Jupiter - Eight aspiring actors from the Treasure Coast are getting an opportunity to learn how to act from Hollywood legend Burt Reynolds.
They’re part of a Master Acting Class at the Burt Reynolds Institute for Film and Theatre at the Burt Reynolds & Friends Museum in Jupiter. The class has 35 students.
A key component at the institute is to provide a training facility for would-be professional actors and prepare them to obtain jobs in the industry.
Each class starts with Reynolds on a small stage delivering a short lecture, followed by students presenting various scenes from different scripts as a camera rolls, recording the performances. Reynolds watches the scenes on a monitor to the side of the stage, then returns to the stage with his instruction or criticism.
Students applaud nearly every time Reynolds enters or exits the stage.
“I take Mr. Reynold’s master acting classes because, simply put, he is the best,” said Mary Thixton, 61, and a student since the program began seven years ago.
The Realtor from Stuart worked as an assistant casting director on Reynolds’ TV series “B.L. Stryker” in 19891990, which was based in Jupiter and filmed around Martin and Palm Beach counties. She completed roles in two independent films soon to be released, “Turkles” and “Chronological Order.”
“To have someone of his caliber and fame to be here and teach, well, there’s nothing to compare it to in all of Florida,” Thixton said.
The program has two classes per week, at $40 per class if the student is working on a scene. If they’re not, it costs $20 to audit a class.
Reynolds tells classes his personal acting style comes from his mentor, Sandford Meisner of the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre in New York City. Meisner, one of the most influential acting teachers of the 20th Century, defined acting as doing things truthfully under imaginary circumstances.
“Meisner’s methods are what I’m trying to pass on to my students,” Reynolds said. “I would also hope they all learn a healthy respect for the acting profession, a sense of self and to believe in themselves and not be intimidated by their surroundings.”
Kelly Dennehy of Fort Pierce, who is in her late 60s, has been a member of the class since its inception in 2003. She has an extensive background in films and television from New York.
“BRIFT and this class is a place where not only the students feel safe and secure to explore their talents, but also where Mr. Reynolds feels relaxed and ‘at home.’ He calls us his family,” she said. “His vast knowledge and kindness to the actor are his best features as an instructor.”
Another Fort Pierce resident Tina Pfeiffer, 55, said taking the class is her way of doing something for herself, after raising her family.
“I’ve been interested in acting all my life since my father was an actor. My time in this class has been wonderful. Mr. Reynolds directs with such compassion and I plan to continue taking classes with him as long as I’m accepted,” she said.
Reynolds said a number of the students have been tapped by agents to audition for television shows, such as the new ABC series, “The Gates” and A&E Network’s ”The Glades,” being filmed in Florida.
“I can see them getting hired in the business since they are a really talented group,” he said. “The best preparation we do for auditions is teach students how to cold read and break down a script. They have learned that and a sense of self. To believe in themselves and not be intimidated by their surroundings.”
A former professional rodeo bull rider who has been described by Reynolds as “looking like a young Robert Mitchum,” David Ausem, 25, of Port Salerno, said he respects Reynolds’ serious approach to acting. Ausem has a bachelor of arts degree in theater, but said he has learned more in six months in Reynolds’ class than all his four years of college.
“Whatever Mr. Reynolds says is money in the bank, he knows so much,” Ausem said.
Ausem, who is pursuing an acting career, said he just returned from Atlanta and an audition for the Lifetime Network’s hit show, “Drop Dead Diva.”
One of the most experienced students in the class, who re-enrolls in each session, is Jim Lynch, 61, of Hobe Sound. He is an accomplished character actor, Reynolds said.
Lynch appears in “Turkles,” a new independent film soon to be released. It was made in Juno Beach during the past year.
“I studied in New York City originally, worked Off-Broadway and in independent films and television. I did a lot of extras to get on set and obtain experience,” Lynch said. “I think this is the greatest class I have ever been in.”
HOW TO ENROLL
To enroll in Burt Reynolds’ master acting class:
Fill out an application, include headshots and a resume
If approved, applicant will be invited to audition for Reynolds
Tuition is $40 per class if presenting a scene, $20 per class to watch
For more information, contact Pierre Rivard, company manager, at (561) 743-9955 or visit www.brift.org .
Copyright (c) 2010 The E. W . Scripps Company and Angie's List