Acting Nuts

By Paul Russell

Actors who leverage layering are the actors moving ahead of others.

When I work with my students, either at NYU or privately, I always cover audition technique and scene study.
Often when I venture upon this acting avenue with thespians—viewing what acting skills they have to show—the first presentation foray is just that: presentation. Either the actor plays a singular emotion ('Johnny-one-noting' as I call it) through the entire piece, or the actor gives me a one-dimensional take on the role.

When either happens, I begin to immediately lose interest. I light-grid. 'Light gridding' referring to when I zone out at a theater, looking to the light grid, when the action presented on stage has less excitement than watching dead grass grow.

Whenever presentation happens I'm asking, "Where's the depth? Where are the layers?" The more evolved the choices, the objectives, the twists and turns, the more exciting for the viewer watching the actor.

When directors, casting directors, or talent reps view an actor delving into the text, one who finds surprising, unexpected choices, the more that actor is viewed as intelligent and insightful. Layering is key to that successful summation from others.

I have two 'layer/flavor analogies' that I often provide to an actor when we're working together once they have fallen into the one dimensional-acting trap.

"Like a potato casserole," I'll begin, "with slices of potato both thick and thin layered on top of each other and then covered by a crumbly crust, give me layers within this scene/character."

When that falls on deaf ears (because God knows potato casserole, a less-than-palatable plating, is rarely popular beyond Iowa and parts of Pennsylvania), I go for a better known 'food' staple to exhibit my layer/flavor analogy.

"Think of what you're doing as a Snickers bar. You've got the nougat, the caramel and the nuts. Those are the layers and flavors. The chocolate that wraps up those flavors is the entire scene itself.
What's inside makes for the content of the scene and character.
Play the interior flavors and layers. Give me more choices. More flavor."
Often students give me just the nougat.

Now while all this may sound silly (we're in a business that often is victim of such) there is a serious message here within the text. Successful actors know how to see beyond the font that forms the text on the page and dive into what is not written. (Writers do this intentionally. It's more interesting for the listener/reader to formulate themes than to be told, "It was a dark and stormy night." Next!)

Actors who just read the text and don't consider why one phrase or word was placed on paper are actors who I term to be 'jet skiing.'
They just skim over the words without going deeper into what lies underneath. They play only the surface. When this happens in one of my classes I'll be quick to ask, "Why is the character saying that sentence or word?" Often there's hesitation in response. Then comes a fast-food like retort that is symptomatic our short-cut society today; a one-to-two word reply stating an emotion.

Fine. But what prompted that emotion? What was the trigger? What is the character not saying?
Play that as well. That's layering.

The more choices, appropriate to scene, character, motives, objectives and story that an actor provides -- without seeming schizophrenic or an actor gone emotionally rouge -- the better casting, talent reps, and audience will respond. At worst they'll think of you as intelligent.

So if you find yourself having trouble with a scene or monologue ask yourself. "Am I playing all the flavors and layers that can be found within this? Or am I just playing the nuts?"

Paul Russell's career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway.
He is the author of "ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor."

For more information, please visit

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Screen Actors Guild on Thursday unveiled nominations for its widely watched film awards, giving key nods to three films including "Up in the Air" and capping a busy week of honors from industry groups.

Hollywood watchers are focusing on several movies in the awards sweepstakes including Quentin Tarantino's war fantasy "Inglorious Basterds," urban drama "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire," Iraq war movie "The Hurt Locker," mid-life crisis tale "Up In the Air" and adventure "Avatar."

"It's thrilling and gratifying and pretty extraordinary from this particular filmmaker's perspective," said "Hurt Locker" director Kathryn Bigelow about her movie's success.
Three films, "Up in the Air," "Inglourious Basterds," and "Precious" earned three nominations apiece for Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards with "Basterds" and "Precious" among nominees for best ensemble cast, SAG's top honor.

Joining them were the stars of the musical "Nine," including Penelope Cruz and Daniel Day-Lewis, as well as the actors in "The Hurt Locker" and "An Education."

"Up in the Air," starring George Clooney as a corporate hatchet man, earned three nominations for Clooney as best actor and Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick as best supporting actress.

While it failed to make SAG's nominees for cast -- believed to be a bad sign because actors are the largest voting block at Oscar-giver The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences -- "Up in the Air" has led many critics' lists and been an early front-runner. And pundits say not to count it out yet.

