16 Feb Ep. #112 Trumpet Your Talent All of the Time with Gary Imhoff
Buckle up everyone! This week’s guest is one of the most mentioned people on the podcast and one of the most influential people in my creative life! Gary Imhoff was my acting teacher for many years, but he is much much more than an acting teacher, and in this episode we dig into much much more than performing! We talk about willingness and winning, technique and teaching, and yes, we also talk about what makes people attractive. This episode is all about finding whatever works for you and working in a way that frees you into your own natural and unique artistry.
Here’s what you’ll learn.
- Where our tradition of celebrating WINS at the top of every episode comes from
- Gary’s tried tested and true model for feedback
- What makes dancers and actors the same… And different!
- The difference between good and bad pride
- Why Gary doesn’t allow auditing
- Why so many women reject playing portraying and embracing their own sexuality
- And lots more, I mean really… it’s non-stop.
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Intro: Welcome to Words That Move Me, the podcast where movers and shakers, like you, get the information and inspiration you need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host, Dana Wilson, and I move people. I am all about the tools and techniques that empower tomorrow’s leaders to make the work of their dreams and live a full life while doing it. So whether you’re new to the game or transitioning to your next echelon of greatness, you’re in the right place.
Dana: Hello, my friend. And welcome to the podcast. I’m Dana. This is words that move me. And this is a big one. Remember my famous acting teacher that I talk about in basically every other episode, if you’re new to this podcast, then you don’t. But if you’ve been around for a while, you know him, you love him from a distance and today you get to meet him, the one and only Gary Imhoff. And let me tell you what my friend woof. I know I’ve set the bar pretty high. When I, when I talk about Gary and tell stories, and let me tell you what he does not disappoint. We talk wins, we talk technique, we talk criticism and creative freedom. You’re really you’re in for it today. You’re in for a treat. Um, and just as much as I want to let you have it and get right into it, we’re going to pause. We’re going to do wins first because Gary’s class is actually where I started my habit of starting with wins. So in true Gary Imhoff fashion here, we are celebrating our wins at the top of the episode. Ha I can’t help, but feel like this is a cop out, but it isn’t an out really, truly I have searched my brain. And the top when that is coming up at the top of my brain is this episode.
This conversation in and of itself is a win, but sharing it with you is a bonus. When, um, reconnecting with Gary has, you know, kind of put the wind in my sails, um, listening to him, talk about the ideas that he stands for in the way that he operates has just really kind of stoked the, the coal and the old creative engine. And I am feeling lit up. I am inspired to teach and inspire to make and share. And, um, I’m celebrating this pot of gold of an episode and can’t wait to let you in on it. So that is me. Now you go, what’s going well in the world. Hit me.
All right, my friend, keep crushing it and get ready to crush even harder. If that is something that you do does crushing happen in hardness crush, hard crush, soft crush, deep crush, deeper crush, even juicer I’m asking you to crush juicer because I’m imagining crushing, crushing. I’m imagining crushing fruit to make juice. And I am creatively juiced. I am so excited to share this very nutritious conversation, um, with the fabulous, the one, the only Gary Imhoff enjoy
Dana: Gary Imhoff. Holy smokes. Welcome to words that move me. Thank you for being here.
Gary: My pleasure. It’s nice to be here.
Dana: Oh gosh. Uh, I’d like to start off by saying that you are probably one of the most mentioned people on the podcast because I really, really think that the lessons I learned in your class in the professional artists workshop have shaped me in my dance and in my choreography, just as much, if not more than any dance class I ever took, which sounds like sacrilege, but I think it’s true. So welcome to the podcast.
Gary: I’m impressed. Thank you.
Um, now that the bar has been set and clearly you’re brilliant. So don’t say anything stupid. Um,
You’ve given me a very high standard to achieve here.
Oh, I know that. I know that we will, we will over-deliver um, but uh, part of the podcast tradition here is that all of my guests introduce themselves. So I will yield the floor and let you tell us anything you would like us to know about you.
Wow. Okay. How much time do we have? Um, I have been an artist since I remember I produced a play on my doorstep when I was four. I don’t know why. I don’t know how I knew. That’s what I wanted to do. My best friend was the daughter of the community theater star in my town. I was, I’ve surrounded myself with theater and actors and artists, my whole life. I had my first professional Broadway show contract. I signed it when I turned 20, uh, for an out-of-town company of Godspell. Actually I’d been an actor professionally ever since I’m a singer and I’ve been in the arts one way or another. My entire life teaching actually fell into my life unexpectedly. I, um, was, uh, I went to an acting class called the Beverly Hills Playhouse with Milton cancellous and he taught me how to act. Really. I’d been a very good natural entertainer, but didn’t really know the ins and outs of acting taught me how to act. And then he said, let’s see what this does to your singing. And I said, okay. And it made my singing much more connected, much more personal, much more emotional and, and much more effecting of audiences and a friend of his who was trying to help him expand the classes said to me, you need to teach this. I don’t want to teach. I’m an actor. I’m not going to teach.
And, uh, he worked on me for two years. Every time he saw me, he said, start that class pretty soon. I went, you know, I really do have a passion for what I’ve learned and a passion to pass it along because I go see Broadway shows and most people aren’t doing what I now know how to do the best example of what I now know how to do is Anne Hathaway in lane is which she won an academy award for my students, all said, you’ve been teaching us. You’ve been teaching this for 25 years. Finally, someone did it. Um, and it’s true. Um, how to be very personal and real and emotional when you sing. Um, and so I went, I do want to start a class. So I started the musical theater workshop there before I went off on my own. And when I sat in the teaching chair, two parts of me came together. I’ve loved helping people my whole life. I was part of a drug hotline when I was 15 years old, helping people off drugs, it turned into a pregnancy, abortion, suicide, you name it hotline. And then when I was at Princeton for a year, I was part of their counseling group. And now I was not only helping people. I was helping artists and I’d been an actor, a singer, a director, a voiceover actor. I’ve done everything I know how to do. Um, and I like teaching as much as anything else I do as an artist. So that will have to suffice at this moment as my introduction
You’re already over-delivering because you already knocked out my first question, which was, um, I just figured I would start at the beginning and I wanted to hear a little bit about your becoming a teacher after being a student and a working actor for a long time. Um, so, okay. Crushed that, nailed it. Um, I think it’s interesting that you point out or you use the word counselor. And I used to joke with my mom a lot, who was a flight attendant for many, many years. And she would, when she introduced herself to people, she would say, I’m a waitress, a childcare provider, a therapist, a parent, a friend, a blah, blah, blah. And she’s like a professional, all of those things. And when I think about what I do as a teacher, I think that it is equal parts, performing and counseling, and also like leadership leading by example, and being the lessons that you teach. And I think you do all three of those things really, really well. I’m so glad that you started us off strong. Um, I wanted to let you know, if you don’t already, if you are not an avid listener of words that move me podcasts, which I am so okay. If you aren’t. Um, I have borrowed a few Gary Imhoff traditions here the first and the most important, in my opinion is wins. I start every one of these episodes with a win. And then I give the listeners an opportunity to share one of theirs. They say it out loud, I play a little jingle. Um, but I get that from you. I, I get that from your class. Um, I was wondering where did wins begin? Like how, how did you, how did this thing?
