Author: Ashley Roberts

The Wall Street Journal On Actors Watching Their Work With HB Teacher Lisa Pelikan

Many actors have avoided seeing themselves perform until now

When the coronavirus pandemic forced millions of Americans to shelter at home in March, Jamie-Lynn Sigler chose to do something she had avoided for decades: watch herself in her most famous role on television.

“I was actually way better than I thought,” Ms. Sigler said after viewing the 1999 pilot of “The Sopranos,” the hit HBO series in which she plays Meadow Soprano, the teenage daughter of mobster Tony Soprano. She said she’s now watching an episode of the 86-part show every week or so.

For many actors, the idea of seeing themselves perform is flat-out unbearable. They have an aversion that industry observers say is due to a mix of obsessive self-criticism and fear of losing the confidence required to pull it off in future roles.

“You lose precious innocence when you watch yourself,” said Lisa Pelikan, an acting teacher at New York’s HB Studio.

Read the full article at The Wall Street Journal.

HB Studio Hosts Virtual Open House for Interested Students on August 19th, 2020

Want to pursue a career in acting and unsure about how to get started? HB Studio faculty members offer guidance and answer your most pressing questions on getting started in the field of acting in an intimate online forum held on Zoom.

This is a forum intended for those new to the field and new to HB Studio.

Getting Your Start in Acting:

A Virtual Open House for Interested Students

2:00-3:30PM, Wednesday, August 19, 2020 | RSVP HERE

Space for the Open House is limited and available on a first-come basis by reservation.

Please RSVP early.

An introduction to the HB Studio training philosophy and its flexible and progressive course structure will be followed by an open discussion with distinguished members of the Studio’s faculty. The HB Studio faculty is comprised of practicing theater artists recognized for their professional work in performance in film and theater, both on and off the stage. Attendees are encouraged to raise questions and make connections among peers and mentors.


HB Studio Committed to Supporting Students on F-1 Visas

Dear HB Artists, Friends, and Colleagues,

We were shocked and disappointed to learn of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) July 6th directive which states that, starting in Fall 2020, international students on F-1 visas whose classwork is wholly online will no longer be allowed to remain in or enter the United States. The news was sudden and is raising confusion and concern across the educational sector. New York State has not yet cleared New York City’s cultural and educational organizations for reopening. Our theater work requires interactive and vocal practices that amplify the transmission of the aerosols that are known to spread COVID-19. 

HB Studio is resolutely committed to supporting the international students affected by this policy. We will do everything we can to ensure that we are meeting SEVP standards and requirements and that students are able to continue their studies at HB without interruption. The artists from abroad who work and study with us are essential to the character, culture and ethic of our Studio, of our city, and of the world we wish to foster. We are working with our colleagues in the academic community to understand the full implications of the directive and to frame reasonable and safe solutions for “hybrid” (online + on-site) study for our full-time students. Our International Student Office will help address your questions and concerns, and we will keep you informed as we learn more. In adjusting to these guidelines HB will put the health and safety of its students, and its community of artists, first. As previously planned, HB Studio will host its regular suite of studio classes online.

In responding to the current pandemic, the cultural and educational communities have worked tirelessly and responsibly to adapt their programs in accordance with public health guidance and the evolving understanding of the virus. HB Studio joins its University colleagues in urging the Department of Homeland Security to continue a more flexible approach to visas for international students for the Fall 2020 semester.


Edith Meeks

Executive & Artistic Director

HB Studio’s Fall Term Held Online

Dear HB Studio Community:

As you may be aware, New York state is rolling out its phased NY Forward business reopening plan, which holds arts, education, and entertainment industries until the final reopening phase. Additional eligibility for reopening will be determined by health metrics for our region. We are also reviewing CDC guidelines for reopening of schools, OSHA guidelines for workplaces, and the developing Actors Equity Association standards for safe work conditions for actors. Much is still uncertain, and we will continue to stay abreast of the rapidly evolving situation.