"It's all about momentum," said veteran award-watcher Anne Thompson, whose blog Thompson on Hollywood, appears on film website IndieWire.

"I suspect it may remain in the top five, but it could have peaked" in the race to No. 1.

David Poland, who runs website Movie City News, said the big change this week has been the smashing critical success and box office potential of director James Cameron's "Avatar."

'Avatar' has changed the game.
In SAG's other key film categories, Clooney will be joined in the best actor race by Jeff Bridges in "Crazy Heart," Colin Firth in "A Single Man," Morgan Freeman for "Invictus" and Jeremy Renner in "The Hurt Locker."

The five nominees for best actress were Sandra Bullock for football movie "The Blind Side," Helen Mirren in "The Last Station,"

Carey Mulligan for "An Education," newcomer Gabourey Sidibe in "Precious" and Meryl Streep in "Julie & Julia."

Joining Farmiga and Kendrick in the race for supporting actress will be Penelope Cruz in "Nine," Diane Kruger for "Inglourious Basterds" and comic actress Mo'Nique, who took on a dramatic role playing an abusive mother in "Precious."
SAG's supporting actor race pits Matt Damon in "Invictus" against Woody Harrelson in "The Messenger," Christopher Plummer for "The Last Station," Stanley Tucci in "The Lovely Bones" and Christoph Waltz with "Inglourious Basterds."

(Editing by Eric Beech, Jackie Frank and Eric Walsh)

It is never too late to be who you might have been" --anonymous

(845) 365-0720

Next Workshop - JANUARY 5th

I am bringing years of experience to this workshop. The cost of the workshop is $125 for three hours.

Please call (845) 365-0720 for more information and to reserve your space and/or create a specific workshop for YOUR needs (ASK ABOUT OUR SPECIAL OFFER!). There is a Paypal option to reserve your space now. My shows continue to be wonderful successes around the country, and as I continue making my business great, I looks forward to sharing my experience with others.

This workshop will focus on how to get you the attention that you need. Richard's shows have been sell-outs.

Other topics will include how to use the internet to your advantage in marketing; how to get your name "out there"; cold calling; creating a contract specific to your needs; how to create a press kit that shows you to your best possible advantage and more! I get a sense of the various levels of each workshop and custom makes, on the spot, a class catering to the needs of the actual group in the room.
I will ascertain YOUR agenda prior to the workshop beginning so that each participant will leave with all of their questions answered, so come prepared!

On board with me is GLEN CHARLOW, who brings over 15 years in the business to the participants of this class and who will discuss the concept of image; how to use the internet effectively and how your website "sells" you even before you pick up the phone. To read more on Glen Charlow please visit:

For general information on workshops or Career Coaching, please contact Richard Skipper directly at 845-365-0720 or

Panetta: Forget why, ask what the arts can do for you

Journal Star
Posted Dec 27, 2009 @ 01:49 AM

As funding for arts organizations continues to shrink, what are cultural leaders supposed to do?

I have a suggestion: Stop talking about why the arts are important and why the community should support them.
Instead, start talking about what the arts can do for the community at large. Start talking about how the arts are worthy of support because of what they do for children's education. Start talking about how the arts can improve the quality of life by being part of an effort to reclaim decaying neighborhoods. Start talking about how the arts can give Peoria - or any city or town - a distinctive character and a sense of place that can be of real value in a world where every commercial district is increasingly looking the same.

Talking this way is difficult for arts leaders, however, because they understandably tend to have a narrow focus: Their own organization and its woes. Certainly, passionate advocacy for a specific group - whether it's one of the local community theaters or art centers or whether it's the Peoria Symphony Orchestra or the Peoria Ballet - is vital.

Nevertheless, someone has to start looking at the big picture, looking for ways to insert a cultural agenda in places where people usually don't expect to see one - for example, in the midst of city planning or economic development.

Carol Coletta, president and CEO of CEOs for Cities, a network of business leaders concerned about the future of urban areas, points the way. When Coletta spoke in Peoria in November - as part of a conference with the National Endowment for the Arts - she stressed the practical importance of the arts for any community.

To be successful, Coletta says, cities must strive to do the following:

Develop, attract and retain talent.