That’s actually, that’s actually borrowed from, uh, the class that I went to at the Beverly Hills Playhouse. That was something Milton didn’t do it. Milton encouraged it, but he didn’t do it. I do it when I’m in the room. Uh, he, he had the stage managers do it before he ever came in the room. Um, uh, and so that was used essentially to get people into a good spirit before the class started also to get people into the idea that this is successful, that people are being successful with the teachings. So it was a good PR tool. Um, but also it’s, you know, being an actor, being an artist of any sort is, it would be great if on planet earth, people bowed down on, oh my God, you’re an artist. How can I help you? They don’t do that. In fact, they do quite the opposite. Most of the time
Haven’t noticed that.
Yeah. Yeah. What are you nuts? I mean, you know, and parents try to talk their kids out of it and that kind of thing. So it’s a very successful tool to look at what you have succeeded in doing. Um, and, and, and that it’s working and you got to hang on to that. Um, uh, you got to hang on to those wins. I remember once I tell you a quick story, because it’s a credit to my wife, that she did this, and it has really helped solidify how much, how important I think it is to not only recognize your wins, but celebrate them. Um, there was one day I was working in the office and I was just all over myself. I, I hadn’t accomplished all the things I wanted to accomplish. And I just, and I walked out of the office and she was in the hallway and I, I just was dark.
I just was in a place, you know, it was, I was in a very dark place and she walked over to me and she hugged me. And in my ear, she whispered, you’re doing great this week, you’ve done this and you’ve done this and you’ve done this and you’ve done this. And she listed about nine things. And when she released the hug, I was completely handled. I was completely fixed. I went, oh yeah. But for whatever reason, whatever I was getting down on myself for, I’d made so important that I’d forgotten all the things that I’d accomplished. So that’s easy to do, you know, we, as artists have a tendency to look at the negative, the first thing an artists wants to do is look at what was wrong or what didn’t work, or what was bad or whatever in their work. And so the counterbalance to that is to look at what’s right, and what you have accomplished. And that’s pretty much what wins are about.
And that pretty much is the best segue to the next thing I wanted to talk about, which is the other thing that I’ve borrowed from you is this form of self evaluation and feedback, um, asking, you know, before you give your notes, your constructive criticisms or your evaluation of your students, you, you know, they sit down in a chair in front of you with your notepad and your thoughts and you ask them what went well and what would you do differently? And I remember being so struck as an audience member most nights, um, that almost always, even though you ask the question first, what went well, almost always people will lead with what they didn’t like, the questions, like what went well. And they say, well, I didn’t do that. And I didn’t do this. And I really wanted to that. But I guess a, um, I dunno, I guess I was present, you know, and it’s, it’s just really default our minds go towards what went wrong. Um, regarding that style of like questioning and letting the actor answer first. Do you still handle feedback that way? I mean, it’s been a several years since I was in class.
Absolutely. It’s become a, a mainstay of my teaching. I don’t do it every single time. Uh, but most of the time I do. And the reason that I do, I invented it. I mean, I don’t know that I invented it. I think I invented it because no one taught it to me. I didn’t take it from anybody else, but other people may be doing something similar. Um, the reason that I ask what went well does relate to what we were just talking about because the artist’s attention goes to what’s wrong first that’s okay. But connected to that, most of the time comes in a crashing amount of self invalidation and self criticism. As one, one girl manifested one night, she got off the stage and the scene was good. Okay. Two good. And she went, well, that sucked. And I went, no, it didn’t suck actually.
And that’s why I do it, because if you can, by looking at what you did well, it makes space and it kind of clears away the negativity you see, it’s not the, it’s not the looking at what’s right or wrong about what you did. That’s a problem. It’s when you look at the wrong and then you get on yourself about it, and what happens is you just go, well, that was a failure or that sucked, or that was bad. And that’s the problem because that’s not true. And it causes you to generalize and just sort of demean yourself and self denigrate. And so when you ask what went well, and sometimes you have to coax them, you have to say, well, did you get all the lines, right? Well, what about that moment? What what’d you think of that? That, yeah, that was a good moment.
What about that? Did you try, were you bringing this, do you think that worked yeah. That worked. And what happens is they get lighter and brighter as they look at that. And they clear away that self invalidation, they like hold it away. Almost like on the other side of a dam, then you have now paved the way to ask them the second question, which is what would you do to make it even better? Which most people don’t think an acting teachers should say, because acting is just supposed to tell you what what’s what’s wrong. But I have passion this passion to help teach people to fish rather than feed them a fish. Meaning I want to teach them to self, evaluate their work. Because in this business I’ve worked with the majority of directors I’ve worked with, don’t know how to direct acting, and they don’t know how to direct actors.
And, uh, so I’m interested in helping actors discern, perceive their own work. And in doing that, I found out that actors know a lot about their own work. And so it’s part, I joke that I want to teach myself out of business with each actor. So I want to make, yeah, it’s a terrible business model, but the, but there are so many actors in the world. There will never be an end of actors, but I want to teach myself out of business, but there’s no way that you’re going to get somebody. In fact, that story that I started to tell you what, the girl that came down and said, it sucked. I said, well, it didn’t suck. I said, but where do you have your attention? And there’s a quote, it’s a Martha Graham quote. She says, all an artist has, is that divine sense of dissatisfaction?
