Award Winning Jeffrey Tambor Recruited For Virtual Acting Workshops
RIDGEFIELD — “He knows what he’s doing.”
Over more than four decades and dozens of award nominations, actor Jeffrey Tambor has earned two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe for his work, having been featured in more than 200 films, animated shows, and television programs as well as dozens of stage productions. More recently Tambor has stepped into the arena of podcasting with his Acting Schmacting program, and he is in the process of completing a book of the same name — a descriptor he borrowed from actor Jose Ferrer.
Lately, Tambor has been stepping back from in front of the camera — and behind the microphone as well — to help other aspiring or more experienced actors in their quest for success, whatever that may be.
Tambor is currently accepting applications for a virtual series of scene study workshops, along with a virtual series focusing exclusively on monologues in partnership with The Ridgefield Playhouse. The regional nonprofit theater, movie house, and concert venue has offered in-person acting classes with notable talents in the past; the pandemic has curtailed most but not all live performances and inspired its staff to expand creatively into activities that can be done via computer.
“Maybe we can’t be together in person, but we can still be creative,” Tambor said when speaking with The Newtown Bee January 15.
When asked to look back to his first flirtations with the spotlight, Tambor recalled a production he was cast in as a junior high student.
“It was seventh grade, I guess, and I had a drama teacher named Mr Pravatoni — we called him ‘Mr Prav.’ I was doing a scene, not doing it very well, and one of the other cast members was saying ‘Mr Prav, Jeffrey’s not doing it right.’ And I could hear him yell back from the auditorium, ‘Leave him alone, he knows what he’s doing.’
“That sentence has stayed with me,” Tambor said. “At that moment I was able to realize ‘Hey, I do know what I’m doing.’ And this is how when a teacher says something to you, how meaningful it could be.”
Those few simple words of encouragement inspired a career that included high school and college stage work, eventually leading to Tambor’s television debut playing a medical examiner in a 1977 episode of the TV cop series Kojak.
The highly recognizable Tambor — who may be best known for his roles in The Larry Sanders Show, the Bluth twins he played in Arrested Development, and the groundbreaking Transparent — is hosting the Scene Study workshop Tuesdays, January 26 to March 16; and The Art of the Personal Monologue on Mondays, February 1 to March 22.
According to the Playhouse and Tambor, the Zoom workshops will give everyone, regardless of where they live, the opportunity to work with a critically acclaimed actor who has been captivating audiences in both comedic and dramatic projects since well before his debut alongside Telly Savalas.
Using works from plays, films, or scenes that have been written by other students, the scene study class will focus on elements such as character development and behavior, and being true and personal in the work. To get attendees off on the right track, Tambor said he draws from a fundamental concept he learned early on in his career.
“You just have to do that first draft — you just have to start,” he said. “You have to get up out of that scaredy-cat chair and start. And then you have to find your own voice. Martha Graham calls it finding the gift of you.”
Tambor promises to provide a safe space where students can explore and have fun while learning how to present an authentic performance.
“I’ve always wanted a class where you have writers, directors, costumers, makeup people — I always wanted to have a chef, too, because I love food shows,” he said. “But no matter who joins these classes, it’s always a wonderfully collaborative experience. I want it to be fun, and a place to throw perfectionism, worry, and the fear of not doing it right right out the window!”
His scene study workshop is for those who have some experience or background in acting and writing. Students will be expected to spend time outside of the classroom rehearsing (via Zoom) with their scene partner.
Tambor said his Art of the Personal Monologue class, on the other hand, is a great Zoom course for beginners.
Even for those who do not think they can write, he said, students can tell their story, which is the first step in becoming an actor. He then proceeded to illustrate by engaging this writer in a conversation about what each of us had for breakfast.
“See how easy it is? We just did a scene together,” he reflected.
Tambor said after his empowering monologues class, he knows students will walk away “with a five-minute audition monologue in their back pocket,” as they move on with more courage, confidence, and creativity in their career.
“This is not about show biz, it’s about creativity,” Tambor said.
To register for Jeffrey Tambor’s classes ($495), contact The Ridgefield Playhouse at 203-438-5795 or ridgefieldplayhouse.org. Scholarships are available through the generosity of The Beth and Bruce Becker Scholarship Fund.