Sandy Weiss

Sandy WeissOccupation:
Acting teacher
Time in Japan:
11 years

"The overwhelming majority of my time is spent preparing my classes. I am always thinking about each student' particular problems and how I might reach them personally. For my second year students, I am constantly analyzing scenes and plays. That's a tremendous amount of work. And from time to time, graduates from my class will drop by to work out scenes from plays they are performing. And for myself, I practice Tai Chi every morning and go to a Zen temple every now and then to chill out and relax.

When I first started teaching acting there were very few English speaking theatre companies. The economy was very good at that time. I thought that eventually there would be more and more actors coming to Tokyo to make a living. Today there is much more English theatre.

In the first year of my course, I witness students undergo an enormous transformation. A new light shines from them as they overcome challenges they never thought they'd overcome. During that year, I teach them to open up and sensitize themselves. They learn what a real impulse is, how to read behavior and what people really mean by what they say and how they say it. From there I help them develop a 'dramatic imagination'. Emotions are never pushed or squeezed out, they unfold naturally. And all the while we are learning a craft, a form. Its really wonderful. That early work is creative in one way and the second year work in another. My second year students have embraced the basics. With them I focus on character work. We are able to take the work of the first year and expand it to a much broader creative plane. I see my graduates as well-tuned instruments, ready to play their music in a range of roles. My students have had leads in everything from Othello to American Buffalo. One student recently went to New York and landed a professional role in her first audition. Another student went on to be one of four chosen to a top directing school in London.

Too many people believe if you can walk, talk and learn lines you can act. They don't see acting as an artistic pursuit like being a ballet dancer or a pianist. A budding pianist must play their scales before they take the stage. A dancer who dreams of dancing enters as an awkward girl and emerges a swan. Actors must do the same thing to emerge as an artist.

I love teaching and I personally enjoy process. Of course I like performing, but my life is dedicated to process. That's what really grabs me."

Sandy Weiss spoke with Steven Sills.

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