And wow, it took me 25 years to figure out why dissatisfaction with divine. But then I realized, she’s talking about your perception. You, we do have perception about our own work. We know when something works and we know when something doesn’t work. So this girl, I said, well, it didn’t suck. And I helped her see what was good. And then I said, so what do you have your attention? She said, oh, well, the opening moment. And I said, yeah, what about that? She talked about it for a minute. And then I asked her more questions. She ended up listing five moments in the scene and it’s the only time it’s ever happened. But I turned my pat around and I said, read this. And I had listed those five moments in the scene. That’s all I did was just list those moments. And I said, you know what to do, go do it. That was the entire feedback. And I believe I went a long distance into helping that actress become self-sufficient because showing her how to look at that, cheering, showing her how to sort of check with check-in on her own perception and her own dissatisfaction, if you will. Um, and, and that, that, that’s the reason I do it is because those are my passions. Some of my passions in my teaching
It’s that story’s remarkable. And it’s so empowering. It’s such an empowering tool. I think that’s why I love it so much. And being a teacher of dancers, which arguably on the hierarchy is a even less powerful position on the payroll than an actor, certainly than a leading actor or anyone. It can be, you know, kind of built into our culture to feel disempowered without a voice. And so I love the tool because of that reason. It’s empowering. Yeah.
Dancers are sorry. I’m sorry. It didn’t interrupt. Dancers. Dancers are the hardest working most underpaid artists in our industry.
You know, it’s really funny you say that because the last interview I did, I was talking to a, a dance legend. Um, his name is Popin Pete, and we were talking about the value of dancers specifically in, in the entertainment industry. And how do you value them? Um, we made a comparison because we were talking about the Superbowl halftime show, which has been in the news. We’ll put that in the parking lot and come back to it if we have time. Um, but I made the comparison between professional dancers as in dancers who receive paychecks for doing the thing they trained at, um, and professional athletes also get paychecks for doing the thing that they’ve trained at and have maybe who knows an exceptional amount of natural talent plus training plus whatever. But the difference, the primary difference in my view, anyways, being that in sports, there are metrics and measurements for skill level, there are winners and losers, and there are, you know, objective ways of measuring who is better and by how much are they better than other people. And so that’s, I think where the dollar amount comes for pro athletes, but in subjective forums, in our art forms, we don’t have that. And so how do you value a dancer or an actor? Um, and that was a question, you know, we just kind of danced our way around. Nope. Unintended. Um, but yeah, it’s tough.
Yeah. It’s tough. And, and, and dancers are hard, hard workers. They’re, they’re my favorite students because they’re already having a look at rehearsal. They all Know how to work. You already, you already have you’re indoctrinated it’s uh, it’s. It’s, it’s quite, it’s really impressive.
Yeah. Um, okay. So what are the other differences? I mean, cause you see all type of students come through your doors, you have the musical musical artists workshop. Am I saying that right? Or music artist,
The artist’s workshop where I teach acting to musical artists of all kinds, including actors, who’d like to sing more, but also singer songwriters, all kinds of different musical artists. And then the professional artists workshop is the more standard acting class. People can do music in it from time to time if they wish, but it’s basically a sort of a regular scene study based acting class.
But in there we have like writers directors, there are comedy actors and improv artists. And um, I found out about you through Tony Testa. Um, one of my dearest longest friends. And then once I found out me and my big mouth, couldn’t keep it together. I think a lot of dancers, I think you’ve seen a lot of dancers in there. Um, but what do you think is what other differences have you noticed? I’m so curious between dance types, we’ll call them and other other types.
Um, the biggest, probably the other biggest differences. Most dancers have been convinced. They can’t sing. Um, and it’s not true. Um, uh, it’s not true at all. Actually. In fact, I’m privately working with a girl who’s a professional dancer and uh, I’m, I’m working on helping her with the voice. She was actually in the, in the musical class for a long time and she, because of coronavirus, she left the class, um, and she called me and said, let’s work privately. And then we kind of concluded the work. She should work privately on with singing. I’m not really a technical singing teacher, but I’m, I’m kind of experiment. I’m trained to do it. I just, that’s not my passion, but with her, cause I know her particular situation, um, we’ve been working on her voice and she’s having enormous success, uh, and enormous wins. But that’s a big thing with dancers
In fact, I have a dancer in my musical class right now, a beautiful dancer and we’re working on her voice because you know, it’s like, it’s like actors who say, I’m an actor who moves well, but actors don’t want to say they’re dancers because we, you know, most of us really aren’t uh, not trained the way you guys are. Right. But um, most singers have the most dancers, two things. Most dancers have a problem about singing and most dancers have a problem letting people know if they want an acting career, letting people know that they’re dancers,
Oh, whoa, you are nailing it right now. You’re speaking to my core. Yes.
They think there’s a bias in the industry, which may be true. I’ve certainly had enough dancers convince me that there’s a bias about that. My problem is I have a problem with that viewpoint, but I, I, I understand there may be a reality. I have a problem with that viewpoint because I have such an admiration for dancers. And I can’t believe that there aren’t an awful lot of people in this industry who have an admiration for dancers.
And do you want to work with people who love to rehearse and know how to work hard?
Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, these are the hardest working artists we have. And so it’s like, you know, I have, I go, don’t leave it off your resume. You want to minimize your credits or you want to make them look a little less. So it’s not the thing that jumps off the resume. That’s fine I guess. But I think we should be trumpeting all of our art all the time.
Oh, I think you just named the podcast, trumpeting all of the arts all of the time with Gary.
It’s funny. You know, I, let me tell you something about my career. Just really fast. I, I, I’m the I’m one of the only actors I know who had a problem in his career, in the middle. Um, I, when I started acting, I, I looked, I still look very young compared to how old I actually am. And I played high school kids on television until I was 33, something, something in that range. And what happens is you, don’t all of a sudden become an adult. You just become an old looking kid. And I now know why child actors have problems later in their careers. Because most of us don’t all of a sudden become older adults. We just become old looking kids. So I had a hole in my career for a period of time and I had trouble getting work and I went to a manager and she said, you know, she said, yours is a tough problem.
