MICHAEL has taught classes and workshops at Piven Theater, Illinois State University, Northwestern University, Hofstra University, University of Illinois-Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, New Trier High School, Evanston High School, Homewood-Flossmoor High School, underprivileged high schools in NYC, and others. He teaches actors who range from grade schoolers to seasoned adults.
For over twenty years, he has taught privately and serves as an audition coach for actors ranging from beginners to a Tony Award Winner who’s rock band was recently named “Artist of the Decade” by the Classic BRIT Awards.
MICHAEL teaches acting, directing, playwrighting, ensemble devised theater, story theater, Lessac Kinesensics Voice and Body Training, as well as classes called “Artist As Creator,” “Artist As Entrepreneur,” and “The Sideway Way.”
Recently MICHAEL became a Certified Practitioner by The Lessac Kinesensic Institute. There are fewer than 40 Practitioners world-wide, and MICHAEL is on-track to start training to become a Certified Teacher in Lessac voice and body work.
Theater Artists are more than story tellers; we are facilitators, editors, guides, coaches, production managers, and leaders in the room who inspire others’ artistry. I work alongside students to develop these disparate skill sets in order to uncover their own artistic expressivity. I believe that if a theater student is to inspire other artists, they can first develop a foundation of technique that will help them clearly articulate their own theatrical point of view.
Thus, I am dedicated to a classroom environment that is a Safe Zone as much as it is a Risk Zone and a Brave Zone. I offer students a wealth of exercises dedicated to script analysis, historical pedagogies, personal artistic growth, and experimentation. My intention in the classroom is to empower students to feel confident to take authentic artistic risks because I believe in nurturing an environment where failure does not exist. To create this, I draw on my twenty-five years experience working professionally in New York and Chicago as a director, actor, playwright, producer, visual artist, scholar, and student.
As a lifelong learner, I believe that the teacher and student relationship is a sacred one borne of mutual respect and reciprocal learning. Working with some of the greatest theater teachers of our time, I learned the importance of asking students incisive questions without presupposed expectation of the answer. Teachers such as Uta Hagen, Ron Van Lieu, and Austin Pendleton taught me to be kind, gentle, and enthusiastic while continually challenging students beyond their habitual comfort.
For the last fifteen years Austin Pendleton, a Tony Nominated and Obie Award winning director, has served as my personal and artistic mentor. Like myself, in addition to directing he is also an award winning actor, playwright, scholar, and teacher. Austin helped shape my teaching into a pedagogy that is at once deeply rooted in past techniques and theater history as much as it is innovative, improvisatory and responsive to students’ needs in the moment. Through Austin’s mentorship, my teaching is attuned to the playwright’s intentions, the actors’ process, the designers’ expression, and firmly rooted in scholarly dramaturgy. Subsequently, I have developed a teaching style and curriculum that is authentic to my personal artistry. Like a painter who first learns classical portraiture before finding their own abstract expressionism, by continually studying with Master Teachers I am unlocking my personal voice, and I encourage students on the same path of self discovery.
I teach with curiosity, joy, optimism, humility, and encouragement. My teaching is driven by my desire in my own professional work to create a balance between passion and intellect, structure and freedom, self-expression and facilitating the expression of other artists. Within this dictate, I offer a practical pedagogy and create a space free for experimentation where participants feel safe to express critique rather than criticism and to offer open judgement rather than being harshly judgmental.