Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 34
 
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
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It’s New to Us by Jean Stratton


“SPEAK THE SPEECH”: “Some people who take the classes will never act, but they will become better listeners, better speakers, better communicators, better executives, better salespeople — whatever their business is. It can help them in all areas of their life.” Jody Wood has established JW actors studio, offering a wide range of acting and oratory classes.

Wide Spectrum of Acting and Oratory Classes Are Now Available at the JW actors studio

The JW actors studio is the place to go for ages eight to 80 for professional training in acting, comedy improvisation, and oratory.

“All of our workshops focus on the work. The process one needs to experience in order to be the best actor, performer, and speaker that they can be,” says Jody Wood, founder of JW actors studio, located at the Princeton Dance & Theater Studio at 116 Rockingham Row in Princeton Forrestal Village and also at the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, The Arts Council of Princeton.

“To be a really truthful, honest actor is to embark on a journey that is not completed in any short amount of time. It takes commitment, discipline, and the ability to give it your all. One needs to be able to unlock their inhibitions, be open to new challenges, and to let themselves really tap into and trust their creativity.”

An actor for 25 years, Mr. Woods studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and performed on stage, in movies and on television. He appeared on such TV shows as Law & Order, NYPD Blue, JAG, West Wing, CSI Miami, ER, and Boston Public, among others.

One-Man Show

He has also appeared in numerous commercials, and has provided voice overs for others. Earlier in his career, he wrote and performed his one-man show Off-Broadway, and was a member of the Groundling East Comedy Troupe, which later became Gotham City Improv.

“I had moved back east from Los Angeles in 2005, and had been helping some people privately, coaching them for auditions, speaking engagements, etc., and I found I liked it,” explains Mr. Wood. “I decided I wanted to help even more people, and then the space at the Princeton Dance & Theater Studio became available.”

Classes are offered for all ages and at all levels, from beginning to advanced, in acting, film acting, acting improv, commercials, and oratory workshops. There is also a children’s exploratory theater and a newly formed troupe of Comedy Improv actors, “Far & in Between”.

Students include those who aspire to professional acting careers as well as those who want to improve public speaking skills, and those who just want to enjoy a new experience and have fun. For those hoping to get into show business, JW actors studio has connections with area and New York and Los Angeles talent agencies.

“My goal is to teach students about the business of acting,” says Mr. Wood. “When you are acting, you need to know what your objective is and what your obstacles are. My acting philosophy is based on Sanford Meisner of The Group Theatre. His philosophy was that in acting what is important is speaking and behaving truthfully in imaginary circumstances. A well-trained actor can convince anyone of anything as long as they believe it themselves and keep it real.”

Mr. Wood typically includes various exercises to help students tap into their creativity and reduce nervousness and inhibitions.

Exercises and Games

“People are often self-conscious when speaking in front of a group,” he explains. “When we start, I say ‘We’re all in this together.’ I introduce myself and ask the students to say one or two things about themselves. Then, I’ll ask them ‘What is your passion? What do you love? Tell me about it.’ Everyone has something they are really interested in, and when they start to talk about it, they loosen up.

“We have exercises and games with words and props, too. ‘How does that word make you feel?’ A variety of different exercises helps to open everyone up. Usually, by the third or fourth week, we do monologues and then scenes.”

Fourteen or 15 students generally make up a class, although it can be more or less. Classes, which are held both at the Forrestal location and at the Arts Council, meet once a week for one or two hours for 34 weeks. Usually, after a year, students advance to the next level.

In the course of his teaching, Mr. Wood realized that public speaking is a daunting experience for many people — “It’s terrifying!” states an otherwise calm and collected individual. “I thought that acting skills can be incorporated into public speaking, so I introduced the JW Oratory Studio. When you are speaking to a group, you need to know what your point is and why. Why should people listen to you?”

Self-Confidence

Mr. Wood has helped numerous people, from teens to corporate executives, improve their speaking skills and gain self-confidence doing so.

In addition, team building programs for businesses and institutions have become popular. “We have workshops for people from different companies, as well as from Princeton University. These team building programs incorporate improvisation and theater games and exercises, while helping participants to think more quickly on their feet, solve problems together, and dramatically increase their creative output, innovation, and productivity.”

Mr. Wood is pleased that his various programs have helped such a variety of individuals of all ages. “I’ve had parents come in and say what a difference the workshops have made for their child in school and in interacting with others. They will be able to use these skills in every area of their life and work.”

He is also happy that he has been able to add this new dimension to his chosen profession. “As an actor, I found that I enjoyed making people laugh, think, or cry. Now, I like watching people grow, not only in the craft, but as people. Seeing a very shy person blossom and become more confident and to be the best they can be is wonderful. We are all unique and all have special things to contribute.”

In his desire to help his students, he sets an example. As a mother of one of his students noted: “Jody Wood is a perfect combination of actor/teacher/coach/and role model.”

Open House dates for registration and auditions for upcoming classes will be Wednesday, August 25 at the Forrestal location from 5 to 7 p.m., Thursday, August 26 from 5 to 7, and Saturday, August 28, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Those who pay in full on those days will receive a 5 percent discount on tuition.

In addition, the JW actors studio will present a free preview of its Comedy Improv actors troupe, “Far & in Between,” on Thursday, August 26 at the Paul Robeson Arts Center. Thereafter, the troupe will appear on every third Thursday.

For more information, call (609) 240-7080. Website: www.jwactorsstudio.com.

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