She said, I can see that you would work. But the first thing they’re going to do with your resumes, they’re going to say, well, why did he do all of this work? And then he didn’t work. What’s the problem? Why isn’t he a star? And I said, okay. She said, I know what I do with you. She said, I don’t want to handle you. But she said, if I was going to handle you, I would wipe your resume clean. Have you changed your name? And I would tell people in Los Angeles, you were a stockbroker from New York and you’re starting your career. Now. She said, I can get you in more doors that way. And I thought that was very clever. I didn’t want to do it because I didn’t want to negate my entire career.
But I thought it was very clever.
Yeah, exactly. I didn’t, I didn’t want to do that, but I thought it was interesting. So I think we should be trumpeting all of our art all the time and I wasn’t going to not trumpet what I had accomplished, even though it created a bit of a problem, which is now over. Cause I now look older enough to be cast with,
I am with you. I will be marching, banding, right? Alongside you. I’m all about the celebrations and the tooting of horns. Um, although that being said, not although, and that being said, another thing I remember taking away from your class is this notion of being humble and being of the earth and that everybody, um, not everybody, but so many people, especially in industry celebrate humility and being humble. And I remember you explaining one night, the origin of the, of the, of the word, humble humus. Humbleness, which means dirt earthRight? Like, do you really want to be what’s on the bottom of everyone else’s shoe. Do you want to be what people are stepping on? And I was like, I wanted to stand up and like, no, I just, I felt so, uh,
There is a distinction. I just have to inter interject this distinction because I can hear people screaming. Now it was a hero. Say that here’s the thing. Here’s the thing that people get confused. There’s two types of ego. There’s two types of pride. There’s two types of conceit. The type that everybody doesn’t want is false pride. It’s based in insecurity, not security. So When I say, Yeah, exactly. When I say you want to be there, there’s another word. Well, okay, you got me into it. I have to explain the whole thing. The word conceit and conceive come from the same root they both mean to create. So at one time, someone who was conceited was someone who created a lot, but then somebody who was jealous or somebody who had false pride, maybe in lording it over people, they said, oh, he’s conceited. It’s a bad thing. Well, what that originally meant was he creates too much, but then it became this negative word. Arrogance also means landowner and claiming for oneself, but probably some feudal, Lord owned a lot of land and then lorded it over the, the serfs who worked the property and they thought, yeah, he owns too much land. He’s too arrogant. And it became a negative thing. So what I like to tell people is you can tell the difference by how you’re effected by what they say.
So if someone says something about how good they are or how much they create or whatever, and you feel uplifted by that, that’s, that’s good pride. If you feel put down by it, or if you feel smaller, no, that they’re trying to create that effect, not consciously, but they’re trying to create that effect because you threaten them actually. And this is the diva. This is the whole reputation that divas get, uh, you know, divas get reputations because they’re there, they’re out, out of insecurity. I’ve worked with some magnificent people in this industry who are not, were not anything but truly arrogant claiming for oneself. When I worked with Tom Hanks and he told me a few things, I felt bigger and better around Tom Hanks. I worked with Barry Manilow. I sang one of his songs in a movie and he, I felt bigger and better around during that alone.
When I worked in Lucille ball, I felt bigger and better around Lucille ball, those people and not one of them was afraid to say, or, or talk from a basis of knowing how good they were. Even Tom, Tom is known as kind of the modern day, Jimmy Stewart and Jimmy Stewart. You know, he was very humble, you know? Uh, uh, you, you, you, you never really thought he had an ego, but Lucy in her house pointed out Jimmy Stewart’s house, which was next door, which was on two, two whole lots. And it was twice the size of her house. It looked like a palace. And I went wall, wall, wall, Ottawa. I don’t think as has a problem. There you go. If, if he’s got a house that big, you know, so, so it’s like, it’s like, yes, artists, should we want our artists to know they’re good, but we don’t want them to Lord it over us so that we feel smaller.
That’s, that’s, I’m not encouraging people to do that at all. I’m encouraging people to own what they are and that in, in that you continue to expand from there. I mean, Tom Hanks picked up the phone one day and said, Hey, Steve, Steven Spielberg, you want to produce a series with me? I think we should call it band of brothers. Now that’s a guy who’s claiming for oneself. He’s not afraid to pick up the phone and talk to Steve Snowberry and to produce a series. And so that’s what I’m talking about is the willingness to admit and own what you can do and do well.
This is bringing all sorts of tears to my eyes right now, and it’s such an important distinction to make. And the only thing that I would like to add is that if we’re looking at the difference between someone who is arrogant and someone is I’ll use the word self-confidence because self-confidence is something that I work on a lot with myself and my students, period. Um,
When you’re using it as a negative kind of arrogant,
Correct. Yes. Arrogance arrogance that says I’m better than you. Yes. On that, upon that pillar, that the arrogant person has built for themselves and place themselves on top of the only thing required to shake them off and completely rattled. Their entire world is one person that’s better than them. If they’re no longer able to say I’m better than you than their entire world crumbles. And the sense of identity is like, you know, yeah. But if you are a person, a self-confident person who can just say, I’m great, or I’m this and I’m that, and I’m also this and wow, you are that. And we can both be this and I’m this. And you’re that, like, it just is a different thing. And to me, it’s unshakeable, it’s it doesn’t, you can’t fall off of that. And, and that’s the thing that I love it’s of,
Well, it’s, it’s true power. I’ve said many times, if someone’s really powerful, they don’t need to tell you you’ll know, you’ll just get it. So, so anybody who’s dramatizing their power doesn’t really feel like they have it. So there’s a story about Tom Hanks. I have to tell, um, on, on, on green mile, which, which I’m in briefly, um, but have had some healthy residual checks. Uh, I have a noticed new expression. There are no small parts. There are no small parts, only large residual checks. Um, Tom, I, you know, on the call sheet for a movie, the, the list of the cast and the times that people have to show up in different things. Um, the star of the movie is always number one. And next to the number one, uh, listing was a name that I didn’t recognize, like it was John Schwarzkopf or something. And I went to Tom one day and I said, Tom, isn’t this supposed to be you? He said, oh yeah, yeah. He said, that’s that’s me. He said, but we put a pseudonym in there. Uh, um, I said, why? He said, well, we’re afraid if word got out, uh, uh, hundreds, if not, thousands of people will be at the gates trying to get into, see me now, that’s a healthy ego. That’s a healthy ego
That you’re that big.
