🎥🔥World Premiere | In LA at the La Skins Fest Opening Party. My short film Magic Madeleines is premiering here. This is very cool because the LA Skins Festival is an indigenous festival and the themes of reconciliation and environmental responsibility in the film were embraced. Special thanks to the cast and crew.
MAGIC MADELEINES SYNOPSIS
“Life is only interesting when the dust of reality is sprinkled with magic.” – Marcel Proust
In this modern fairy tale, only an old lady and her secret recipe for magic madeleine cookies can save the city’s ravine and its ancient secret from the Big Bad Wolf condo builder and the grifting duo he sends to swindle her.
To fulfill a promise she made to her brother before he died, 80-year old Vivienne Bordeaux (Pam Hyatt) is on a quest to find and preserve the secret of an ancient Indigenous burial site they discovered as children.
When greedy real estate mogul, Simon LeLoup (Richard Zeppieri) sends two grifters (Sera-Lys McArthur and Alex Cruz) to trick Vivienne into selling the land, Vivienne unleashes her secret weapon — magic madeleine cookies that transform those who eat them into their truest selves.
Three years ago Adam Bonney and Randy E Galsim wanted to work together on a scene for my class. I suggested ‘Hosanna’ by Michel Tremblay. I’m so happy to share the news that they have kept working on the play and are mounting it at the Red Sandcastle Theatre. The play will run from October 17-21.
These days, working in a studio class on the acting process, specific texts and roles, is just the kind of environment that can foster productions. I’m so proud to that this project has evolved from work that originated in my class.
LFC: Introduce yourself to the LFCommunity by telling us your top 3 favorite movies.
Miriam Laurence: That’s a hard one, as I’ve been watching films for decades! I guess I’d have to choose at least five and say Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck; The Miracle Worker with Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft; Run Lola Run with Franka Potente and Moritz Bleibtreu; E.T.; Pulp Fiction; The Big Lebowski. Oops. That’s six…But I could go on and on. And then there’s the stellar television series on now – I just watched American Crime Story – wonderful acting, directing and cinematography.
LFC: Tell us about how you got your start as an acting coach.
ML: I was already teaching actors of all ages at various schools in Toronto. My lovely teacher, Samantha Langevin, was leaving and suggested I take over her classes. I don’t know if I was really ready, but I jumped right in. Then a few years later, David Smukler, my amazing voice teacher, suggested I take over a dialect reduction gig on a television movie – and then I got my first coaching job on a series – CBC’s Street Legal.
LFC: You’ve worked with a lot of really amazing actors – was there a moment in which you knew you had helped to create something substantial?
ML: Not really… I always strive to create something substantial with each actor. But in my classes I have a sense about which actors will actually ‘get somewhere’ in the business; Tatiana Maslany comes to mind as someone whom everyone would know.
LFC: What’s one misconception you would want to clear up about what it’s like to be an acting or dialect coach for those who may not know?
ML: It’s a hard on-set gig. You arrive and no one really knows who you are – no one wears name tags on set. It’s sort of like a feudal Japan system – everyone discerns who has power. It’s a very delicate position to be in – knowing when to go in to give a note, when to hold back, etc.
LFC: Who have been your most influential teachers?
ML: I already mentioned David Smukler and Samantha Langvin, but before them definitely Madeleine Sherwood, who, despite our age difference became my life-long friend – and, of course, Lee Strasberg.
LFC: We’ve seen (and are big fans of) a lot of the projects you’ve worked on! What has been one of your favorites so far?
ML: 11/22/63 was definitely the best experience overall! It’s a mini-series based on Stephen King’s novel about the Kennedy assassination. It was produced by J.J. Abrams and James Franco who also starred in it. The actors I was coaching were wonderful and I was really made to feel like part of the team.
LFC: How (whether it be throughout one of your projects/pieces of work, through your character, or anything else) would you like to be remembered?
ML: As a first-class teacher, coach and director!
LFC: The entertainment industry has been under scrutiny for their treatment of women (amongst other things). Do you feel that you’ve had to overcome obstacles that men in the same/similar industries/job roles have not faced?
ML: Definitely. It’s been extremely difficult for me to gain a foothold as a director.
LFC: What skills have been the most beneficial for being successful?
ML: Being present. Breathing and listening.
LFC: What is one thing you’ve learned about yourself throughout your career journey?
ML: I’ve learned to keep a positive attitude and how not to pick up – or to ward off – any negative energy.
LFC: What does being an #entrefemmeur mean to you?
ML: I love the way the La Femme Collective is striving to empower women to go for their careers. I would hope to inspire younger women to go for their dreams in the entertainment ‘industry’ – tell their stories and aim for the top positions!
The Importance of Proper Training
To illustrate the sacred relationship between student and teacher, I think of a moment in the 1962 Academy Award-Winning film, The Miracle Worker. It is the story of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller’s struggle as teacher and student. Helen, deaf, mute and blind from infancy, is forced by Annie to learn letters from the Manual Alphabet for the Deaf. However Helen doesn’t understand that these letters form words and that these words have meanings. At the climax, Helen realizes that there is a word for everything. As she manically puts out her hand to know the word of the object she is touching, Helen suddenly stops and pats Annie. Annie responds by signing that her name is ‘Teacher’.
This fundamental struggle between teacher and student points to what we need to look for in teachers – consistency and strength of will. I was lucky in my training. I experienced many teachers and was exposed to their greatness and their flaws. These early exposures are essential to my teaching. After interviewing prospective actors I frequently accept people who have never trained before. I do this because even though there are some wonderful teachers out there, I often have to help actors “untangle” themselves from training that resulted in self-doubt, paralysis, overintellectualizing and over-analyzing.
There are many excellent programs throughout North America and Europe – but they are expensive and time consuming. They can also present their own challenges. Sometimes there could be teacher politics to contend with; at times you don’t know who the teachers will actually be, and your teachers might not be communicating about your progress so that they can have a unified plan for your growth.
I often tell actors that they can “put together their own program” by finding excellent voice and movement classes and other short-term workshops. It’s great to study many techniques and approaches, but is also valuable to find one teacher who can see you through; someone you can study with for a good span of time and then keep going back to over the years – who knows your acting instrument thoroughly.
I will sign off with stellar director Elia Kazan’s famous vow. It is applicable to all arts, including the art of teaching:
The Actor’s Vow
By Elia Kazan
I will take my rightful place on the stage
And I will be myself.
I am not a cosmic orphan
I have no reason to be timid.
I will respond as I feel; awkwardly, vulgarly,
I will have my throat open.
I will have my heart open.
I will be vulnerable.
I may have anything or everything the world
Has to offer, but the thing
I need most, and want most, is to be myself.
I will admit rejection, admit pain, admit
Frustration, admit even pettiness, admit
Shame, admit outrage, admit anything and
Everything that happens to me.
The best and most human parts of me are
Those I have inhabited and hidden from
I will work on it.
I will raise my voice.
I will be heard.