Acting Camp with the “Unacting Coach” Cathryn Hartt

Cathryn Hartt

Cathryn Hartt of Hartt and Soul Studio, where I am going to an acting summer camp this week.

This week, I’m going to a half-day acting camp. Or maybe it’s an “unacting camp” since the teacher, Cathryn Hartt, is called the “unacting coach”.

You can read about her studio here in Dallas, called Hartt and Soul Studio, or watch her videos. A lot of my friends have been taking classes with her for several years, but this is the first time I’ve been to one of her classes. I had heard that she was a really good teacher, and that’s true.

But I don’t think I was prepared for just how, um, energetic she can be.  Maybe playful or childlike would be the right words? Anyway, she doesn’t just talk about what we should be doing, she gets all excited and really into what she’s teaching.

One of the things she says is that we shouldn’t be so worried about saying our lines, that the magic of a scene happens around the lines, in how actors move and relate to each other and the props. She also talks a lot about not using silly hand gestures, and staying in the frame. Those last two are things that I’ve heard (a lot) before, but talking about how the magic in a scene happens around the lines was a different way to think about it for me.

There are only seven kids in this camp — she likes to keep her classes small so she spends a lot of time with each one of us.  There are still two more camps this summer if you’re looking for a good acting class.  Here’s a link to the camp schedule.

I am having a really good time, and I think I am learning a lot. At the end of every day, we tape a scene that lets us show what we’ve learned, and then she critiques the scene when she plays it back for us. We tape it at least twice — sometimes more than that — with help in between takes as she points out what we should do to make it better. And then when she plays them back, she shows us how it changed from take to take.  That really helps, because you can see what works, and what doesn’t.

When you’re on a real film or commercial set, you don’t usually get to see the takes you do, so you don’t know exactly what it is the director is seeing that you aren’t. You just try to do what you’re told, and that isn’t always easy.  It’s easier when you can see it on tape yourself, so you know exactly what to do to make it better.

I’ve been to acting camps before, but they are usually really large groups. (French Woods had over 800 people in summer camp! Every group was 30 or 40 kids. It was tons of fun, and I learned a lot, but you don’t get a lot of individual time with the coaches in a group that large.) So it’s been nice to be in a really small group for this camp.

Last night, after camp, I went to my regular acting class at Nancy Chartier’s Film Acting Studio. I think Nancy was happy with what I did. I love my acting teacher!


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