Safety remains our primary concern.
 Much of our work is physical and actively vocal, and thoughtful restrictions and safeguards need to be established before we can convene again at the Studio. There is a risk associated with having multiple groups moving in and out of the same spaces, and so we need to be attentive to class sizes. Our reopening planning is an intensive process and requires our ongoing attention and assessment.

Following much consideration as we look to the weeks and months ahead, HB Studio will:

We remain hopeful for a return to the Studio at the start of next year. Decisions regarding our return must follow the New York state mandates as well as the best practices befitting our organization and our profession. When we do return, it will be with arms (safely) wide open in celebration!

In the meantime, we are grateful for the opportunity to stay connected to our artistic community and to discover new perspectives and approaches through our work online.

In our conversations with industry leaders, we will continue to evaluate how we can best serve the needs of our artists while meeting the demands of the ever-changing business. We would like to hear from you, too. Please reach out and let us know how HB Studio can be there for you during this time.

If you haven’t yet done so, please consider trying virtual learning by auditing an online class in our Summer Term, which begins on June 13th. More information about our online offerings can be found here. We look forward to seeing you there.

Stay well,

Edith Meeks
Executive & Artistic Director

The New York Times Covers HB Studio’s Transition to Virtual Learning

‘The World Goes Away’ and Other Lessons From Online Acting Class at HB Studio

‘The World Goes Away’ and Other Lessons From Online Acting Class

Remote learning may not be ideal, but Zoom encourages acting students to be more nuanced, more private and more intimate.


Christian Kelly-Sordelet was leading his HB Studio class onstage combat through leaps and tumbles. He demonstrated uppercuts and parries, and how to pretend to be hit. He showed how not to obscure your face from the camera when making a slashing motion with a stage knife.

That last bit, useful for movie and television work, was particularly apropos: This was a Zoom class and students were watching on their screens. And with everyone stuck at home, the weaponry got creative. There was a rolled-up magazine, something that looked suspiciously like a pen and a particularly intimidating spatula.

Like so many social interactions these days, acting classes have moved online. This was, at first, daunting to even the most experienced teachers.

“We were all really scared,” Austin Pendleton said of his fellow instructors at HB Studio, in Greenwich Village. “We had tutorials every day.”

There have been complications — in addition to worrying about their lines, actors now must troubleshoot frozen screens and disagreeable laptop mics — but for many the online experience is proving challenging in a good way. “I think I’m learning a lot from this — I just don’t yet know what it is,” added Pendleton, who has been with HB Studio since 1969.

Reacting to a scene partner’s body language and expressions is an integral part of learning how to act. Zoom, clearly, isn’t optimal in that department. But certain rules were followed in the classes I sat in on: Students turned off their audio and video feed unless they were performing a scene. When two people rehearsed a scene, they disabled their self view so they could see only their partner. And students were finding ways to make the most of it.

Portraying the closeted headmistresses in an excerpt from Lillian Hellman’s “The Children’s Hour,” Krista Magnusson and Amanda Fox used their surroundings and props: Magnusson arranged books on a shelf, Fox looked as if she were grading papers or writing down notes.

“Anything you play is always about the other character,” Pendleton said after the class. “This is where Zoom helps because all you see onscreen is your partner. The world goes away.”

“I was surprised in yesterday’s class by how connected I felt to my scene partner,” said Magnusson, who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. She had studied with Pendleton in 2018, and when HB Studio announced its spring term would be online, she jumped at the opportunity to work with him again. (Another HB alum, Lawrence Ong, attends Carol Rosenfeld’s course from Shanghai, where the three-hour sessions start at his 10 p.m. The virus may have stopped international travel but it has not stopped international exchange.)

New York Times covers HB Studio Online Acting Classes
Mercedes Ruehl, third row middle, teaches her class on Zoom. She said her students instinctively pitch their performances to a small screen, adding nuance and intimacy.

