There’s no shortage of places to study acting in our city of dreams, but the most renowned of the lot are worth seeking out for their integrity and the quality of their teachers. At homey HB Studio (120 Bank St between Greenwich and Washington Sts; 212-675-2370, hbstudio.org), founded by Viennese-American actor-director Herbert Berghof in 1945 and known for rigorous training methods, classes abound for every level of student. Technique I with Michael Beckett (Wed 8–10:30pm or Sat 12:30–3pm; 15 classes $375; Sept 4–Dec 21), an actor-director who studied with William Hickey and Berghof himself, is ideal for continuing-ed students passionate about learning as much as they can about the craft of acting as opposed to casually trying it on for size. Utilizing exercises designed to “rid the beginning actor of self-consciousness and the paralyzing fear of being on stage,” the class is meant to give students a sufficient foundation in technique to delve into acting professionally.
Those with more time and money to commit may prefer the immersive Introductory Program at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting (31 W 27th St between Fifth Ave and Broadway; 212-689-0087, stellaadler.com), legendary for alums Marlon Brando, Candice Bergen and Robert De Niro—and the guiding belief of its founder, actor and drama teacher Stella Adler, that “the theater exists 99 percent in the imagination.” Choose either the evening option (Tue–Thu 6:30–10:30pm; eight weeks $2,175; Sept 18–Nov 8) or weekend (Sat 10am–7pm; eight weeks $1,675; Sept 22–Nov 10); both multidisciplinary, team-taught intensives, including courses in acting technique, movement, scene study, and voice and speech, give students a taste of the school’s full-time conservatory training—without requiring that you quit your day job.
Magnet Theater (259 W 30th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves; 212-244-2400, magnettheater.com), one of the city’s top venues for sketch and improv comedy shows, is also one of the best places to study improvisation, whether you’re just starting out, are an experienced practitioner or fall somewhere in between. The eight-session Level One: Principles of Improv (check website for days and times; $299; after Sept 1 $350) aims to turn students into confident performers, with exercises in agreement, listening, commitment and spontaneity, all of which happen onstage. The course culminates in a show that the school cheekily claims is “usually the highlight of most people’s lives.” If you’re on the fence about signing up, the two-hour Free Intro to Improv is offered regularly on weekends and weekday evenings.—Lee Magill
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