is considered by many to be the most respected Meisner Technique training program in the United States. In this interview, Leo Wayne discusses how the two-year acting program and how the Meisner Technique changed his understanding of what it means to be a professional actor.

What did you think being an artist meant before training at Maggie Flanigan Studio?

At first, I thought to be an artist was a loose term, it’s kind of a hobby, something you did on your spare time. Like, for example, I like to think of painters as artists and me just kind of thought like, “okay, that’s something they do on their spare time. They don’t invest a lot of time into the details. They just do it as a way to express themselves.” And coming here to the Maggie Flanigan Studio, I just understand an artist to be a profession and something to be taken seriously.

To do that you have to take yourself seriously because Charlie is always pushing us to master our art and making sure we put the right amount of effort into the artistry behind the work that we’re doing. I never looked at it like that. Like, “why would I have to? I’m an artist. I’m just expressing myself,” but in order to do something good and shed light on the human condition, which I think all artists want to do, and speak about something and have a thought about issues going on, or if it’s just a personal issue, you still need to take the time and to put effort into the details. To me, that’s what being an artist is, is taking that time, the effort and treating yourself seriously before anyone else can.

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I spent a year in another NYC acting program and something was missing. During the first class with Charlie, I knew immediately that he was teaching what I was missing, and that was depth and intensity.

Leo WayneTwo Year Acting Program

What has the two-year acting program done for you and what have you learned about the art of acting from the Meisner technique?

I laugh when I think about what the Meisner technique and the two-year acting program has done for me because it’s made me both a better friend and a worse friend. In the sense that I’m just a lot more honest with people and I’m able to hear what they’re going through without having to judge them or anything. I’m just more grounded in myself, and I think that’s made me a better person.

Sometimes friends will ask you questions, and I’m just way more direct and way more honest with them than I was before, which I think it’s a good thing. I believe they grow to appreciate that and I’m able to express myself and open myself up more to them as well because I’m just more comfortable with who I am as a person.

How has the Maggie Flanigan Studio changed your understanding of being an actor and an artist?

I’ve never necessarily considered the actor as an artist before coming to the Maggie Flanigan Studio. I always looked at an actor as a performer, someone who has a role and he knows what he’s going to do and, you see, in their spare time, before rehearsal or before they’re going to shoot, they do their homework on the script, and then they go, and they put it on the show for an audience, or for a director.

Now, I see what Charlie’s talking about regarding why it’s so important for actors to be artists and treat themselves as such. Because to be a good actor you need to be able to understand what other people are going through and what you’re going through as a character and also what you’re going through in your daily life.

You need to understand the depth of that and be able to communicate that and express that. Now, that’s all I’m consumed with, is thinking what’s going on here. How can I be a better person before becoming an actor? Because, I think, they go hand in hand. The more you understand about yourself and people the better you’ll be as an artist and, naturally, as an actor.

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Two-Year Acting Program – Maggie Flanigan (917) 789-1599

You’ll also be authentic as an actor because you’re going to be shedding light on something that’s true to you. Something that you spend time, something that you crafted and something you’re excited about, even if it’s a dramatic situation. And you get to bring that and experience that on camera or stage. That’s just way more fulfilling than what I thought of an actor as a performer putting on a show for other people.

Now, I work for myself and how can I tickle myself and do things that make me happy, even if it’s dramatic, still finding joy in that and working for myself.

How would you describe Charlie’s approach to teaching the Meisner technique in the two-year acting program?

Charlie is a great dude, man. Charlie, when I interviewed him he told me two things, he told me that he was tough and he was fair. And it’s all true; he’s very tough and very fair because anytime you get criticism from him it may hurt at first. I think that’s just natural with getting criticism from anyone. It’s going to hurt, and it should hurt because you’re putting, hopefully, your yourself on the line and you’re working from a personal space, so anytime you get feedback it may hurt. But anytime I go home, and I sit with it I realize, “Wow, that guy was right.” He’s coming from the right place because he’s pushing us to work harder, work better and craft tighter. There are so many different sayings that the guy has, and when you get them, you’ll realize how true they are. It’s also good working with him because he’s such a cool person. Nothing he says is personal; it’s all professional. The biggest thing I’ve learned from him, and he said this probably in week two; he said he doesn’t care about our standards for ourselves, we’re going to meet him at his bar. And that’s something I strive for every day because I want to have a bar so high that every time I step on, whether it’s on stage, camera, class, that I’m aiming for something higher than I’m accustomed to and keeping myself accountable to that. When I don’t keep myself accountable, Charlie sure as heck will keep [laughs] you accountable, and that’s so valuable.

