10 Tips for Getting An Agent

10 Tips for Getting An Agent
by Rachael Patterson

 1. Do your homework. Every franchised SAG-AFTRA talent agency has a website. Read what they’ve written about their agency, then look at the actors they represent. Do you see anyone who looks like your “type?” If you can, look at that actor’s resume and see where they have trained, what theatres they have worked at, television shows they have booked, notice their special skills. This’ll give you an idea of the kind of actors the agency has already responded to.

2. Do Theatre – Most Chicago actors are theatre actors. Chicago is a theatre and improvtown. The expectation from the players in this market is that you have a strong background in one of these forms. Agents “shop” at the theatre; it’s, for most, where they find new talent. Doing a role over a sustained amount of time is not only satisfying for the actor, but is what allows you to grow and develop as an artist. Theatre is where you develop your “chops” and your street cred. As Mary Ann Ziesch of Actors Talent Group says “I need to see solid theatre experience on a resume to consider new talent.”

3. Submit to your target agents every 6 months…with an update about something NEW you have added to your skill set; bookings/plays/training/new headshots. But only submit IF you have something new to share.

4. Work on having 2 great contemporary monologues…which are

  •   your age
  •   your type
  •  if the piece is simple and dramatic…make sure there is humor
  • if the piece is more comedic…make sure it’s truthful-
  • choose conversational, natural material, as opposed to highly theatrical, absurd or extremely heightened language.

5. Make sure you have On Camera training on your resume. When meeting an agent you may need to audition with a prepared television side, or cold read commercial, industrial or film sides. Secondly, the agent wants to know you understandthe technical demands of working on camera, as well as how to navigate the variety of scripts and genres…so that they can feel confident submitting you for work.

6. Make sure you have a great headshot, which looks like you and tells a story. The very best headshots reveal something specific about YOUR personality.

7. Make your cover letter, short, specific and upbeat. Talk about the work you’ve already done, any referrals you may have, where you train and specific goals. Marisa Paonessa of Paonessa Talent suggests “Show ambition in your cover letter. Ambition in the industry to an agent is sexy!

8. Referrals can help. Grossman Jack Agent Jess Jones shares “As an agent and as an agency, we take talent referrals very seriously. If you are working with an actor (someone you like and trust and respect), and if they are working with an agency you also like and respect, a referral of you to their agent would probably go a long way.”

9. Remember, this is a business and even though agents are usually friendly folk, it doesn’t mean they are your friend, so don’t act too familiar or over share when you first meet a potential agent. Think “business casual” behavior in which professionalism, timeliness, and preparedness are key.

10. And remember….it’s a process…a journey, one that is different for every actor. Breathe, relax and enjoy your own path!



Gail Rastorfer is the owner of Artistic Strategies
Making your Passion your Business

8 Great Tips for Audition Success         

More and more on-camera casting AND theatres are accepting digital submissions and while it’s preferable that you stroll on over to your agents office(if you have an agent) or a studio(if you know of one) to lay that audition down, a lack of time and resources may not make that possible.  But good news:  Your smartphone probably can record your audition at home.  Here’s a list of things you need for a close to flawless self-tape at home.

1. A recording device. Most Smartphones that have come out in the last  4 years have more than adequate recording capabilities.

2. A light source.  Good lighting is essential. Standing near a window with soft light is best.  If daylight isn’t an option (added bonus to diffuse it with white blinds) you have two options: a) An LED Video light or b) You get a florescent soft white bulb and a clamp light and add a white chinese lantern to soften those shadows and BOOM you’ve to a cheap easy attractive light source. I like this option. I can clamp that light anywhere to diffuse harsh shadows against my background. This works well with a secondary light source like a regular table lamp…again to cut down on shadows on your face and harsh shadowing on the background

3. A simple background.  A twin sheet will do. Preferably blue but any solid non-shiny pale color (lavendar, blue) background would work in a pinch.  Steam the wrinkles out of it, please.

4. A tripod (with a smartphone adapter foot). I have two different kinds.  A regular tripod and  a small flexy tripod that can travel with me. It can stand on a table OR wrap around a pole or  the top of a chair.

5. Sound. Most of the latest smartphones have excellent sound recording, however, check for yourself.  If the sound has a lot of noise or an echoey flavor invest in a smartphone lav mic or boom mic.  It will deliver sharp sound even when you are not in the most silent room.

