This episode is dedicated to Corinna Czopp, partly because I stole her photo from Facebook, but mostly because her strength & love takes my breath away.
First let me tell you that I had the best time at The Groundlings School. The BEST.
But I almost didn’t get there, for a number of reasons.
I was so happy that Scott Sedita, The Wizard of Hollywood, had given me a direction in which to go. I thought that he had seen something in me that would be a perfect match for my talents, even if I didn’t initially think so. I was willing to suspend my belief that I hated, absolutely HATED, Improv. Which is what The Groundlings are all about.
I was willing to believe that Scott knew something I didn’t and that I would find that at The Groundlings.
So I drove home from his Studio with a song in my heart and a huge sense of relief in my soul.
I had the odd, momentary thought that perhaps he had sent me in the direction of Improv, because after our 10 minute meeting, and after the whole chair thing and now after the dog thing, which I didn’t tell you about, but I will, that he just didn’t want me anywhere near his own classes or his studio.
But I brushed that thought aside. Scott was my friend before anything else. He wouldn’t do me wrong.
He even gave me a copy of the book he had written, “Scott Sedita’s Guide To Making It In Hollywood” – and not the worn copy that I had been reading for 10 minutes, sitting in his nice lobby waiting for him to walk the 43 feet from his office to the lobby door, after I had driven for 43 minutes to see him, including parking.
He gave me a brand new copy for free. That was a friend.
I was thrilled. It was the 10 minutes, I was sure, that would change my life.
So I drove home, this time from the 101 to the 170, because it was shorter and I wanted to get home and sign up for The Groundlings as fast as I could.
I logged onto their website and found a class I thought would be perfect. It was called Intro To Improv, it was on a Sunday afternoon and it was only $36.
Let me tell you a little about being an unemployed actor here in Los Angeles.
It gets really, really expensive. Really, really, really expensive. Not only are there headshots and classes and gas to drive to all of the auditions which are scattered all over what is a very, very wide city, there is the additional expense of being well-groomed. All the time. Because you never know when you are going to get a call for an audition.
It takes a lot of people to keep me just neat and tidy. A lot. It’s very difficult for me because I normally don’t care about what I look like. I never brush my hair, I forget to tweeze my eyebrows until someone asks me what is crawling across my forehead, I remember to put on makeup as I’m backing out of the driveway and because I have a horse, no matter what I think is going to happen to the nice, new clothes I swear I will only wear when I am going out to dinner or to an audition, they always wind up at the barn where they immediately become covered with horse-related stains that nothing, but nothing, will get out.
Most all of the acting classes I have been to started at $200 for the month. 4 classes. That was about 10 or 15 years ago and looking over the menu for The Groundlings, most of the classes averaged about $300.
Three Hundred dollars for classes for a category of comedy that I hated.
So this $36 Intro seemed right up my alley. Plus, it was only 1 day. Plus, it was on a Sunday, which was going to work for me because the day before that class was Saturday and Saturday was the day I was finally going to move out of The Little House From Hell and into the nice house in Burbank where I now live. Or so I thought.
So I clicked the button and enrolled.
My new life, with its new direction, courtesy of my old friend Scott Sedita, was beginning to begin.
I poured myself a glass of wine and toasted to the start of SOMETHING BIG and opened Scott’s book and found the page I had left off, sitting in his nice lobby waiting for him to walk 43 feet to meet me, and continued reading.
It’s a fun book and Scott is a very good writer. It’s easy to follow with step by step guidance and stories of Scott’s career and stories of actors he has known and helped, or tried to help. All in all, it is a very encouraging book and that was the very thing I needed most.
As a matter of fact, towards the bottom of page 30, I saw a paragraph which read:
“Find an acting coach you can trust, one who understands you, who “gets” you. Find a coach who believes in your potential to be a working actor.” – Scott Sedita
I sighed with comfort. Not that Scott had asked me to come to one of his classes – why that thought just wouldn’t go away was beginning to annoy me. But even though he wasn’t officially my “coach”, I thought he at least had “got” me to the extent that he could guide me to what he thought would be the next logical step for me.
For me. For someone how he already knows. For someone he had grown up with. For someone who knew him when he had hair that towered up to the heavens. Hair as big as his smile and a little bigger than his heart.
It was a nice feeling. And an encouraging one. I was lucky to have a friend who was so gracious with his knowledge. I took another sip of wine, and continued reading. It was a section on classes.
It started with Basic Acting Technique, Scene Study and On-Camera.
