Interview Seamus McNally
I’ve had the good fortune of having several exceptional teachers. Both of the people that I consider to be my “mentors”, don’t fall under the usual categories and surnames that teachers so often assign their techniques to. Although I think it’s relatively safe to say that nearly all modern acting techniques are somehow derived from Stanislavsky’s (and Nemirovich-Danchenko’s) work with the Moscow Art Theater.
My first mentor, Gloria Maddox, was a profoundly gifted actor and teacher of improvisation and scene study, often in combination with each other. She was a protégé of Michael Howard, a great teacher who still operates the longest running private acting studio in NYC. Tragically, Gloria passed away from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Before passing away, she asked me to step in and take over her class. This was 20 years ago (when I was only 26). Above all, Gloria taught me how to diagnose the blocks that my fellow actors were up against, and to help them name these blocks concisely and intuitively, and to encourage them to push through their obstacles with bravery and with a wide range of exercises, far too numerous to list here.
My second mentor, a number of years later, was John Osborne Hughes, the London-based theater director, a unique, brilliant instructor who has worked with some amazing actors. John first inherited and then further developed, over the course of decades, a very original, incisive terminology, naming the components of the craft of acting in a way that I could best describe as scientific. He believes very much in the power of stillness, of cultivating our awareness as actors, in order to most effectively explore “character thinking.” He also taught me how to really work with actions, psychological and physical actions, supported by a tool for which I am fairly sure he coined the term… “pic-pressions.” These are pictures, infused with sense-data. These were mind blowing ideas for me when I first started to put these teachings to practical use, and continue to be to this day.
I’ve taken these tools, these years of studying and applying them myself, first as an actor, then as a director, and have invested them in the practical work of coaching actors, and helping them make the most of real professional situations and working conditions.
Especially in the last 12 or so years, I’ve had to navigate countless complex and very challenging, professional situations, usually in service of work on film and television sets, but quite a bit in the theater as well. In so doing, I have arrived at a sound approach, a technique that I’d have to say is at this point, my own.
I hope that you have a chance to incorporate some of what I have come to know, into your own work, as you sound like a serious and dedicated actor, exploring a wide range of approaches and opportunities. I commend you for it, and look forward to meeting you.
Workshops with Seamus McNally please click here
Classes in New York City clicke here