6.  Editing Software. You can always use your Mac’s iMovie or your PC’s Moviemaker, however, there are a couple of cheap and/or free smartphone video editing apps if you choose to do all that work on your phone and then upload it to Youtube, Vimeo or email it.
7. Reader.  Make sure your reader stands close but to the side of the camera.  If you are not utilizing a lav mic your reader may have to speak softer than usual so that their voice doesn’t overpower in the video.

8. Follow those Instructions.  Everyone asking for self-tapes will want them presented a bit differently, so make sure you follow their directions carefully.

8 Tips For Successful Auditoning


by Rachael Patterson, Studio Director

1. Use YOURSELF to make choices that will stand-out. This is not the same as “being yourself.” You must personalize the role, the given circumstances and the images with YOUR history, YOUR intelligence, YOUR sense of humor, YOUR physicality.

 2. Do NOT seek reassurance/affirmation  from the casting director…KNOW you are in the RIGHT PLACE.
3. KEEP YOUR POWER in the ROOM…you are a COLLEAGUE, a COLLABORATOR…not a minion, begging for a job.
4. DO NOT WORRY about what THEY want, if you do, you won’t be using YOURSELF. (See  #1).
5.Don’t try to create a “character.” Character is a concept that will have you making choices that are less than truthful. (See #1 & #4)
6. BE CONFIDENT…and if you’re not feelin’ it….ACT CONFIDENT!
7. ENJOY THE AUDITION …and if you’re not feelin’ it…ACT LIKE YOU’RE HAVING FUN.
8.Go in to win the audition room, not the job. THAT IS SOMTHING YOU CAN DO!!!

Summer Play ~ Interview with 9 year old student Gus!

by Megan Donahue

Gus is 9 years old, and a two time attendee of ASC’s CREATE THE PLAY. “It’s very fun,” he said.

The week long summer program for students in first through third grades is held each summer. The kids learn the basics of acting, create their own fairy tales, develop their own scripts, then perform them at the end of the week. “Our fairy tales were The Dangerous Fruit Punch “and the next year,  The Magical Peace War” said Gus.

The Summer Program is a high-energy and exciting camp, and a great introduction to the world of theatre.  It features:

  • Theatre games for building improvisation, ensemble, and imagination
  • Learning about all the parts of a play
  • Learning the components of fairy tales
  • An introduction to script creation
  • Performance
  • Creating On Camera Commercials
  • A whole lot of silliness
  • Student authors receive a published copy of their fairy tale play

“We played acting games, but mostly we worked on our fairy tales,” said Gus. His favorite acting game was Zip Zap Zoom, a game of concentration and teamwork. “No hesitation,” Gus advises, “If you hesitate, you’re out.”

All of the activities supported their fairy tale creation—they even learned how to act on camera by creating commercials for products from their fairy tales. “I liked creating a fairy tale,” says Gus, “because it allowed me to incorporate things that interested me, or what I’m doing in school. We added to our fairy tale, made changes, acted it out, and worked together to make it how we wanted it to be.”

Gus is a fan of ASC’s Summer Program for Kids. “It’s great, because even if you don’t know anything about it, within the first few days you’ll know how to act,” said Gus. He encourages experienced actors and newbies alike to check out the camp. “It would be a great way to spend the summer.”

July 20th – July 24th, 2015.

Create The Play! A Summer Program for Kids Grades 1-3.

The first ASC Teen Interns!

by Megan Donahue

Shea is a high school senior, and one of the first ASC teen interns. She attended the Summer Audition Clinic in 2013 and the Two Week Conservatory in 2014 and recommends both for teens who are serious about being actors.

About the Clinic she says, “I liked working with different people, and learning from everyone. You learn from the teachers, and also by watching other people work in class.” For her, a big advantage of the teen classes at ASC is “Everyone is so professional. They’re so welcoming, but they don’t treat you like a little kid.”

The Summer Audition Clinic trains teens in auditioning for theatre and film. Teens are immersed in the art and business of auditioning, with classes in cold reading, monologue, on-camera work, and business skills. Students attend lunch time chats with industry professionals and get professional headshots taken. The week culminates with a showcase performance for casting directors and agents. It’s truly an intensive clinic, but Shea loved every bit of it. “You could practice a monologue alone in your room, but doing it in front of people is completely different,” she says. “It helps with nerves, and learning not to care.”

