2016 in Review

2016 in Review

I grew a lot as an actor this year – more physical, playful, artistic, vocal and comfortable in chaos. I also made a big distinction toward the end of 2016 that really changed my perspective, and subsequently, my outlook for 2017: there’s a huge difference between struggling and being in the struggle. The latter includes acceptance, it’s active, and it’s empowering. Before I kick 2017’s ass, here’s a look back:


Pilot Season Prep

I took AdlerImprov Acting Studio‘s Pilot Season Prep class, taught by Rob Adler and Amie Ferrell, to kick off my 2016. By watching how other actors approached each week’s script, I realized there really is no right or wrong way. Instead, there’s your interpretation of the character and how you communicate the circumstances. There are certainly better, more active choices one can make that better serve the story, but relieving the pressure to “get it right” really changed my approach and, ultimately, freed me up to make more artistic choices.

Two plays

A good friend from Chicago, Jason “The Dragon” Markoff, invited me to perform a Christopher Durang monologue in the middle of two one act plays he and another Harvard grad, Rushi Kota, were putting up to showcase their talents. Having enjoyed my experience working with Jason on episode 7 of Platoon of Power Squadron, I jumped at the chance to work with him again. I also played a cowboy in the second one act. Both characters required dramatically different physicality and vocal dynamics. I had so much fun bringing those characters to life. It reminded me why I started acting in the first place.

The second play was Bootleg Theater’s original work, The Stand-In, written by Pete Monro and Alicia Adams and directed by Ric Murphy. This was a tremendous opportunity and I’m extremely grateful I got to work with and watch some fantastic actors and see their process. I played three different characters, each with a different physicality. The beauty of Ric’s direction is that everything is measured by what it communicates to the audience. The choices aren’t necessarily good or bad, but rather communicate or don’t. Two examples in particular. As one character, I came out futzing with a belt. The action pulled my head upstage so the audience couldn’t see my face. A brief second, but it didn’t work. I scrapped it. The second was a regimented walk and turn as a soldier. A fairly standard choice. On closing night, Ric suggested I play with communicating the environment’s temperature (it was cold) rather than the regimented walk. The result – a blow of both hands to warm them up and a deep breath. A complete change of character and a heightened chilling affect on the scene.

Two shorts

Mike Stutz is a writer, director, actor and producer. He wrote and produced a short called Fat Lamb (directed by Rob Adler), which asked the question, “What if instead of ascending to heaven in a blaze of glory Jesus just sorta…stuck around?” In it, I played a suicide hotline operator. This was a hoot and the lines in the final cut were completely improvised.

Mistress Jane is a short written and directed by Roberto Roquer. It’s a story about a mistress who lets down her guard and falls in love with her sub. I play the sub. I’ll share the final cut with you when it’s available.

Content Creation

The same Mike Stutz mentioned above taught a six week writing class at AdlerImprov Acting Studio. The beauty of this writing class was that it was physical. All the writing takes place in the space, not in the head. You’re on your feet most of the time, letting distance, gesture, movement, and ultimately, your body, inform the writing.

The Pool

iO West puts together a team of graduates to perform the Harold in a show called The Pool. Six weeks of rehearsal with a coach and four performances. Doug Sarine was our coach and often pushed us to keep it simple and emotionally vulnerable. And the group was extremely supportive and willing to take risks. What a great experience!

Commercial Technique Intensive

Amie Farrell is a commercial booking machine and she shared her tips and tricks with us over a weekend intensive at the AdlerImprov Acting Studio. The big takeaway from Amie’s class was camera awareness and environment, and using both to keep my face in the screen early and often.

Deb Barylski

Deb Barylski is an Emmy award winning casting director with monster comedy credits on her resume: Arrested Development, The Middle, Home Improvement, Just Shoot Me! This workshop offered insight on type and worked several scenes. Deb champions actors and pushes them to offer the best versions of themselves in auditions. She is specific with her feedback and generous with her time. Highly recommend taking her workshop if you have the opportunity. Unfortunately, she’s a St. Louis Cardinals fan, but I digress.

Commercial Agent

My previous commercial agent and I parted ways and I signed with DPM Talent just before the holidays. Daniel has been a commercial agent for almost two decades and tells it the way he sees it. He’s a no bullshit guy. Unfortunately, he’s a White Sox fan, but I digress. I’m looking forward to this partnership.


At the tail end of the year, I had the opportunity to work with 30 or so up and coming directors in the American Film Institute‘s directing program. The teacher, Rob Spera, an accomplished director, studied with Sanford Meisner and teaches the Meisner Technique to his students to help them craft deeper emotional stories and better understand the process actor’s go through to deliver their performances. He invites a handful of actors to demonstrate the technique and share their experiences with the students. I’ve participated in this program twice and loved every second of it. Special thanks to my friend and talented actor, Katie Adler, for sharing this opportunity with me.

