“The Will to Succeed Is Not as Important as the Will to Prepare to Succeed”

It’s a sentiment popularized by legendary college basketball coach Bobby Knight, but I first spotted it inscribed on the wall of a master voice teacher’s studio at the University of North Texas and it nearly felled me. Sure, it makes logical sense; but in our dreams of making it as an artist, how many of us focus on preparation? And what price do we pay for instead keeping our eye on the prize?

In designing the Ensemble Theatre Company of Santa Barbara’s first professional summer training program for teens, actor/writer/musician Marcus Giamatti insists the focus will be on craft and process, not on performance. “We will explore how a young actor prepares to do their work,” says Giamatti, a veteran of the CBS series “Judging Amy”, among numerous other roles. “Once they are prepared, they can be free to dig deeper, grow and improve their craft.”

ETC’s current production of Syncopation stars Sara Brophy and Zander Meisner | Photo by David Bazemore

During the three-week program, which runs July 10-28, participants in the Young Actors Conservatory will take such classes as Improvisation, Deciphering Shakespeare for the Actor, Voice and Movement, Principles of Acting, and Introduction to Masks.

Masks? Giamatti tells me it was one of the most helpful courses he took at the Yale School of Drama: “There are many kinds of masks, from kabuki to Commedia del Arte, and beyond, but wearing a Neutral Mask is really interesting for a young actor. How do you use only your body and your breath to express strong emotion?”

The New Vic Theater in Santa Barbara

Giamatti, who teaches acting classes at UC Santa Barbara when he’s not dropping down to LA for acting roles, says scholarships are available for the conservatory, and no acting experience is necessary. “The important thing is that they have a passion.”
Giamatti, older brother of Oscar-nominated actor Paul Giamatti, is well aware the odds are stacked against his students landing lucrative acting careers. But he believes professional training in theatre is a portal to a more robust sense of self, which is transferable to any profession. “To understand that their unique vulnerability and their unique vitality is what makes them who they are. If we can help a person know themselves a little more, gain confidence, they will carry that with them no matter what they do.” The Ensemble Theatre Company’s first Young Actors Conservatory is open to kids ages 14-18. You can learn more at www.etcsb.org.

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