What is the technique used in the acting classes of the BHP/SF?
The BHP/SF utilizes the 3-pronged technique developed by its founder, Milton Katselas: Acting, Attitude & Administration. See the section on "Our Approach" for more information.
What do I get as an acting student of the BHP/SF?
The best, most practical, down-to-earth, non-intellectual, non-exercisey training there is.
Additional emphasis in the areas of Attitude and Career Administration - what to do to get this whole thing moving, and how to keep yourself sane and focused over the long haul.
Access to BHP/SF's "Admin Groups" who meet weekly to advance their career administration goals.
Access to BHP Professional Workshops - most notably the Casting Director workshops, where the BHP brings professional LA-based casting directors to our theatres to see your work. But also monthly professional workshops moderated by LA professionals in the casting, marketing and related fields.
Access to BHP/SF's "Agent Showcase" - an opportunity for students to perform in front of Bay Area talent agencies.
Access to inexpensive rehearsal space which can be booked and paid for online, 24 hours a day.
Digital audio recording of all critiques in the scene-study classes, accessible to you for streaming or downloading 24 hours a day via a secure website.
Membership in a full, varied, passionate community of actors, many of whom would consider the BHP/SF the basis of a rich artistic, social and professional life in San Francisco.
Will I be doing a lot of exercises at the BHP/SF?
No. The training of the BHP/SF is very down-to-earth, and it was the point of view of our founder, Milton Katselas, that actors should best spend their time in training doing what they will do professionally: Scenes!
We do have some exercises at the BHP/SF, but their emphasis is vastly reduced in comparison to our concentration on scene study. We have about 5 exercises, including a cold reading/audition exercise, and you might do all of these exercises once or twice in a year.
How many classes can I take per week?
You can take up to three classes per week at BHP/SF, with a recommended two classes per week. Why? The heart of the BHP program in Los Angeles is its 2x-a-week scene study program at all levels. Since most acting classes in Los Angeles are once-a-week, it begs the question: Why be in class twice a week? Answer: Because there's work to be done, an artistic life to be created, a career to launch!
Milton would often say that when he was at Carnegie, they had their mitts on his life for 60 hours a week of classes, workshops, rehearsals, etc, and that was for four years. When he created the BHP, he wanted to embrace the spirit of the commitment one finds in such undergraduate/graduate programs. Even at twice a week, that's 8 hours of class weekly plus rehearsal outside class. When you think that classical musicians may routinely practice 8 hours a DAY for YEARS to perfect their craft, you can see how the actor could use a touch of that. And actors can't practice without other actors, without a group, without scenes. And so we meet twice a week in the spirit of passion, intensity, fervor, and a wild-eyed pursuit of both craft and career.
Don't buy into the idea that you "don't have time" for intensive study. Most "no time" justifications have behind them the generalized problem of too much dispersal, too little discipline, too little get-up-and-go towards the pursuit of acting. The BHP believes that professional actors are ones who are committed to study, even after they become "successful," and should be breaking a sweat in class at least twice a week in addition to their other artistic / administrative efforts.
Who teaches at the BHP/SF acting school?
The acting teachers at the BHP/SF were personally trained by Milton directly during his life, and all boast between 15-30 years' association with the BHP and its specific kind of training. The teachers are professional actors, writers and/or directors, and are highly trained in other artistic areas as well. (See more information on the Teaching Staff.)
What is the tone of acting class?
The tone of classes at BHP/SF is professional – we want you to feel challenged, but safe. Students are expected to be on time, awake, alert, ready to learn, and are to remain so for the entire class. With regard to attendance and all issues related to attitude or deportment, the BHP has what it nicknames the "Robert Redford" concept: Whatever you would do to make it to the set to shoot your scene with Robert Redford, do that for class. For Redford, you'd be on time, you'd pretend your headcold didn't exist, that fight with your significant other would recede into distant memory, your family issues would be blocked out, and you probably wouldn't be holding your cell phone and updating social media while you spoke with him. Ditto for class.
