Find your power in creating a life.
"I've been doing this for 175 years, I just color my hair."
That's how my conversation started when I began talking to Margie Haber. With her fun (and funny) personality, along with lots of wisdom, it was easy to see that she has been in this business for a long time. She has over 40 years of experience as a teacher, author, and coach. Although, if you ask her, she will tell you that she does not "coach". She creates, philosophizes, and teaches her students to just be the complicated human beings that they are.
She is also the author of "How To Get The Part Without Falling Apart", a book she wrote 15 years ago and still recommends for it's valuable audition practices. However, she's not the same teacher she was back then. As she's learned and evolved, so has her teaching philosophy, she said.
Below, Margie discusses more about her approach to acting (creating), why she refuses to use the word "scene", why she doesn't bother with techniques, how she relates to Meisner, and more.
"The problem with actors is they want to be actors. And all I want them to be is a complicated human beings," said Margie. "Being a human being is fascinating; being an actor is boring."
Margie told me that when actors come to her and say that they want to start booking, she tells them it's a terrible idea. Because if you focus too much on booking, and then you don't get the job, you're miserable. We've all been there.
"It's the creation that's fascinating. Whether you have 25 auditions a year or 1, with 400 lines or 1 line, it's a creation of life. You're only goal should be to create 25 different lives in those 25 auditions. There is no other goal," she said.
Actors can get a "slice of life" (what she refers to as audition sides) two days to an hour before an audition. Margie created the "Haber Phrasing" as an option to memorizing, she said.
"Instead of spending the whole day memorizing, I teach actors to phrase, stay on the paper, and allow yourself to be a part of it," said Margie. "Use the paper for you, not against you."
So when an actor does have 2 to 3 days to create before an audition, Margie's approach is this: look through the sides, follow Margie's 10 steps to creating a "slice of life" (which can be found in her book-- link at the end of this post), and then be in that life when you're standing in the shower, brushing your teeth, walking the dog, and while you're living your life.
Live outside of the scene, Margie said.
While creating a new life as a character should be a joyful process, Margie says she finds that many actors are stuck on a technique and asking questions about the objective or relationship so much that it causes them to be in their head.
"You don't want to ask questions or be technical. You want to live in it," she said.
Margie calls herself an audition guru, which she finds funny because she absolutely hates the word "audition". She wants actors to remember that we aren't there to get the job-- we are just there to create.
"When actors get into a room and see a casting director, they start to panic because they really want that job. But the truth of it is-- the person who's reading with you is just as nervous as you are. Because they need to find somebody for that job," she said.
Empathy and Curiosity
"The two most important things an actor should have is empathy and curiosity," said Margie.
If you can be empathetic of the person in front of you, it makes you stop worrying about yourself.
"You should think to yourself, 'Something must be going on with that person--I wonder what it is.' It makes you stop worrying about yourself" she said.
No Homework (Or Technique)
"I don't believe in homework. I am the only teacher who teaches truly to create the do's. I never liked homework, but I love creating. I don't love being good or doing it right, because there is no wrong or right," Margie said.
Being human means making mistakes, so Margie said that the process of creating won't ever be a perfect one. Again, the goal is to be a human being. Embrace your mistakes.
Margie also told me that she doesn't believe in breaking down a script.
"When you say 'break down the script', it's too technical. The creative mind doesn't say that. It doesn't want to figure out your script analysis. That's so technical," she said.
The creative mind is interested in relationships.
"My belief is that Meisner wanted people to listen and to connect, and that's where I am. I think the relationship is the guide to life," she said. "You've got to listen and be affected. So many actors get too caught up in just the listening when working on Meisner."
So while Meisner is about connection (which Margie said she loves), it is not a creation of life. However, it is the first steps toward it, she said. Margie incorporates some Meisner work her beginners classes to that extent.
Imagination, Margie said, is the most important tool.
"I don't believe in substitution. That's when you only use personalization (bringing your own real-life experiences to a scene or character)."
You can use yourself, but you can't be yourself, she said.
"What's important is the stuff inside of you, but you have to still create the life through imagination. "
Margie said that she takes out any words that are technical. Therefore, the word "scene" now becomes a "slice of life".
"Everything is about the specifics of creation. Not in your head or body, but behavior. And in silence. Actors are afraid of silence," she said.
For example: When Margie talks about personalization versus substitution, she means that even if you're creating a slice of life with a sister, if you don't actually have a sister to use to personalize, but you have a friend, you can use that friend in your feelings but not in your actual creation of the "scene".
"I get to the do's of the scene, meaning I don't spend time breaking down a script. If I'm auditioning for a homeless person, I'll go hang out with some homeless people the night before. You have to really put yourself in the shoes of the person you're becoming," she said.
Margie said that she started her acting training with Lee Strasberg, which makes her eclectic.
"You want to be able to use your senses and imagery, but I still think people get too caught up in technique. I use philosophy.," she said.
Overall, Margie says that rather than latching on to a technique, she teaches to use instinct and imagination to create the slice of life.
"What I teach is openness. It's about removing the wall and letting the relationship guide you."
Margie Haber Studios
"I really believe I do have the answer to help actors because I do it every day." Margie said she just wants all actors to live a life through imagination.
She recommended that actors save their money to come out to L.A for one of her acting intensives.
"It's better than spending $30,000 on college to become an actor because they teach you to "act" and perform," she said.
Margie Haber Studios offers classes for kids, teens and adults. She offers a free class for actors every Monday. Her two week acting intensive held in April, August and December is open to anyone around the world and is a great experience for actors who are thinking of moving to L.A or who are just interested in Margie's classes. The intensives features 70 hours of on camera work with Margie and her staff, conversations with working actors and a talent manager, a casting session with a reputable casting director and more!
For actors around the world who can't get to L.A to directly work with Margie, she also offers skype sessions and an online video course! The digital library will be built over time to include full courses of Margie's teachings. I personally can't wait to check this out!
Before our conversation was over, Margie took me into her beginners class, where her students were just full of life and so happy to be there. They shared what they were working on at the moment, which was learning how to phrase their slices of life rather than memorizing.
One student said, "We're learning so much. We're learning that we don't have to memorize the script for every audition. Margie is so much fun."
Another said, "She teaches us how to read the script in a way where we don't have to get to an emotional place- it just comes naturally."
I had an amazing time getting to know Margie and quickly chatting with a few of her students, including the a new star of season 2 of "Big Little Lies", formerly star of HBO's "Big Love", who studies with Margie (not sure if I can drop names, so I won't!)
Hope you enjoyed this conversation with one of L.A's best acting coaches-- subscribe and stay tuned for the next one!
Margie's Online Course "Live The Life" -- https://www.margiehaberactingstudio.com/p/live-the-life
Watch this free video and sign up for Margie's newsletter -- https://www.margiehaberactingstudio.com/p/free-video
Marge Haber Studios -- https://margiehaber.com/