I had taken a lot of those classes. One of my favorites was with a Casting Director named Cathy Reinking. She was a great teacher, and the actors in that class were absolutely hysterically talented and still are. I’m friends with most of them today, on FB and off. Even the ones who made me come to their Improv Group’s show. (And you know who you are, Pam Levin) The last Improv Show I ever attended.
Cathy also wrote a book, which is also available on Amazon. It was a nice memory, not the Improv part, the classes part. Those classes, those actors were fun. It had been a great time. But… but… I wondered.
Those were the classes I had picked out for myself, without the help of any Wizard. Who knows if they had been the right ones? Who knows how much money and time I had wasted on classes that were not really for me, personally? That weren’t chosen with an eye towards my particular talent or strength? I knew with Scott’s advice, that would never happen again. I would not be wasting my rapidly waning time on classes that would not be right for me. The Wizard had spoken. And I had listened.
So I turned the page and continued reading about the other classes Scott felt an actor should have under his belt. Until a word on the next page caught my eye.
And the book went flying across the room.
Because there, on the bottom of Page 33, where the words “Improvisation”.
And then I knew. And my heart sunk. Questions exploded in my head, like “Who was that man behind the curtain?” and “Can I get my 36 Dollars back from The Groundlings website?”
I’m not sure how many of Scott’s books have been sold, but I’m guessing it’s a lot. And when he wrote it, I’m thinking he wasn’t just thinking about me, personally. He was giving advice to all of the actors who wanted to “Make It In Hollywood.” All of them. I’m thinking that’s a lot of people.
Not just me.
So suddenly this Improv class idea, which didn’t sound that great to me when I first heard it in Scott’s Big Booming Voice, swelling out of the darkness while I sat in his chair on his stage, under the lights, with the cameras pointing at me, after I had driven 43 minutes (including parking) to his studio and waited an extra 10 minutes for Scott to walk 43 feet to meet me, seemed like an even worse idea now.
Now that I realized he had told, what could be millions of hopeful actors, the very same thing he had to told me.
Not unlike the Wizard of Oz, who I suspected told everyone who followed a yellow brick road, and knocked on his door, who entered that very long hallway to the huge doors that opened onto a huge studio with a very similar Big Booming Voice, to ask for a favor, that the Wizard of Hollywood might have well just told me to bring him back the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of The West, as well.
Favors, in Hollywood as in Oz, are hard to come by.
I am sure that the Wizard of Oz had other wizardly things to do than listening to the desires of a little girl and her 3 defective friends and confiscating a broomstick that would require some kind of assassination of the original owner would keep them off his back for quite some time.
I really thought that Scott just wanted me out of his studio.
And my little dog too. (Did I tell you about the dog thing that happened? Don’t worry, I will. )
I was in shock. An emotional theme that had started in Florida when I moved there, lock, stock, dogs, car, household and horse, to be with my family, only to find out that my parents had changed their mind about moving there for 6 months out of the year, or had never said they would, depending upon who in our family you talked to, seemed to be haunting me.
An emotional theme that seemed to have continued to the Tiny Trailer, which my good friend had told me was habitable, to the Little House From Hell where the Landlady had said she liked her privacy and wouldn’t bother mine.
And now in shock again, in Burbank, reading a paragraph in a book that offered the same advice to as many actors in and out of Hollywood as there are waiters in and out of Hollywood, that I had carved out 10 minutes of day, 30 if you count the time it took me to find a shirt that didn’t have horse snot on it, driven an hour and 30 minutes on multiple freeways, paid for parking and waited for an additional 10 minutes in a lobby, however lovely, only to be given the same advice from the author, himself.
The same advice.
Which brought to mind one of Dana Carvey’s characters on SNL. “Well, isn’t that special.”
And to top it off, not only couldn’t I get my money back from The Groundlings, I realized that I didn’t sign up for the Intro To Improv class on the Sunday after the Saturday that I would be moving for the 3rd time in less than 3 months, now to a nicer house in Burbank, I signed up for the Saturday class.
On the day I was supposed to move.
So I did the only thing I could think of.
I poured another glass of wine and picked up Scott’s book from the floor.
I don’t know why Scott thought I should try Improv. I don’t know why Scott told me what he has told many, many, many other aspiring actors. I don’t know why Scott just didn’t have his assistant call me to tell me to read page 33 of his book, instead of driving… oh hell, you know the math by now.
But even if everything I was thinking about Scott was true, and most of it wasn’t gracious, I was going to do what he had suggested.
Partly because I still believed in Scott Sedita, and was willing to believe that Scott Sedita believed in me, even if he hadn’t invited me to attend one of his classes.
But mostly because I couldn’t get my 36 bucks back.
So on the appointed day, I went to The Groundlings School and all I have to say is this –
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