And you know, he didn’t have any, he wasn’t afraid to admit it. He didn’t, he wasn’t blushing or anything. He was just saying, you know, that’s the position I’m in. And that’s, that’s the best kind of arrogance and the best kind of conceit in my opinion.
I love it. I will take it. Um, I want to, I want to shift, focus a little bit now to like talking about tools and ways of doing things I learned in your class, that technique is whatever works. I think when I’ve told people that I’ve taken acting class, they usually ask me like with who or what style or like what technique, and you really encouraged any technique, any style, and you want to be method, great, be method you want to be, you want to just wing it, great wing it. And I love like that. I brought that into my dancing 100%, because up until that point, I had, I had been a, what I would call a Jack of all trades and a master of none. And because I kept all my little genres of dance, neat and tidy and compartmentalized. Um, I, I guess I found myself feeling kind of flat and small and probably dancing a little bit flat and small. And it wasn’t until I started using some of this technique to do that. And some of your technique to do dance and some of my technique to do this other thing. And, um, so I don’t know, I was completely rocked by this idea. That technique is whatever works. Um, how, how did you come upon this earth shattering piece of information?
Well, that’s a direct, uh, uh, borrow from my teacher Milton. That was how he taught. And that’s why I studied with him and taught for him for, I taught for him for 20 years and studied with him for 27 because he made acting simple down to earth, doable. I got out of my head and he didn’t teach or enforce a technique of acting, which I have carried forward. And the reason for that is this, the reason there’s Meisner studios all over town and people swear by them and method studios, Strasberg, who is method sort of, and other people who are different method and, and, uh, William H Macy and, um, David Mamet invented a technique. I just read that book a year ago or so. Um, there’s all kinds of different techniques out there. The reason people swear by them or not is because certain techniques work on certain people and certain techniques don’t work on other people.
And, uh, uh, Amy Adams went to a, uh, an acting teacher for the first time. She’d been to a lot of acting teachers who said it has to be personal. It has to be connected to you. And she went to an acting teacher who said, it’s all imaginary. And she said, I was released into my talent. She said, I was not succeeding in classes where they, they said acting had to be personal. She said, I was released into my talent when I went all imaginary. Well, that’s her thing. And that’s great. So it works for different people. Certain techniques work for different people. I’ve even found certain techniques work under certain circumstances and don’t work people fences. So, so my approach to acting there is an approach given in two checklists that I use, which is a suggested approach, but it’s not really a technique. Uh, in technique, everybody has to do it this way.
Speaker 2 00:37:44 There’s a famous acting teacher in town who has 13 questions or something. And every time you sit down to do a scene, you have to list the answers to those 13 questions. Every single time, that’s a technique. Um, and there’s nothing wrong with techniques. I just won’t end force one technique. I’m, I’m so aware of most acting techniques out there. My pockets are filled with solutions. If you have a technical problem, in fact, I’ve even invented a couple techniques, knowing the techniques is anything that works. How about try this? And I don’t learn it anywhere. I just went, it sounds like that might work. And so that’s, that’s the reason I teach the way that I teach, because, um, and it’s the reason why there are people who have become big stars and they’ve never technically studied acting because they picked it up. There is one I’ve developed since you were in my class.
I think, let me say this to people because it’s a sort of a revolutionary thing and I’ve never heard another acting. Teachers say this. It came to me when I had a lawyer come to my class and he said, I’m not interested in acting so that I’m only interested in being better presenting for the jury because it’s a kind of theater. And I said, yep, sure is. And he said, but I have no acting experience. I said really said, how old are you? He said, I’m 35 years old. I said, I think you have 35 years of acting experience. And he went, what are you talking about? I said, well, let me ask you a question. Are you the same guy with the boys at the bar, as you are at your mother-in-law’s house? No, I’m completely different. I said, well, welcome to welcome to acting.
Speaker 2 00:39:16 You’ve been doing it. Your whole life said, what you don’t have experience in is the craft of acting. The craft of acting is different than acting. Acting is allowing life to pass through you experiencing life, being in a moment, handling a situation, doing whatever we do every day. I said, even I said, this is an improv. I’m playing an acting teacher. And you’re playing a lawyer who came to an acting class. So we’re having an improv right now. We know how to do this, but how do you do it when somebody else wrote the words when it’s not really your brother, you’re talking to, it’s an actor playing your brother. You get some, maybe not you, it’s a character. It’s always a character, but it may be very different than you are. And how do you do it when you’re sitting? And when you’re sitting in a living room, which is a movie set, and you know, you’re on Warner brothers lot, or wherever you are, that’s the craft of acting.
Speaker 2 00:40:07 But, but I like to empower people into the understanding that they know way more about acting than they think. And I was passed on. And I should say this to you in case you’re one of those people who think she can’t sing my voice teacher at the new England conservatory music, where I trained for voids for six years, Bernard Barbeau is no longer alive. He said to me, my first day, he said, I’m not going to teach you how to sing. You already know how to sing. He said, what I’m going to do is I’m going to unlearn you all the bad habits that are getting in the way of your natural voice. And I so thank him for that because there was a teacher up the hall, arguably even more popular and more famous than he was Ms. Miller. And all of her students came out, sounding the same. All of her students came out, sounding doing the same technique. And every singer that walked out of Bernard Barbara PO’s studio sounded completely different because he was freeing people into their natural voices. And I truly believe that’s what I do as an actor. And I didn’t realize this until a couple of years ago that I probably unconsciously adopted his phenomenon, which is the way I teach. I’m sort of freeing people by teaching them the craft of acting into their own natural, unique artistry, as it relates to acting. There you go.
That’s your technique of teaching. And there are other techniques of teaching that call on fear or regiment or this, like you mentioned before, your business model is terrible because you’re working yourself out of a job by giving your student the power. There are people who teachers who’ve done very, very well choreographers, especially who have that power by making their students or dancers think that they don’t have it. They have to get it from the source, the source being the teacher or the choreographer. And you just don’t do that. It’s not in my nature to do that either. I think that, um, when I, when I start working with a new student or lately, I’ve been doing a lot of movement coaching and movement direction for actors, usually one of the first things that we do is, uh, a healthy number of minutes of walking around the room and then enhancing the swing of the arms and then dialing down the swing of the arms and enhancing where the weight is in the feet or increasing the speed and decreasing the speed. It’s, it’s my way of suggesting you already dance. All of them, knobs and levers and dials that we use in dance are knobs and levers and dials that you use in your daily movement. We just have different names for them. So I, I think, I think, you know, taking the armor off and kind of demystifying things, it’s, it’s my technique when I teach. And I think that’s probably why I was so drawn to your style of teaching.