I’ve been in so many different schools and training with so many different teachers, and a lot of them have that kind of nice approach and pat you on the back when you did horrible work. You don’t grow from that. Charlie is very straightforward and, as he said, he’s tough but he’s fair, and you will learn. If you kind of embrace that you’re going to become a better person, a better actor– The guy’s just awesome. He delivers on his promises that he makes to you as a teacher. That’s valuable, especially today. It’s not just about money or anything like that; it is working to a higher standard, being an artist and making sure everything’s authentic.

How does Maggie Flanigan Studio compare to other studios that you’ve studied at or taken acting classes?

I think it’s the authenticity. Charlie has a vision for the studio and even when Maggie Flanigan comes in, you can hear that they pretty much believe in the same ideals and they treat it very much the same way. When I trained at other studios you’d always have the studio head or whoever founded it and then there’s a sharp drop off because you’ll be training with people that, once again, they’ll pat you on the back and they’ll stick to the script in terms of what they’ll be teaching, but you don’t get any value from that. Over here it’s, no matter what class you take, the core classes of voice, movement, all those teachers they all speak about the acting room and what you’re doing in the voice or movement how it’s going to translate to acting and regarding acting, I mean, behavior. That’s just cool because everything’s integrated and they’re all pushing you in the same direction. It’s almost as if you have the same teacher teaching you everything. The other places I’ve been at they’re just not that way. They’re more like workshop classes, and it’s you’re left to fend for yourself, how do I put it all together. Whereas here everything is geared towards being a better artist and actor and creating behavior, realistic, authentic behavior.

What is the difference in having smaller acting classes as opposed to larger classes?

The smaller classes here at the Maggie Flanigan Studio they create a more intimate setting where you get one-on-one attention. Charlie is very specific with you, and he also has the time to get deeper into some feedback that you may need to hear, whereas as other studios your class sizes are so large, everything’s almost cookie cutter, that everyone gets the same feedback and everyone progresses at the same rate.

Over here, just because of the smaller class sizes and the setting that we’re in, it’s just more of a home and something we’re comfortable, everyone in my class, at least. We’re just so cool with each other and comfortable with speaking openly and also hearing the feedback. I think that’s a big part of it is getting criticism and not feeling like you’re being attacked personally. Part of that is because everything’s so intimate and everyone knows each other. It’s like a big family here, and it’s a big home that you could just come, and even if you do not have class, you could just come here and immerse yourself in the experiences and speak to other people. It’s really good.

What would you say to someone who is trying to work professionally but is on the fence about committing to a two-year acting program?

If anyone’s on the fence about coming here and getting this in-depth training, I would just say, “leap. It’s well worth it.” I spent a year at another program similar to this, and I learned a lot, I grew, but I felt something was missing. When I came in, Charlie let me audit one of his summer classes and I could just tell instantaneously what he was teaching was what I was missing, and that’s that depth and intensity, and just pushing myself harder to really just get there and work for more of a visceral place, which he always talks about. And now I am working from more of a visceral place.

I can’t imagine feeling the way I do in class. In other places you just won’t get that, it’s very much of a cookie cutter. Knowing there is working intensely. Where over here everything is intense. Not in a bad way, it’s just deeper, is probably a better word for it. If you are thinking of getting training or even if you don’t think you need training, trust me you need [laughs] training. You should definitely, at least sit down with Charlie and hear what he has to say, and the style and what he envisions for you. I think you’d be blown away by it.

Yes, you definitely should just leap. Come here and challenge yourself. It’s not going to be easy. It wouldn’t be, but nothing worth it is ever easy.

Now that you are finishing up the first year of the two-year acting program and heading into the second year, how do you feel?

After all the activities we do in the Meisner program, I’m excited to move on to the second year, where we get into character work. We get a dose of it where Charlie is always teaching us about the psychology of ourselves, and circumstances where we are just ourselves. But understanding that, it’s inspiring to think about it. Charlie says that when you get to the second year, it’s probably two times more work. But it’s more work on the script, and what I would think of like acting and work on characters and roles. I’m just really excited [laughs] to get to that.

Learn More About the Two-Year Acting Program

Students who are interested in the two-year acting program and the Meisner Technique should contact the studio about the program. Acceptance to the acting program is based on an interview. For more information contact the studio by calling (917) 789-1599.

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Fall 2021
Meisner IntensiveThe Meisner Technique

Starts Oct 13th
The Maggie Flanigan Studio has the best summer acting program in New York and the United States for serious actors who are interested in the Meisner Technique.
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