- Enable connections among their residents, the city, the region and the global economy.

- Emphasize what makes them unique places to live and work.

- Foster innovation in every way.

Coletta argues that the arts are crucial in helping cities accomplish each of these goals. A vital arts scene, she says, can be a talent-magnet, drawing younger, well-educated, talented people to cities and towns. Why? Because young, creative people are more likely to choose a city where they want to live and then look for a job - the reverse of the traditional pattern.

Artists also are good at making connections - connecting people of different ethnic groups, different parts of a city, different socioeconomic backgrounds. In a society that sometimes emphasizes what divides us - whether it's race, class, ethnicity or sexual orientation, the arts can be a bridge.

Artists also can be effective at helping a city find its unique identity. In a world where things are increasingly becoming the same, the arts and artists can help a community plug into its history and heritage.

Finally, the arts can help foster innovation. Artists are masters at taking ordinary things - colors, notes on a scale, fabric, whatever - and making extraordinary things. This ability, Coletta says, to come up with new ways of seeing things, of creating new possibilities is a rare and needed talent today.

Why? Because the future is all about technology, and the arts and artists themselves are more and more mixed up in technology and technological break-throughs.

Just look at the way that Bradley University's theater and multimedia departments are working together, not just creating innovative theater using digital technology but also preparing students to lead professional lives of continual improvisation and learning, where creativity spurs technology and technology spurs creativity. Just look at almost any visual artist's Web page, and you will see someone who is not merely trained at painting and drawing but in a variety of multimedia skills as well.

But to see why the arts can really make a difference, take a look at Main Street or Sheridan Road or the Downtown Warehouse District.

On Main Street, a group called Campaign for a Walkable West Bluff is using student artwork to beautify empty storefronts. During the past year, the group has held three art displays using the work of students from Bradley University, Whittier Primary School and St. Mark School.

"I think what's exciting is that we are trying to create a different vision of the street," one building owner said. "People tend to think Main Street is unsafe and in decline. We're trying to combat that by trying to put things up so they can see the possibilities for its use instead of just vacant buildings."

Galleries and studios also have cropped up in the city's warehouse district. So have arts-related activities like the Riverfront Market, which features not only an array of locally grown produce but also music and visual art.

And on Sheridan Road, Jonathon Romain, a nationally known artist who has been profiled by Black Entertainment Television, has opened a gallery and studio. Romain, who has gone from selling drugs to making and selling art, is an inspiring example of the difference that creativity can make in anyone's life. He hopes to use his gallery not only for art, but also for outreach to young people at risk of falling into the cycle of drugs and crime that he escaped. Efforts like Romain's are something that ideally should be multiplied elsewhere in the city.

Art-for-art's-sake arguments are not likely to convince anyone but the already converted, especially in the middle of the Great Recession. But arguments that stress art-for-the-city's sake have a better chance because what's at stake is not simply a particular visual artist or performing arts group but a region or community's common good. And isn't that what public policy is supposed to be about?

Gary Panetta is the fine arts columnist and a critic for the Journal Star. He can be reached at 686-3132 or Write to him at 1 News Plaza, Peoria, IL 61643.

What I Want for Christmas by Michael Kaiser
President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Like everyone else, I have a list of things I want for Christmas. Here is mine:

1. All arts organizations to recommit to their missions: Virtually every arts organization has a mission and I dare say that a majority of board and staff at most arts organizations could not tell you what that mission is.
A mission is crucial: it should direct all of our efforts and tells us how we measure success. If a majority of stakeholders cannot recite the mission, the organization is likely to be drifting. I want arts organizations everywhere to rethink their missions and to recommit to them as well. When everyone in the organization is moving in the same direction, there will be a far greater level of achievement and far less waste.

2. A serious discussion on arts education: There are many, many people around the nation who are thinking about and working on ways to bring arts back into our public schools. I know that my staff and I are working diligently on this effort. We need a serious discussion at the federal level about ways to bring arts back into the schools.

We need to engage the best thinkers on this subject as well as the government leaders responsible for education. There is a good deal of money already being spent on arts education; but arts education efforts are uncoordinated and unfocused. I believe that if we can come up with a better scheme, we can provide far better education for our children.

3. Arts funders to support arts management training: Those who have heard me speak know that I am a fierce advocate for arts management education.