Some instructors have focused on the intimacy that Zoom creates — the idea of getting closer is built into the name, after all.

Mercedes Ruehl, the Tony and Academy Award-winning actress, said her HB Studio students “instinctively pitched to the small screen so they became more nuanced, more private, more intimate as actors.”

“The flick of an eye can make a difference,” she added. “I didn’t have to say anything — they were like homing pigeons.”

An essential part of any educational process is feedback, and that seemed to work online much the way it works in person, dependent on each instructor’s style. Pendleton tended to give notes in the form of anecdotes pulled from his extensive acting and directing career, leaving it to the student to figure out how the anecdotes could be applied. Ruehl was more granular, giving directions on inflection and rhythm, and even where to look. When a student was supposed to whisper and slipped into a regular speaking voice, Ruehl requested the exercise be repeated; she also invited comments from her group.

Online teaching actually suits the acting pedagogy of Uta Hagen, the influential actress and author who was a mainstay at HB Studio for decades. She insisted on “psychological realism and using the self authentically,” Edith Meeks, HB’s executive and artistic director, said an email. “We use the real physical, emotional, sensory relationships of our own lives to test the authenticity of the relationships we create to tell the story of the play. Zoom does allow an intimacy that lets us see into one another’s spaces.”

While nobody is arguing that remote technology can make up for people sharing a room — a vital part of acting, even for film or television — it allows for flights of fancy that are not dissimilar to performing in front of a green screen.

“We were doing some Ibsen and someone put a picture of a fjord as their background,” said Evan Yionoulis, the Richard Rodgers director of the drama division at Juilliard, adding that students were even finding ways to do some tricks: “Somebody spills water on one side and the splash comes in another square.”

But Yionoulis said that class is still “about doing the work of acting — you can really tell if somebody is talking and listening, even on Zoom.”

At least the HB folks knew what they were getting themselves into; they started the spring term directly on Zoom. At Juilliard and scores of other schools across the country, faculty and students had to adjust quickly.

Read the full article on HB Studio at The New York Times.


HB Studio’s Summer Term Held Online

Dear HB Studio community:

The past weeks have brought unprecedented challenges to our Studio and to our community of artists. I am deeply grateful to all of you for your flexibility, determination, and for the willing and creative spirit with which you have grasped the virtual alternatives we have to continue our work together. 

Even as New York debates the schedule for reopening businesses, it is becoming clear that we will need more time and care before we can safely resume activity in our theaters and studios. Keeping with other cultural institutions and universities, HB Studio will hold our Summer Term of classes online and will cancel the 2020 Hagen Summer Intensive. 

We hope to be back at our home on Bank Street this fall. A careful decision on this will follow in the coming weeks, as more clarity on our shared situation is made known.

The work we do is intimate, and the safety of our community must come first. Our training is all about fitting actions to circumstances. Together, we will discover creative and meaningful ways to adapt. 

We are pleased to offer a host of 5-week online classes and workshops beginning this week. Enrollment is open for these classes, and on May 1st, registration will open for our Summer Term. Audits are encouraged for those wanting to test the waters of the virtual classroom.

We are faced with much uncertainty, but with it, opportunity as well. As we look ahead, we know one thing is certain: the virtual connections we build are here to stay.

For the first time in our 75 years, artists are able to engage with us from across the globe. What a wonderful and unexpected gift, to be able to connect in this way, to broaden and reimagine our creative workspace.

We recognize that our success depends not only on our ability to be open and agile, but also on our community’s willingness to join us. We call upon alumni and longtime friends, and warmly welcome those for whom training at HB is now made possible for the first time. 

Please consider joining us in class or supporting HB artists by making a contribution. Help us support each other and keep our community of artists thriving. 