Last August, during the Two Week Conservatory, Shea and a couple other students chatted with Studio Director Rachael Patterson about the possibility of interning during the school year. Rachael says that agreeing to bring on three teen interns for the Saturday Boot Camp Program was a great decision.  “This year our three teen interns; Shea, Sam and Emily, become invaluable to ASC teachers and office staff. The teens bring great positive energy to the studio on early Saturday mornings and serve as role models to the younger students.”  The interns assist with weekly kids’ acting classes, monitor lunch time, take attendance, help with clean up,  and occasionally help in the office.  “It’s work, but I like it,” says Shea. “You can assist with the classes and ages you want to.. It’s really good to see the children immersed in something.” She enjoys seeing children who came in mildly interested get enthusiastic about acting. She knows how much difference a good teacher can make– “At ASC, the teachers really care. They’re friends as well as mentors.”

In the fall, Shea will head off to college to pursue a BFA in Acting a tPace University. She’ll bring the skills and passion she developed at ASC with her. “If you’re serious, anything and everything helps,” she says about taking classes. “At ASC, everyone loves what they do.”

Summer Audition Clinic ~ July 13th – July 17th, 2015

Two Week Summer Conservatory ~ July

5 Apps for Actors

5 Apps for Actors

As the owner of Artistic Strategies and as an actor I am constantly on the lookout for apps that help simplify my life.  There are MANY out there…MANY!  But here are my top 5.  Some are free and some you can get for a small fee.  All are well worth it!
1. LINELEARNER : Memorize those lines! For $3.84 you can make memorizing a little easier with this app. There are others for free….but this one allows you to edit if you make a mistake.  Lay down all the lines in your scene and indicate which lines  are yours and which lines are others.  Play it back and a perfect space will be left for you to ‘talk’ your lines. If you forget a line you just hit the prompt button. Pretty great!
2. WAZE : Get to that audition or gig! This app goes beyond GPS.  Sinceit’s community-based…you are getting real-time traffic info.  It can tell you if there’s a pile up on 290 and will guide you to a better and faster route.  It saved my husband a few times on his commute to his theatre gig in Munster
3. EXPENSIFY or RECEIPT KEEPER PRO: Track your actor expenses! Both of these apps are free.  Expensify is an app that tracks all your expenses.  You can sync the app with yourcreditcards then you can take pictures of your receipts and attach them to line items. It will even track your mileage.  RKP is a simple receipt keeper.  The IRS now accepts electronic copies of your receipts so I like to take a picture of my receipts with this handy app and it will sync with my Dropbox where I put the receipts in ‘itemized’ folders then at tax time..they are all in one place. Right now, RKP is forAndroidonly but they are developing an iOS app.
4. Binaural Beats Therapy or AmbiScience: Get it together! Binaural tones are weird, yes, but they are proven to alter your brainwaves and the right tones can relax you or help you attain extreme focus.  I started using Binaural Beats years ago when I was experiencing terrible insomnia.  I have since used the tones to relax and focus before a big audition, to get a huge project done when I couldn’t seem to focus and even flights when I couldn’t seem to sit still. BB’s aren’t for everyone and if you suffer from certain ailments you should NOT use them.  However, there are many apps out there for guided meditation and it’s definitely worth looking into getting what I like to call a ‘pocket yogi.’  By the way, my first introduction to BB’s were through this free podcast created by Jesse and Jean Stern.  Download their stuff and if you like it throw a little cash their way!
5.  FREEDOM or ANTISOCIAL: Get stuff done! $10 and $15 respectively. Freedom, when loaded onto your Mac or PC, blocks the internet for a time you specify so you can get stuff done. This app is especially wonderful for writers.  AntiSocial is for those that need the internet for research so it blocks only the sites you choose.  FYI….if Chrome is your exclusive browser there are many extensions you can add to Chrome which will do the same thing…for FREE.

The Guideposts: Conflict

Guidepost #2  - Conflict

by Megan Donahue

The core acting curriculum at Acting Studio Chicago is based on the 12 Guideposts from Michael Shurtlef’s Audition. Having a shared language, vocabulary and philosophy about the actor’s approach to text means that there is a consistency and  a specificity to our training.

In this series of posts, we invite our faculty to comment on a single Guidepost.