What is the use of spending billions on training professional musicians, and actors and dancers if we do not have the people who are prepared to employ them? We are in a danger zone in the arts because so much in our environment is changing: the way people get information, the way people access entertainment, the ability of our audiences to pay for tickets, the amount of coverage by media for serious art, etc. We need smart sophisticated managers who know how to deal with these changes.

4. Government leaders to expend some political capital on the arts: It is disheartening to me every time I hear a politician laud the importance of the arts. This might seem absurd but all I hear when a politician supports the arts is lip service. When are we going to get a group of political leaders to actually expend some political capital to make sense of government spending on the arts? There are nine federal agencies who fund the arts and they never sit in a room together to develop funding policy. This cannot be optimal. We need our federal arts money to be spent wisely.

5. A concerted campaign to promote the value of the arts in our society: The arts need a marketing effort. Individual arts organizations can help by doing a better job of creating institutional awareness and excitement.
But the entire field needs a marketing campaign as well. We provide so much to our society but we have not convinced enough people that this is true.
If we had, many of my other Christmas wishes would already have obtained.

I am not naive. I am willing to wait for many Christmases to pass before all of these gifts are received.
But this is a season of miracles.

ArtsWestchester Announces Professional Development Workshops
Posted by
Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Westchester Arts & Entertainment NewsWhite Plains, NY - As part of an ongoing effort to enhance arts education practices, ArtsWestchester has announced two upcoming professional development workshops in 2010.

These workshops are especially tailored for arts educators and recognize that demanding schedules often make it difficult for teaches to avail themselves of professional development opportunities. Teachers are introduced to new trends in the field, and have the opportunity to come together as peers to share the practices that have worked best for them.

Workshop fees: ArtsWestchester Roster Artists: free, non roster artists: $15, college students $5. All workshops take place on the fifth floor of The Arts Exchange, the headquarters of ArtsWestchester, 31 Mamaroneck Avenue, White Plains. Registration is ongoing but space is limited, so early reservations are suggested. Those interested may register online at (click on Fine Tune Your Skills from the home page), or by calling Jesse Mendez at (914) 428-4220 x 333.

“It’s always nice to have a fresh perspective,” says ArtsWestchester Executive Director Janet T. Langsam. “Teachers, teaching artists, and tomorrow’s teachers are introduced to specialists they might not ordinarily meet. At the same time, there is a special feeling of camaraderie, as teachers meet colleagues from throughout the county who face the same challenges as they face every day.”

Upcoming Workshops Include:

The Green Classroom: Solar Energy
Wednesday, January 6, 2010, 5:30-7:30
Learn about solar energy and how to integrate current knowledge of solar energy and science concepts into your teaching artist residency. This panel and brainstorming session brings together science and art educators and a solar energy consultant to discuss ideas on how to integrate art and science curriculum into a teaching artist residency.

David Weiss, Solar Energy Consultant, Mercury Solar Systems located in Port Chester, evaluates and installs PV Solar electric systems and thermal hot water systems in homes and businesses. Devon Spencer, Director of Science Barge Education, B.A. in Theatre & Dance, University of Texas at Austin, M.A. in Environmental Conservation Education, New York University. Ms. Spencer teaches adults and youth on the Science Barge and participated in Teaching the Hudson Valley 2009. Claire Cronin, Art Teacher, RJ Bailey School in Greenburgh, will discuss creating successful science curriculum integrated art residencies. David Propp, Science and Gifted teacher at Highview School in Greenburgh, has worked on art and science projects such as building solar cars with 5th grade students.

Teaching Through the Arts:
Incorporating Core Curriculum into your Practice:
Tuesday, February 2, 2010, 5:30-7:30 pm

This interactive workshop focuses on the New York State Learning Standards in the Arts and the New York City Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in the Arts. Learn the crucial elements for designing lesson plans, devising assessment techniques and conducting residencies to discover students’ cognitive, social and personal development through the arts. See how to strengthen connections between the arts and academics and how to form a strong/productive artist teacher partnership.

Workshop Leader:

Haifa Bint-Kadi (teaching artist). Ms. Bint-Kadi is a professional mosaic artist, who has been awarded numerous commissions to create mosaic murals in public places. In 2007, Ms. Bint Kadi was awarded a teaching fellow by the Empire State Partnership and the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and conducted teacher and arts administration professional development specializing in integrating the academic curriculum and the arts.