With much gratitude,

Edith Meeks

Executive & Artistic Director

HB Recommends: Virtual Performances, Discussions, and Opportunities for Artists

Now more than ever we need engagement and support. In this time of isolation, we encourage you to stay connected and engaged with the field and with your craft. HB Studio has compiled a list of online performance opportunities, live-streamed performances, discussions with artists, and events for actors and theater-makers to explore. We will continue to update our list of recommendations as more opportunities become available (last updated August 28, 2020).

Voices from the Frontlines: COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter Performance Lab

Participating actors in HB Teacher Paul Pryce’s summer Performance Lab “The Interview Project” interviewed several individuals out on the frontlines of this double pandemic. The actors were tasked to find a story that resonated with them and which sheds light on their personal experience with the coronavirus or the protests for racial justice and equality. Watch the performances from August 22 and August 23, 2020.

Newly Launched: RESET Theatre Coalition

Conch Shell Productions, in collaboration with Braata Productions and Kumu Kahua Theater, has formed RESET Theatre Coalition, which is committed to presenting new works by American playwrights – of African, Caribbean, Native American,  Latin American, Central American, Asian, European, Middle Eastern, Indian, and Polynesian descent – that will inspire a RESET in America.


HB Teacher Melissa Errico released TWO SPRING SONGS FOR SUMMER available to listen on Spotify, Amazon and Apple Music.

HB Connects: Shakespeare Reading Recommendations from Peter Francis James

#HBConnects is a new series that features the many voices of HB – alumni, faculty, students, friends and colleagues. Following are recommendations from Shakespearean actor and teacher at HB Studio, Peter Francis James.

  • THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR by William Shakespeare
  • HENRY VI, PARTS I, II & III by William Shakespeare
  • TIMON OF ATHENS by William Shakespeare

HB Diamond Jubilee Gala Postponed

Dear HB supporters, colleagues, and friends,

We hope this message finds you and your loved ones well.

During these unprecedented times, HB Studio has taken drastic steps to continue to ensure the safety, health, and well-being of our artistic community. Despite the physical distance between us, we strive to remain connected and to remind you that HB will always be here for each of you. We have been for the past 75 years, and we hope to be for the next 75, as well.

As artists, we have always connected with one another through our work. In times like these, creativity and community can sustain us. Our new suite of online classes and events will continue to provide inspiration and connection for our community of artists, and welcome new audiences and exciting possibilities for us. We have also compiled a list of emergency resources for artists which is constantly being updated by HB staff as new information becomes available.

HB Studio will adhere to NYC mandates and best practices as we join with our fellow New Yorkers in a community-wide effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. With so much still uncertain, we have postponed our 75th Anniversary celebration, the HB Diamond Jubilee Gala, originally slated for Monday, June 8th.

The actions we take now to protect the most vulnerable among us and safeguard one another’s health and safety are primary. Looking to the future in solidarity and with hope, we look forward to gathering with you to celebrate HB’s Diamond Jubilee Gala on November 11, 2020 at Tribeca Rooftop. Let’s set our sights on a joyful gathering in the fall that will bring us all together again! We will be sending out more details over the summer.

Please visit us in cyberspace and let us know how you are doing. We look forward to the time when we will see you again in-person!

With warm regards and care,

Edith Meeks
Executive & Artistic Director
On behalf of the HB Board of Directors & HB Diamond Jubilee Gala Co-Chairs

HB Studio Moves Classes Online

To the HB Studio Community:

HB Studio is adhering to local and national mandates for a community-wide effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Given the level of uncertainty and rapidly changing guidelines, we are rolling out a suite of online classes and workshops until we are able to reconvene classes on-site. The decision to resume classes at the Studio will follow public mandates and safety guidelines from our public health leaders. 

Public safety must be our first concern. As such, we will adjust our programs to distance learning classes. Until further notice, with the start of Spring Term beginning the week of March 30th, HB Studio will host classes online via Zoom Conferencing. Please browse our list of online classes. More classes will be added in the coming days, so please stay tuned.