The second Guidepost is Conflict. Conflict is the root of all drama, and the driving force of much of the actor’s work. We like to phrase it as “What am I fighting for?” The actor decides what he or she wants, more than anything else (their “dream”) and then sets about attempting to change or affect their partner to make that thing happen. When two actors in relationship are each fighting for what they want, conflict is inevitable and drama happens.

Rachael Patterson, Studio Director:  Every meaningful relationship in our lives contains conflict. As actors we are always seeking to identify that conflict in the relationship; the problem with the OTHER person.  This does not mean that we are always FIGHTING, but it does mean that there is an underlying, on-going and constant problem.  And it is when things heat up in the story/plot/situation, that the conflict in the relationship rises to the surface.

Our level 2 teachers, Jennie Moreau and Gretchen Sonstroem offered their thoughts on this Guidepost.

Jennie Moreau
Level 2 Instructor

Jennie: The conflict drives the scene. I think it’s important to understand that “What are you fighting for?” doesn’t necessarily mean something negative. It really means “What is my dream? And why? And what’s at stake?” It’s closely tied to Relationship—what is the conflict between me and the other person? I think it’s easy for students to hear “conflict” and think “I’m just going to play anger and scream at you” but it’s much deeper.


Gretchen Sonstroem
Level 2 Instructor

Gretchen: I always start with relationship, the actor’s dream, and their “fighting for.” Once you have a good juicy dream, you can start asking, “What is wrong with the other person, and how aren’t they working with my dream?” Sometimes the conflict in a scene is obvious, but one of the things I like about teaching Conflict is the way it helps actors understand subtext. If you’re thinking in black and white about your conflict you’re probably going to choose black and white ways to try to get what you want. Choosing to fight for something specific and nuanced allows you to choose more interesting ways to get what you want.


Students in the Spotlight: Two ASC Students at Goodman in December!


Skye Sparks as Belinda Cratchit in

Goodman Theatre’s annual production of A Christmas Carol is a holiday tradition in Chicago. The tale of Scrooge’s transformation is a staple for many families. This year, in addition to the heartwarming traditional production, Goodman and Second CityteamedupforTwistYourDickens, a riotous take on the story, strictly for grownups. ASC students are performing in both productions: Skye Sparks is playing Belinda Cratchit in the traditional production, and Beth Melewski is the Ghost of Christmas Present in the send up.

Skye is 12 years old, and has taken on-camera classes and our monologue class. She says, “I love every minute of being in the show. It is an honor to a member of the Goodman Theatre Family.” HighlightsoftheproductionforSkyeincludeworkingon a moving stage– “It’s like being onarideatanamusementparkeveryday!”and connecting with her cast mates– “I did not realize how quickly you become familiar with your fellow actors in the show. You learn how to react to them in a believable way.”  She really used the skills she learned at ASC– “I think Script Analysis has helped me the most.  We did that a lot in monologue class.”

Beth is revisiting Twist Your Dickens–she did the show last year in Portland. “It was nice because Iknewtherole.” A Second City regular, she enjoys the combination of the original story of A Christmas Carol, interspersed with Second City style sketches. She plays a wide range of characters throughout the show, but one of her favorites is a lounge singer improvising a Christmas carol based on audience suggestions (the best one so far, she thinks, is “Bear Attack!”). Beth took Monologue and Scene Study at ASC, which gave her a chance to flex different muscles than she uses in improv and sketch comedy. At first, she was a little intimidated by the solidity of working with a script, but over time she relaxed.Herimprovbackground, she says, gives her an edge on “the instinctual stuff of feeling things in the moment.” After Twist Your Dickens, she’ll return to Second City’s Incomplete Guide to Everything. “Hopefully, I’ll get to take more classes,” she says.

Beth Melewski

Way to go, Skye and Beth!

Faculty Spotlight: Kurt Naebig

FACULTY SPOTLIGHT:                                                                                                 KURT NAEBIG- ACTOR, DIRECTOR & ASC SENIOR INSTRUCTOR!

When Kurt Naebig took an improv class in high school, he didn’t know it would change the course of his life. He was a semi-pro skateboarder, he owned a skateboard shop in Oak Park(yes, as a teenager), and acting wasn’t really on his radar. The Chicago actor, director, and ASC teacher thought the class would just be kind of fun, but he loved it.

After high school, he continued in improv, taking classes at Second City. He saw an audition announcement for a children’s theatre play, to be produced on weekends at Second City, and decided to audition–something he’d never done before.