And I appreciate that. And, and somebody said, you know, one of the reasons I left the Playhouse, God bless me. I wouldn’t be a teacher. If it wasn’t for Milton could sell us. And he was a brilliant man, but he was a little bit as somebody called it recently old school. And there, there, there wasn’t a day that I wasn’t slightly afraid in his class. And he was, uh, he was very controlling, uh, brilliant, but he had a certain style of teaching. And in the end I really needed to leave because some of his style of teaching wasn’t quite working for me. And I realized that I wanted to teach from a position. He was very supportive on the one hand. And then also he, wasn’t afraid to hand you your head. If you thought you were acting, not acting well. Um, I went away and decided that wasn’t quite my way that I wanted to make the theater, the safest place and artists could come so that they would be completely free to experiment, to explore, take chances and not be afraid to fail.
It’s also why I won’t allow auditing in the acting class, except for when we have an open class and coronavirus has put an end to those for at least a long while into the future. But, uh, because I want, I don’t want strangers in the room. I, it really has to be a safe place for artists to explore and experiment. And therefore I have to teach from a position of great support and not be rating someone. I mean, I, I tried to learn dance. I think, you know, a little bit of my dance history dance was my bugaboo big bugaboo. And, and, uh, because I went to dance classes where teachers scared the crap out of me. In fact, I went to one teacher in New York, he’s apparently infamous Phil black. He walked around with a stick and he wasn’t afraid to whack you in the calf.
Yeah. This has become sort of the, uh, um, the, the motif of the choreographer.
Yeah. Yeah. Well, I think, I think a lot of that comes, it comes even acting from the Russian roots that Russian ballet masters were taskmasters. They were tough, tough cookies. Apparently Balanchine was brilliant, but tough. I watched a, uh, a, uh, a documentary on, on either Balanchine or the company in New York that he choreographed for. But the bottom line
Yes, Notorious. Um, but, uh, my father-in-law who joined my opt-in class, actually, it was very, it was an interesting three years with both of my in-laws during my class, turned out wonderful, wonderful for all of us, we grew up much closer, but my father-in-law said, so tell me about these two different styles of teaching. And I said, well, I said, it’s real simple. It’s like you plant a seed in the ground and the seed germinates, and you see this beginning leaf. And I said, the one way of teaching is, oh God, is that the best? You can do one little leaf and it’s not even quite green yet for God’s sake, you can do better than that. Jesus Christ or, oh my God. Look at that. It’s a leaf. It’s beginning to be a leaf and it’s turning green. That’s fantastic. Keep going. And my father-in-law, who’d been a lawyer for 50 years. Wasn’t that? He was a very good actor. It turns out he ended up working, uh, before he died, but he said, well, if you taught me that first way, I wouldn’t come back. And I went, there you go.
Oh, that’s special. Um, and that is also a brilliant Gary, did I, did I give you the script for this conversation? I feel like we’re very much on the exact same flow. The other thing I wanted to make sure that we talked about today is fantasy night. And that is not what it sounds like to dirty, dirty mines, but tell us about fantasy night.
I don’t like the title, but we haven’t come up with a better one. Okay. So this was something I created because I was taking a look around the room one night and I went, you know, all artists have are their impulses, their creative impulses. And I went, but life teaches us to sublimate impulses, to suppress impulses. You follow an impulse. She gets slapped. You follow an impulse. She gets sent to the principal’s office. You follow an impulse, you get arrested, you follow an impulse. You know, you upset people. And yet we’re encouraged to do the very things in acting you’re supposed to be free. You’re supposed to follow. You’re supposed to be emotional. You’re supposed to all these things. You’re supposed to play killers. You’re supposed to do all these things in life you’re not supposed to. So I went, I think I need to design an evening where people are encouraged to follow a creative impulse that they’ve never dared try in public.
Speaker 2 00:48:17 That’s actually the origin. And I, so I told people, I gave a couple of weeks and I said, find a creative impulse that you’ve never dare try and public. Or if you’ve done all your creative impulses, then create something that scares you. And it has turned into really students love it. And it, it, the energy in the room, you can cut it with a knife. We only do it a couple of times a year, but, but you can cut the energy in the room with a knife. People sing. Who’ve never sung dance. Who’ve never danced, uh, do parts that they were told they could never play, do parts that they would never play. Cause they’re never, they’re casting, they’ve written and read things that they’ve never written before, or they’ve never read their writing in public. I had a girl come in and do a eulogy for a dear friend of hers from high school who died.
Speaker 2 00:49:04 She went to the funeral that week and they said, anybody else wants to come up and speak and she flinched and didn’t go up and speak. So she did the eulogy that night had a girl sing the banner. Yeah. It’s so it’s an amazing evening. Some people have create, oh, in fact, two actresses who met in my class ended up creating a series and selling it and being writer, producers, uh, actors in it from Claire and Cayden improv. Yeah. Claire and case made a series. Um, sold it as a pilot. It ended up getting picked up as a series, but now Katie is a big director at NBC. Um, and so a lot of wonderful things, uh, have come out of that. In fact, another student became a stand-up comedian out of a fantasy night.
I did a standup one night on a fantasy night, but that was okay. Um, and that’s a fi and that’s fine, but what came for me? I don’t know if you remember out of one of those fantasy nights, that was the night that I owned the title of choreographer. Um, I was wrestling with, I was really putting that in some cage or some reserve that was for other people and not for me. And so I choreographed a piece in front of the room. I was like, I’m going to call myself a choreographer for three minutes and you can watch me choreograph a piece. And I did it and it like, whoa, really powerful moment. So it, I wouldn’t know how to recreate that anywhere else. Cause what you, the way you introduce the night, the rules that you create around it, the one that stands out to me the most is like the audience, no matter what must lose their mind with applause and approval and enjoyment.