Can I audit classes at the BHP/SF?
Yes, you can arrange to audit a class for free after contacting us. We do strongly believe that seeing the class in action is the best way to see what we do, but we only allow auditors via appointment for the reason that we want to keep our classes safe for members, without too many strangers in the room at any time.
What are the typical acting class sizes?
This varies by level, but classes range from 20 - 30 students.
How often do you get to work in acting class?
Totally up to you. We do not divide scene slots by the number of students in class. The highly motivated student will do many scenes, the less motivated will do fewer. An interesting observation is that those students with high scene production are generally those who are able to move forward in their career as well. Work ethic is work ethic. The BHP/SF is designed to reward work ethic. If you took an average across the BHP/SF, 2-3 scenes a month would be a nice clip, but it relies heavily on your intention, and there may well be times when you are working on a play or film and your scene production is down, balanced by other periods where you dive in more aggressively.
How do I choose material for scenes?
The best training occurs on the best material. Boxers don't spar with partners who are weaklings – they train with partners who challenge them. Musicians don't train on easy music – they train on the best. Actors should seek out writing that is interested in humanity, rather than in cleverness or glib emotion. Many actors think that because much of the writing for their contemporary auditions is subpar, they should train on subpar material, as if there is a specific, learnable way to pull off subpar material that will get you more jobs on TV. Don't think this way.
Many actors are simply not knowledgeable about scripts from the theatre and film history available to them. This is simply a shame, and indicative of the deterioration in education and the work ethic of actors. Imagine the aspiring pianist who didn't know the work of Chopin, the young writer who'd never read Tolstoy! And yet many young actors do not know their own history - the actors, directors and writers who have shaped everything we do today. The history of theatre and cinema is filled with challenging writing that is interested in human beings and real communication. This is what you should be interested in for your career. So seek this material out, educate yourself while doing so, and turn down class requests to work on Elf and Wedding Crashers.
Who assigns scenes?
Your scenes will come at you from various directions. Certainly the teacher will be assigning work, sometimes to seek out a certain kind of character, sometimes a very specific scene and/or scene partner to work with. In addition, your classmates will approach you with scenes they would like you to do. And of course, you will have your own ideas as to scenes you would like to work on. All these factors come into play in determining what you work on.
How many times do you put up any scene?
This can vary. If the first time you perform, the work is excellent, you may not have to repeat the scene at all. Or perhaps the choice of scene will be something not so great, and the teacher will ask to move on to other material. On the other hand, if you are challenged by the scene, and the teacher feels there is benefit to continued work on it, you may come back to repeat it once or more than one time. There is no pre-set limit one way or the other. You might go up in consecutive weeks with the same scene, or drop it for a while and return later, you may return with a different scene from the same script – anything goes.
What are expectations for rehearsal?
The expectations are high. We want you to bring in scene work that has been thought about, researched, rehearsed, sweated over – work that has possessed you. Getting together at Starbucks to socialize and read the early scenes from When Harry Met Sally won't cut it. Whatever you would do for $100,000 for Francis Ford Coppola, do it for your scenes. Nail the costume. Nail the character. Research. Meet real people, talk with them. Know the entire script, and know the other scripts by that author. We want finished work, "finished" meaning that you've explored it to the limit of your abilities. When actors bring in glib work that has not been rehearsed, it obviously limits the effectiveness of your training – you don't want the teachers telling you what you already know.
What is duration of acting class?
Classes last up to 4 hours from 7 pm - 11 pm, but classes start at 6:30 pm on assigned play reading nights which occur twice a month. All students are expected to be on time for the beginning of class and stay until the end.
What happens if I get acting work or can't come to class for some reason?
The BHP/SF does not pro-rate tuition for absences of less than four weeks' duration. If you miss a night for any reason, we don't credit you for that. If for any reason you are absent from class for longer than four weeks, you may request a Leave Of Absence (LOA), during which you will not be charged. Those who have prepaid tuition will not have any charge against their account during an LOA.