He got cast–but now he had to actually do the show.“At that point, I thought the job of the actor is to say lines and be where someone else told you to stand,” he says, “I remember being so frightened.” Forgetting a line, or somehow ending up in the wrong place on stage felt like a catastrophe. Fear aside, the theater bug had bitten, and when Kurt saw a posting for a class at what was then “The Audition Center” (now ASC), he decided to take it.

“It was a revolutionary time,” he says, noting that teacher and founder of the Center, Jane Brody immediately called him on all his tricks.  He learned about listening, personalizing,  and starting to play actions. He began to experience what connecting with another human and “the audience connecting with us” really felt like, and he liked it. A lot. Jane encouraged him to audition for drama school, and he got into Juilliard.

After graduating from Juilliard, Kurt lived in New York for awhile, working some, but on his trips home to visit, something interesting always happened. “Every time I came back to Chicago, I got a bunch of work,” he says. After he got cast in a film, a TV movie, a play and a dark night show in one visit to Chicago, he decided to stick around.

That’s when Kurt came back to The Audition Center. Jane had noticed his useful insights responding to work in class, and offered him a teaching gig. This turned out to be another life-changing event.

“I had a really strong sense of belonging, something really felt right in the classroom,” he says. This interest in teaching and working with actors continued, eventually leading him to direct. “I’d be sitting in acting class, or watching rehearsal, thinking, ‘I could help this person, or this scene.’ Of course, as a fellow student or actor, that’s not my role. “ As a director, he could do that kind of helping. “I think I love directing as much, if not more than, I love acting, now,” he says.

Kurt’s had the opportunity do some great plays in his career. He played The Elephant Man and, “got to play Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire, even though I wouldn’t cast me in that part”, he says. Of course, there are still some dream roles he’d like to tackle: Donny in American Buffalo, and Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Currently, he’s got some work on the books, and is co-directing Humane Resources, a comic webseries that he describes as “like The Office, if it were set in the Humane Society.”  You can check in out here.

Kurt enjoys privately coaching actors to get them ready for cold readings / monologue or college auditions.  He’s excited to be helping a couple students prep for their Juilliard auditions this year. If you need a coach you can reach him here: kurtnaebig.com

And of course, he’s teaching at ASC. Next up: Contemporary Monologues on Thursday nights, starting January 8th!  Click here for more info.

Kurt offers this advice for a long-term acting career: “Learn to adapt and do the work because you love it.”


Cinema Lab Screening


by Megan Donahue

Last month, ASC hosted a screening of the work that’s come out of  Cinema Lab. A “crash course in independent film making”, the class takes students from improvisation to filming in just eight weeks.

The screening featured a total of 12 short films, from four classes. Instructor Stephen Cone, a Chicago film maker, opened the evening by introducing the films. Though the films are on Vimeo, he noted that watching them on a big screen sitting in the dark was a special opportunity.

The films span genres from whimsically comedic to disturbing drama, and showcase the work of actors Carlo Aparo, Brittany Bookbinder, Ashley Bush, Clare Cooney, Kyle Gibson, Jerod Haynes, Amy Jean Johnson, Bob Kruse, Bill McGough, Maggie Suma, Jeff Bouthiette, Paige Collins, Jennifer Dymit, Jessica Hudson, Kasia Januszewski, Eric Lindahl, Ashley Lobo, Mary Mikva, Linsey Page Morton, Maria Stephens, Matt Babbs, Brianna Baker, Kevin Branick, Baize Buzan, Josh Bywater, Daniela Colucci, Will Kinnear, Christine Martini, Kelly Parker and Madelaine Schmitt.

Actors who take Cinema Lab focus on on-camera acting, but they also get to be part of the script creation. “We spend five weeks in an actual classroom/lab setting,” said Cone, “The first two weeks are just improvisational jam sessions; just finding raw material. The third week I come in with the three short film ideas, which may or may not have come out of the previous class’ improvisations. Then, for the next three weeks we spend time on each character in each short film, building histories and making discoveries. Out of that, I create the final scripts for shooting, and then the last three ‘classes’ are actually on-location short film shoots.”

Cone was drawn to film making by what he calls “just pure movie love.” Opening the screening, he said, “I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to get to do this,” he said. “ I spend a big chunk of the year making films with actors. I love these movies.”

Check out the movies on Vimeo, and learn more about Cinema Lab here.