And no matter what happens in front of you, we will rave as if it was the game winning touchdown of the Superbowl. And that’s that support and your students like th the group of people you have assembled, there is really a special group of people. Um, yeah. I don’t know that I would be where I am today without exploring, and then owning that word, which was just a word I had been, as you helped me to discover. I had been choreographing since I was like four and, and it was just the hang up on this word and what I thought it meant to be a choreographer. Um, and then that night really helped me to open up like the number of different ways. You can be a choreographer, the number of different types of choreography there is, there are, there is. Um, and that was just so massively important, such a, such a big, like that was a mile marker for me, for sure.
Well, I appreciate that. And, and you certainly deserved it. I it’s the reason I called my workshops, the artists workshops, professional artist workshop, and musical artists workshop, because I didn’t just want to be an acting teacher. I want to help people enrich all of their arts and they pollinate each other. Um, you know, many times with the girl, that’s a dancer, who’s in my musical class right now, just last week. Uh, she came in, sang a song and she was very tight. Vocally. She’s progressing, but slowly. And I went, okay, I now know what you need to do. You need to dance when you sing. And she danced, she danced very fluidly and it didn’t really change her. I said, now you got to dance like crazy. You got to jump up and down. Her voice popped open, like, like, uh, twice the size. It was extraordinary. And it was because she was letting go of tension. She didn’t even know she had. And so these things, these things pollinate each other. If you dance, when you sing, if you take the certainty from the dance, if you’re a dancer and you sing while you’re dancing or right. Intermix the two, you will sing with more certainty.
I think in my first scene. Yeah. You told me to bring dance into my first scene. Cause I really thought I was a dancer and really thought it was not an actor. And you were like, okay, so dance the whole scene, just move and, and be dancing. And that was so helpful. Um, another thing that, that I’m remembering now, another breakthrough I had in there, I have talked about on the podcast before, when I talk about sensuality and sexuality, usually a dancer in the commercial world. Um, it’s our objective with our dance, with our bodies to sell something and someone somewhere along the way, found out that sex sells. And so usually dancing, you have to dance sexy or sexily or whatever, whatever that means to you. But for a long time, the story I told myself about my dancing and the dancer I wanted to become was that I’m one of the boys.
I don’t call on sex deliberately because I want the focus to be the skill, the talent, the physicality, and not the eliciting of lust or the emotional side. And I didn’t realize how disservicing that, that story was to, um, my scope of work would also like my enjoyment of my body and myself and my femininity. And I don’t remember what scene I had done that this came after I don’t, oh man, I do. I did take really good notes by the way. I just didn’t look at them before this call. I probably could have pinpointed this moment. But, um, the, oh, maybe I was playing a hooker, which you found very funny. You were like you being a hugger is like Julia Roberts being a hooker. Like nobody would buy it, except for somehow it happened. Um, so the, the whole objective was like sexy women have hair and elbows and boobs and eyes and knees and legs and a face.
Speaker 0 00:55:38 And, and what do you have like, and I was like, um, elbows and boobs and a face and hair and legs. You’re like, yes, they don’t have anything that you don’t have. What are you waiting for? Why are you reserving that for them and not for you? It was kind of the same choreographer conversation again. Um, and that awareness kind of gave me permission to use all of my things, my hair, my legs, my exact elbows and boobs and all the things to create my version of what sexy or attractive is. Um, so that was liberating. And I hope I’m not terrifying you by just worshiping you openly right now, but that realization came through your class.
Yeah. Well, I appreciate that. And I want to add something to it. Uh, two quick things, a point and then a little story. The reason many women reject playing portraying, embracing their own sexuality is because there are women who use it in life. They use it to manipulate men. They use it to manipulate situations. Now here’s the interesting thing. Most women who do that, I have noticed don’t do it as consciously, as you might think it’s a survival mechanism they’ve learned. And, and it’s just kind of automatic and people are afraid that they will be looked at or become those kinds of women. Well, this is exactly the same thing as the pride, the two different kinds of pride, there’s two different kinds of sexuality. And that’s the story that I’m going to tell. One, sexuality comes out of insecurity to use, to manipulate people because they don’t think they can get what they want without the sexuality.
And one comes from security and a great example of the securest version I’ve ever seen. I had the pleasure of going to the night before opening night of cabaret on Broadway, the Sam Marshall and Sam Scott. I hope that’s not wasn’t SIM and it wasn’t Rob Marshall. Okay. Who, if he directed it, then it was his version, the newer one choreographer, the newer one. Then the newer one that opened in the nineties at, at studio 54. And it was just an amazing production. But I at my table, the person sitting next to my table was Lauren Bacall and Lauren Bacall in my history, watching her. I never thought she was that sexy. I couldn’t quite figure out why everybody loved her and why bogey fell in love with her and the whole thing. But there she is at 70 or or 70 in her seventies.
And she was with a much younger man who was clearly her bow of the time. And I watched her more than the show because the way she cared for this man, the way she talked to him, the way she touched him, the way she would caress him, I wanted to go home with her. It was the most, the most gorgeous example of a woman using what a woman has to offer consciously and deliberately in a beautiful way. Just like I was talking about Tom Hanks or anyone who has true, real arrogance, non insecure based arrogance. And I, first of all, then understood why everybody goes crazy about this woman. And, and second of all, I went, that’s about one of the perfect examples of doing it the best. She clearly knew what she was doing and was doing it in a, in a, in a conscious, uh, controlled, uh, positive way. And it was just to watch, and it changed my life in a, in a certain way. And, and I’ve never thought about women the same sense. It was just beautiful. She was just gorgeous. And, and God bless that man, who was with her. I hope he treats her as well as she treats him. Cause it was amazing.
Oh my God, what a story? This is great. Thank you for sharing that. Um, okay.
Oh, and the other thing, sorry, I want to say one of the things, the other thing is when women, we get, we get inundated with ideas of what is pretty and what is sexy. They put it on magazine covers and all of this. And you know, now they manipulate people digitally so that people don’t even recognize themselves when it’s a picture of them. But that’s just, that’s just, whatever it is is an attitude. Sexuality is what you do with what you have, not what you have. And this was taught to me no better than by a girl who I worked with on a movie called Zuma beach. I don’t want to use names, but she was one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever met. She was a runner up Ms. California. And I got a date with her and because for various factors, she was about as sexy as a telephone pole. And, and I learned very quickly that looks, have nothing to do with sexuality and sensuality and looks, have very little to do with attraction, attractiveness. It’s the whole package. I mean, she had a beautiful body and she had a beautiful face, but boy, she was not my type. I’ll tell you very quickly. I learned that lesson, which was very healthy for me.