Does the BHP/SF teach improv? I've been told I need to take improv classes.
The subject of improvisation is covered as part of the technique of the BHP/SF. But the difference is that we use improvisation as a tool, as a method for discovering honestly a moment that may not be covered by the writer, or that you may be having difficulty with, or something that is outside the time frame of the script – for instance to use improvisation to explore the early, romantic part of a relationship in a script about a breakup.
Most "improv training" in Los Angeles is comedy based, and consists of over-inflated emotions, the ability to "say yes" to any idea thrown at you, speed of response (both verbal and emotional), with an overall urge to be funny. Make them laugh. The word "improv" is often inextricably linked to "comedy" – I belong to an improv comedy troupe. There is clearly no such thing as an improv drama group. A lot of money is made in LA by trying to hit actors with the need to "study improv" so they can "do better with sitcom auditions," or what have you. The marketing here has been brilliant, but it's frankly empty. The BHP tries hard to break this linkage. Improvisation can be fantastic, but too often it is the means by which people think they will land a gig on Saturday Night Live, rather than an honest approach to good acting.
What about the whole aspect of "film acting" versus "stage acting"? I keep hearing I should do camera workshops.
The BHP makes no such distinction. Acting is acting. The story you are telling, the technique you personally use to be honest and authentic in your acting – this is the same on stage and on film. Many of our greatest film actors have come from the stage. Yes, there is a difference between playing to 1,000 people in a theatre and having the lens and a boom microphone ten inches from your head, but the expertise in this difference comes from professional experience. Singers learn to sing. They don't learn different approaches for different performance spaces. Pianists learn to play. They don't spend time in their training to learn the difference between big halls versus small recording studios. Actors should learn to act. The rest will take care of itself through experience.
Are you able to take other classes outside the BHP/SF once enrolled?
No. The BHP operates under what we call a "One-Teacher Concept." Students currently enrolled at the BHP/SF are not permitted to study in other schools or acting classes – it tends to waste everyone's time, as the student may be receiving contradictory information from different classes.
What are the different levels, and how does one get placed or move between them?
The BHP/SF teaches on Orientation, Intermediate, and Advanced levels.
One "moves up" from Orientation to Intermediate and from Intermediate to Advanced after a period of time at each level. This period can vary, but 12-18 months would be a good average. The timing of the moveup is by agreement of the student and the teacher, based on how the student has progressed in the areas of Acting, Attitude and Administration.
How long is the expected course of study at the BHP/SF?
Indefinite. See the section on "Why Study?" We would not accept any applicants who are only interested in a fixed time period of less than six months, and our goal is that you will be finished looking for acting classes.
Do you do any video recording in the classes?
No. There are no cameras as part of the training at BHP/SF. We do record all the critiques on digital audio, and upload those recordings to a secure website so that students can listen and/or download their critiques on an ongoing basis, or the critiques of other scenes in your specific class.
Does the BHP/SF produce industry showcases?
The BHP/SF does not produce showcases for its students. However, motivated groups of students may produce their own showcase in our theatres, with scenes that have been approved by the teacher. Many actors get in mind the idea to do a showcase, and then look for good "showcase scenes" – often spending hundreds of dollars to produce and promote work that is not to the highest standard. At the BHP/SF, the emphasis is first and foremost on quality – when you do a scene that is of the highest caliber, then it is certainly possible to use our theatres to show it off when they are not in use for class.
How do I start at the BHP/SF Acting School?
You will schedule an appointment to audit a class, where a trained BHP SF acting school staff member will give you all the information about our approach and the commitment, etc. You will get a chance to observe a class, ask any questions you have, and the issue of proper placement, tuition, and class choice is covered as well. Only after you have been approved by BHP SF staff will you be placed in a class to begin your study. Contact us to audit a class!
Where can I find more information on the BHP/SF and Firescape Theatre productions?
Information about previous and upcoming productions can be found here.