Ongoing study

I continued studying with with Rob Adler, Ric Murphy and Amie Ferrell at the AdlerImprov Acting Studio throughout 2016, taking the Sunday Advanced AdlerImprov and On Camera Scene Study classes. It is my artistic home and I continue to cherish the time I spend there and the work I create there. The space has enriched my work and the artists who work there continue to challenge, inspire and motivate me to achieve and do more.


Got healthy

At the end of 2015, I wasn’t in great physical shape and it affected me emotionally. I stopped working out for the last quarter of the year and, as a result, I was depressed. I felt sluggish. After stepping on the scale at my mom’s house for the holiday break, I knew I needed to make a change. Since then, I’ve worked out at least four times per week. I weigh about the same as I did last year, but it’s muscle. And as a result, I feel more vibrant.


I started seeing a therapist to figure out my blocks and the behavioral patterns holding me back. I’m an analytical person and I tend to focus on hypothetical outcomes, which ends up draining a lot of mental energy and creating a lot of unnecessary worry. I also tend to avoid. After two months, I’m already seeing the benefits. I started making more active choices. I started using my words. I talk to myself in a more positive, healthy way. And I’m less stressed. I look forward to reaping the fruits in 2017.


I took more breaks in 2016. I went for walks. I hiked. I napped. Taking a break freed me up to brainstorm and ponder. Naps recharged me. It’s easy to get caught up in the grind of LA and the idea that constant motion is necessary. That’s draining. And to quote a popular line in The Princess Bride, “Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.” In 2017, I want to chew my food literally and metaphorically by enjoying the world around me.

That was my 2016. I have aggressive plans for 2017. But I’ll share those in a different post. Wishing you continued success on your path and health and happiness in your life. Embrace the struggle.

Katie Adler Part Two

Katie Adler Part Two

 I want to work with people who inspire me and that I can learn from so I can grow personally and artistically. I want to stretch myself.

Katie Adler

Here’s part two of my interview with Katie Adler.

A reminder: Katie currently plays “Linda” in Jim Beaver‘s play “VERDIGRIS” at TheatreWest. Beaver is best known for playing Whitney Ellsworth on the HBO Western drama series Deadwood. He portrayed Bobby Singer in the CW television series Supernatural and Sheriff Shelby Parlow on the FX series Justified.

VERDIGRIS was just extended through April 26, 2015.


After studying the Meisner technique Wendy Ward, The Ward Acting Studio, Katie researched Meisner teachers in Los Angeles. She decided to study with William Alderson, who taught along side Sandy Meisner at The Neighborhood Playhouse Professional School and was the school’s associate director for 20 years.

Katie studied with Alderson for three years. While studying, she didn’t go on a single audition.

“I got the training of my life. I focused on the work because I wanted to make sure I was a legit actor before I stepped in front of casting directors.”

After completing the program, Bill recommended Katie study with Jack Waltzer, a lifetime member of the Acting Studio who has worked with Dustin Hoffman and Sigourney Weaver.

“It was a privilege to be in his presence and his student.”

Feeling prepared, Katie started using her acting tools. Two years ago, she joined Theater West as an associate. She did the grunt work of cleaning toilets and slowly worked her way up by doing play readings and performing in the theater’s children’s shows. Last summer, she auditioned for and earned the role of Susan in “Against the Wall,” a play written and directed by Charlie Mount and based on his experiences in New York’s stand up comedy scene.

“I got my chance to demonstrate my capabilities and use everything I’ve learned. I incorporated it into the character and the show, which was amazing. It scared the shit out of me. As I was reading the script, I thought, ‘I don’t know if I can be funny’, but I knew it was something I needed to do. Thankfully, I felt really safe exploring it with Charlie.”

Serendipitously, Charlie suggested she research Sue Kolinsky, a stand up comedian to get a better feel for the role. Katie recently waited on Sue while working at the W Hotel.

The response to the play was extremely favorable. It was an LA Times Critic’s Pick and The Hollywood Reporter praised Katie’s performance:

“Adler’s performance is the main reason to see the new play.”

“…Adler has appeared mostly in supporting roles in five plays with the company. In Against The Wall, she’s given the chance to shine, and shine she does.”

“I was taken aback and blown away by the great response we had and grateful for all the kind words in the reviews.”

The show earned a four week extension.

Theater West’s current production, “VERDIGRIS“, is the 30th Anniversary Revival of its 1985 Hit. Katie is one of 11 cast members and the ensemble experience is very different from “Against the Wall.” Under the direction of Mark W. Travis, Katie has stretched her improvisational muscles through character interrogation (responding to questions as the character) and character play dates (getting together with other characters on a play date and remaining in character the entire date).

“It’s really great to be a part of something so special. Opening night, I felt the biggest high. We received a standing ovation and the response was moving. That’s why we do theater. It’s a story that touches you. I thought, ‘I could die happy right there.'”

What’s next for Katie Adler?

“I have no idea. And I’m totally okay with that. I’m embracing that. I want to work with people who inspire me and that I can learn from so I can grow personally and artistically. I want to stretch myself. I love watching movies that touch your heart that change you. I want to be part of stories like that.”