Oh, it was a great lesson. I learned this lesson a lot because dancers almost by definition must be physically compelling. Yet we do not have to be smart. This is not one of our job requirements. So I’ve found that one of the things sexy to me is intellect and wit and a brain. So for a very long time, I’ve found, oh, it’s very possible to be the sexy and for me to not be attractive, attractive to them. Yeah. Sexy is possible without attraction. Um, okay. So we’ve talked a lot about technique and teaching and things that work and things that don’t work. Oh. And I wanted to write down, I’ll just go back and listen to the podcast. How about that? But uh, you mentioned something action or acting is life coming through? Is that what you said?
Well, I, I can, uh, it’s, it’s, it’s allowing life to pass through you. I, that’s a, that’s a bit of a rephrase a, of a Morgan Freeman quote. And she says, and this, this, this, and this is, uh, this is a paraphrase of what he said, but he said to be still to be absolutely still and let life pass through you. That is brilliant acting. And if you think about it, that’s what Morgan Freeman does. He is, he is one of the most still actors, but the bottom line is what we’re doing every day is living life, allowing life to, to go through us and, and, and, and, and have the experience. That’s, that’s what acting is. In fact, this is a new thing that I’ve come up with. Um, there’s really only three things. Any acting technique is trying to do. They’re trying to stimulate your imagination so that you can believe something is occurring. And while it is occurring, haven’t experienced, that’s all acting every single acting technique, whether it’s method, Meisner, friends, or whatever, that’s all it’s trying to do, stimulate your imagination so that you can believe something is occurring. And in that process, having experienced while it’s happening, that’s, that’s acting
All right. And if that’s acting, then I have to ask you the almost impossible question that I asked every single one of my guests last year. Um, but what makes someone an artist, if that’s what makes an actor, then what makes someone an artist?
That’s an interesting question.
I know it’s a, it’s a conversation piece,
Uh, but hang on what I would say, just looking at the, the field of artistry. Well, first of all, the thing that makes a piece of art successful, his communication let’s, let’s, let’s base it on that. Communication is the base of art. If art doesn’t communicate, people don’t think it’s hard. You know, there are people that go see one painting and they think, oh my God, this is the greatest work of art in the world. Other people say it’s trash. It looks like paint, splatters, you know, or whatever, whatever the situation is. So something that communicates is art. So someone who creates something that ultimately communicates is an artist, but it’s also someone dealing in aesthetics because aesthetics have to do with any of the arts. But I’d also have to say, I’m going to stick my neck out. And I’m going to say most artists, I know if not every single one of them is interested in using their art to affect society. And most, all of them are trying to affect society in, in a, in a positive direction. I’d like to say, all artists want to affect society in a positive direction. I’m just, I’m just leaving myself a little bit of wiggle room in case. I mean, I mean, I’m not saying it all has to be happy. I mean, Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, which is a tragedy. Practically. Everybody dies by the end of the play, but he’s trying,
Have you, have you watched, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to cut you off her sidetrack, but have you watched the tragedy of Macbeth? The 20, 21?
I want to, I’ve read about it. I’ve seen interviews about it. I have not seen it carry.
I don’t want to sway your, uh, receival of this project. It’s exceptional. And there is one, I mean, obviously, for instance, McDorman and Denzel Washington, art legends there at the, at the top of their game. But also I have a homie in there Mr. Corey Hawkins, who I worked with on, in the Heights does a phenomenal job. And the performance that I was most struck by the physical, like it’s, I can’t look at me like flounder right now, trying to explain it. Catherine Hunter plays the witch or the witches, the sisters, and it is the most striking, physical, like performance I have seen maybe on ever, maybe ever on camera. She is absolutely phenomenal. She also plays the old man. And I had to look this person up. I did not know who this was and I riveted and I can’t eat. I’m really need to go pull myself together. So sorry about that. But yes, back to it must watch beautiful. Um, but back to it. Yeah. It doesn’t need to be happy art to encourage or effect positive change. I hear what you’re saying. Yeah.
Yeah. So that’s my answer.
I love it. Um, Gary Imhoff, thank you for being my teacher. Thank you for putting a little Gary on my shoulder. I know I don’t still train with you, but you better believe it. This podcast is Testament. I am out there trumpeting your talent and techniques and your skills as loud as I humanly can. Um, yeah. Thank you for helping me become the artist that I am today.
You, you, you have made me very happy because you are one of the examples of me teaching myself out of business, and you’re out there doing exactly what you came to class for, and that’s the way it should be.
Oh. But if it’s up to me, you’ll be in business forever. You will be constantly one-on-one ING and teaching workshops forever. You might hate me for it.
Um, so no, that’s just fine with me. I love to teach.
Excellent. Well, in that case, thank you so much. Keep doing what you’re doing and I’ll talk to you soon.
Okay. Take care.
Dana: Oh my gosh, my friend, I forgot. I forgot how great Gary’s stories are. I forgot how compelling he is. Um, man, I’m going to go ahead and encourage you to download this episode immediately and keep it replay ready. This is one you will probably want to relisten to or give a listen to once a week. Um, better yet. I will actually encourage you to go get the real thing. Once a week. At least Gary’s professional artists workshop takes place once a week. His musical artists workshop also takes place once a week, different dates. Um, I’m truly speechless. I don’t know how to recap this episode. So I’m just gonna, instead of repeat everything he said here in a recap, I’m just gonna redirect you to the top of the episode for a, for a replay and, uh, go find Gary. I will be linking to all the ways you can find and work with him in the show notes to this episode, um, including his Instagram, but also his YouTube channel where he will be sharing even more tips and pointers and stories about the stars that he has worked with along his journey simply so good.
Um, so that is it for me today. My friends not going to recap, I’m just going to go have a fantasy day and say yes to all the impulses and I hope you do too. And of course I hope you keep it very funky. I’ll talk to you soon.
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