ArtsWestchester is your connection to the arts. Founded in 1965, it is the largest, private, not-for-profit arts council in New York State; its mission is to provide leadership, vision, and support, to ensure the availability, accessibility, and diversity of the arts.
ArtsWestchester provides programs and services that enrich Westchester: our grants help fund concerts, exhibitions and plays; we bring artists into schools and community centers; we advocate for the arts and build audiences through our marketing initiatives. In 1998, ArtsWestchester purchased the nine-story neo-classical bank building at 31 Mamaroneck Avenue which has since been transformed into the Arts Exchange, a multi-use resource for artists, cultural organizations, and the community.

Alaina Reed Hall of 'Sesame Street' and '227' Dies at 63

Alaina Reed Hall, the kind-faced actress best known as Olivia on 'Sesame Street' who later starred on '227,' died Dec. 17 in Los Angeles after a lengthy battle with breast cancer, the Springfield News-Sun reported. She was 63.

Beginning in 1976 and running up until the late 1980s, Hall was known to millions of children as photographer Olivia on the PBS show. She told the News-Sun in 2004 it was "the best job I ever had."

In 1985, she was cast in the urban sitcom '227' as Rose, the go-to friend in the neighborhood.
The cast also included the always-sassy Jackée Harry and ran for five seasons.

After '227' left the airwaves in 1990, Hall made several guest appearances in shows such as 'Blossom' before scoring a lead role on the short-lived sitcom 'Cleghorne!' in 1995.

Her film credits include 'Death Becomes Her' and 'Cruel Intentions.'

Hall was also a talented singer, having began her career on Broadway ('Hair,' 'Chicago') and released a single, 'Bad for My Head,' in 1972.

Support THE ARTS! LIVE THEATRE! Go see a show this week! Send me your reviews and suggestions and I will put them in my next blog coming out next Tuesday! Here's to an ARTS-filled week! Don't forget to contribute to the DR. CAROL CHANNING & HARRY KULLIJIAN FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS:

With grateful XOXOXs for your support!

Richard Skipper

Follow me on Twitter @RichardSkipper

I had the wonderful opportunity of performing last nite at the Iguana. Dana and Richard are the most inviting hosts and make every one feel welcomed and loved... They have created a comfortable atmosphere at the Iguana.. I was sitting between Celeste Holmes and Eileen Fulton.. Not too bad I'd say. A perfect place to meet new people and brainstorm. Come and be a part of New York's Gem and make a little of your own history. see you there.
Esther Beckman

My sister, Joanna, and my student Omar Felix went with me to Dancers Over 40 on 12/13 for the tribute performance...your energy, warmth and enthusiasm as Carol Channing made the afternoon very special for all of us, and tied the whole program together. Can't wait to see more, Richard...
Garold Gardner,

Richard! What a wonderful evening at the Iguana. Thank you for a lovely night of song! Michael Miller

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: NYC Now a night out in NY to see a show at a VERY AFFORDABLE price! Dana Lorge and I have put our OWN spin on the variety show format and are now hosting every Wednesday night in NYC at The Iguana VIP Lounge ( in the heart of
NYC (240 West 54th Street 8-11PM/with an intermission).

Cover: $10 - no food or drink minimums – but remember – the food is great!
This is a nice night
out with the family! A
"throw back" to the variety shows we grew up with.
For more info, please call 845-365-0720 or visit _www.RichardSkipper.com_


212-765-5454. No one admitted before

December 30th: Ritt Henn, Annie Hughes, Cindy Marchionda, Sarah Rice, David Nathan Scott

January 13th: Barbara Gurskey returns!

January 20th: Douglas Davidian, Cait Doyle, D'yan Forrest, Greta Heron, Catt John, Alegra Themmen

Feb 3 : Michael Austin, Lucia Mozzola, Jane Schechter, George Stella, Jane Stuart

February 17th : James Alexander

March 10th: David Alpher & Jenny Litt, Louise Quick, Nicholas Tamagna, Pam Tate, Maureen Taylor

March 24th, Julie Reyburn returns!

April 28th: Kecia Craig and Frank Stern!
Keep checking for upcoming entertainers.


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