When Katie’s not acting, you might find her immersing herself in nature. She often goes on road trip adventures with her best friend of 17 years, Melanie. On their outdoor hikes, she carries a handful of dresses to change into when inspiration strikes, and Melanie shoots a bunch of photographs. I suggested she turn these into a coffee table book. I’ll take the writing credit.



 Katie Adler

“Spirituality is really important to me. I feel closest to something higher than me when I’m in nature. I go outside to regroup. It’s crazy here. It’s a grind. It’s a hustle. I feel like you need to check in with yourself and nature’s my favorite way to do that. It’s an equal passion of mine. There are so many great places just hours away. I don’t have places like this in New Jersey, so I’m trying to take full advantage.”

Katie Adler Part Two

Katie Adler Part One

What’s next?
“I have no idea. I’m totally okay with that. I’m embracing that.”

Katie Adler

Katie currently plays “Linda” in Jim Beaver‘s play “VERDIGRIS” at TheatreWest. Beaver is best known for playing Whitney Ellsworth on the HBO Western drama series Deadwood. He portrayed Bobby Singer in the CW television series Supernatural and Sheriff Shelby Parlow on the FX series Justified.

Katie and I live in the same apartment building. I bumped into her doing laundry the second week after moving in. I vaguely remember our conversation, but one of the themes I often come back to is acting in Hollywood is a process. It’s doing the work, surrounding yourself with like-minded people and constantly putting yourself in a position to succeed. Every time I chat with Katie, we talk about the process, but she reminds I really need to enjoy the journey.

Katie is like chicken noodle soup – she makes you feel better. She exudes warmth, comfort and she’s present – she takes in everything you say and responds in the moment. It was great talking with her.

Like many actors, Katie’s acting journey started young. At seven, Katie started dancing, taking ballet classes. She loved moving around. Her parents were involved in a community theater in New Jersey and a production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had a profound impact on her life.

“I knew, watching my mom on stage and seeing how much fun the kids my age were having, that I needed to do that.”

Katie attended a performing arts high school. While she initially wanted to attend a regular high school, her parents enrolled her, encouraging her to give it a try.

“I wanted to be ‘cool’ and watch football games, but I saw kids dancing in the hallways like Fame, and I thought, ‘All these people are just like me!’ I found my people. I stayed. It was the best experience of my life. It changed everything.”

She spent her four years dancing and participated in several musical theater productions. When she wasn’t in class, she was taking extra dance classes or in rehearsal at the community theater.

“We did every musical you could think of and my family performed together. My father is a lawyer and he joined the theater.”

As a child, she played Annie and Cabaret was her favorite in high school.

After graduating, Katie enrolled in Montclair State University as an undeclared major, but after seeing all the dancers and actors, she declared a BFA in musical theater with a concentration in acting the second semester of her first year. While she was there, Montclair unveiled a new Broadway style theater. Her first show was in the new space.

“The scale of teachers was amazing. They had Broadway backgrounds and the caliber of talent among my peers made me realize very quickly we weren’t there just for fun. My friends, Jelani Remy, is Simba in ‘The Lion King’, Mike Liscio is in ‘Avenue Q’ and Rob McClure is a Tony nominated actor who starred in ‘Chaplin’ and is currently in ‘Honeymoon in Vegas’ on Broadway. At one point, I wanted to be on Broadway too.”

After graduating, she was skimming Backstage Magazine‘s auditions and came across an opportunity for FMA Live, an interactive, traveling hip-hop concert that teaches Newton’s Universal Law of Gravity and Three Laws of Motion to middle school students. She submitted. A day later, she auditioned. She was called back. They conducted a phone interview. And she received the call a couple days later.

“I was on the New Jersey Turnpike and almost got into an accident because I was so excited!”

The show went to almost every state. She traveled the country in a tour bus three months at a time and then took a month break. She did three tours.

“I loved performing for those kids because the appreciation level was genuine and clear.”

The same company was casting other traveling tours and loved the dynamic between her and her fellow cast member, so they cast them in Nickelodean’s Slime Across America Tour.

While both tours were excellent experiences, the dancing was taking a toll, so she began to reevaluate her career path.

“I loved these shows, but my soul wanted something deeper. I also injured my knee and the shows were pretty taxing on my body, so when I wasn’t on tour or had free time, I looked up my favorite actors on Wikipedia to get a better idea of their career path. I realized I needed to do hard core training, studying was really important and I wanted to do it right.”

Katie searched and found The Ward Acting Studio, which teaches the Meisner technique. Wendy Ward traveled from New York to teach at a studio in Philadelphia.

“From first class, I felt like this is it for me. This is the technique I’m supposed to learn. I did Wendy’s classes for a whole summer and then went back on my third tour. The whole time I was away, I was itching to get back. I felt like, ‘I have to pursue this.'”

After performing a scene in class, Wendy told her, “If you really want to do this, you could.”

That validation sent Katie on her next adventure:

“That’s it, I’m moving to LA.”

In the second half of my interview, I’ll share Katie’s LA experience, her work with Theatre West and what’s next.