The Long Haul
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
~ Maya Angelou
Why do some actors have careers that span decades, while others’ fade away or never get started? Everyone has their professional ups and downs, but how do some manage to ride the roller coaster without giving up or becoming bitter and jaded? These are complicated, personal questions with many variables. Simply put, however, after 28 years of being an acting teacher, I have observed that the common denominators among the ones that last are the following: Joyful, open-minded commitment to the creative process, genuine investment in the stories being told, and access to a community where they consistently connect on an authentic level. They keep playing. They keep caring. They keep believing.
At Haven Studio, I work with both new students as well as many actors who started studying with me 20 years ago. Some of my actor/teacher collaborations go back even further than that -- before I founded Haven.
These are pros -- accomplished performers who come to class hungry to sink their teeth into the most inspiring, challenging material they can find. They come when they need a reminder of why they started acting in the first place. They come for self-care, rebellion, and ritual. These days, they come when they want to climb out of the self-tape rabbit hole and bask in the humanity of the eyes, ears, and hearts of their peers.
They don’t casually drop into class when they feel like it. They carve out the time and commit, even on those nights when it would be a lot easier to open a bottle of wine and watch Netflix than it is to read a new play, memorize pages of demanding text (in addition to self-tapes) and show up truly prepared to give their scene partners their best. Of course, there are times when family, work, other projects, and personal priorities take precedence, and there is simply not enough time, finances, or “bandwidth” to add more to their lives. But when they can, these exemplary artists show up to class and work their asses off. And they love it because acting is an essential part of who they are and what they do. It’s a huge part of what feeds their souls and keeps their pilot lights burning. It’s non-negotiable. Sometimes at Haven, young up-and-coming actors collaborate on scenes with accomplished veterans. Occasionally there is a 30–40-year age difference between scene partners! And we all challenge and support each other, learning and growing as a creative family. Before the pandemic, I traveled to New York to study with voice teacher Patsy Rodenburg (The Second Circle). It was a profoundly positive experience that stays with me every day. Years of studying with teachers like Patsy, Ivana Chubbuck (The Power of the Actor), and Larry Moss (The Intent to Live) have influenced me as an artist, acting teacher, and human being in countless ways. In my earliest days of acting, studying with Mel Tuck in Vancouver introduced me to the vast world of intellectually and emotionally demanding plays, and connected me with friends I still have today — friends I can truly depend on. That’s what acting class is ultimately about for me -- authentic and empowering, creative and interpersonal experiences that contribute to positively shaping who we are for the rest of our lives. Of course, it’s important to do the work to learn and refine foundations and techniques, stay sharp, and always reach higher in our craft. But being an artist of any kind is about so much more than the actual art we create, isn’t it? It’s about the life we create. Thank you to all of you who study at Haven for being part of that life for me. I am honoured to be a part of yours.
Yours, Ben Immanuel