HB Studio will tailor our teaching and the topic to the virtual space and explore this creatively with our students. We hope not to stay in cyberspace for long for most of our classes, but while we are there, we are going to take advantage of its possibilities. Just as on camera work is different from live performance in the theater or studio, the virtual sphere is a compelling new place for us to learn to play. Please check each course page on our website for more information on how teachers will conduct specific classes online.

HB’s refund policy states that we will approve and process requests for refunds, credits, withdrawals, and transfers up to 24 hours before your first day of class. Given the unusual circumstances of the coronavirus epidemic, we will waive the $27 administration fee for withdrawals before the first day and for those who request a withdrawal after attending the first class online. 

We understand that the shift to virtual learning is a radical change. We encourage you to try it out with us. Think of the Zoom platform we will be using as an “on camera” platform where you practice skills that you will need to use in your work across multiple media. You are able to see and interact with other students and the instructor in closeup. There is an intimacy to the setting and to the exchange that may surprise you. Students who wish to withdraw after trialing the first class will be able to do so without penalty. Schedule changes must be made by emailing 

HB Studio will also host public events online. We look forward to making use of a connected virtual space to continue to share stimulating and timely programs and talks with you. More on those offerings to follow.

Through this challenging time, we want to stay in touch and active with our artistic colleagues and community, and use the virtual sphere to stay connected and creative, to continue to develop our skills and to make work that speaks to these times and brings people together. 

This represents a huge adjustment for all of us, but we can only combat this crisis together. We invite you to keep in connection with us and explore the creative possibilities of the intimate and immediate virtual space.

We hope you will stand with HB and with one another as we journey through this uncharted territory together.

Please don’t hesitate to be in touch with questions. 

Stay well,

Edith Meeks

Executive & Artistic Director

COVID-19-Related Resources for Artists

Helpful Resources for Artists Amid COVID-19

HB Studio has compiled a list of helpful information, resources, and emergency funding for artists, independent freelancers, nonprofits and small businesses amid the novel coronavirus epidemic. We will continue to update the following resources as more information becomes available (last updated July 10, 2020).

Find out how you can help New Yorkers affected by COVID-19 and how you can receive COVID-19-related assistance:

Petitions and Reforms

During the month of July, House and Senate negotiators will shape a new approach to the expiring Paycheck Protection Program and pandemic unemployment benefits. Legislators will also consider enhanced charitable giving incentives, dedicated stimulus funding, and other policies to support workers, employers, and communities. Ask Congress to Fund All Arts and Nonprofit Organizations and the Arts Sector Workforce.

Artists, Freelancers & Arts Non-Profits

Browse the resource list from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (updated regularly).

ArtsReady, an online emergency preparedness service by and for artists and arts/cultural nonprofits, provides daily resources that include informational webinars and emergency funding for artists.

The Actors Fund will be administering resources and services on the ground. Artists can determine their eligibility for the Actors Fund Emergency Assistance through their online request form. They are also hosting career workshops, financial wellness seminars, health and health insurance seminars, housing seminars, and social support groups.

The Freelance Relief Fund offers financial assistance of up to $1,000 per freelance household to cover lost income and essential expenses not covered by government relief programs. This includes: food/food supplies, utility payments, cash assistance to cover income loss.

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, NYFA and the Pro Bono Steering Committee of New York State Bar Association’s Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Section (EASL) are collaborating to offer a series of free online workshops to support creative communities. Upcoming workshop topics include “Immigration for Artists and Entertainers: Visas and COVID-19,” and “Contracts and Coronavirus.”

The Foundation for Contemporary Arts is creating a temporary fund to meet the needs of experimental artists who have been impacted by the economic fallout from postponed or canceled performances and exhibitions. The Foundation will disburse one-time $1,500 grants to artists who have had performances or exhibitions canceled or postponed because of the pandemic.

The Tri-State Relief Fund to Support Non-Salaried Workers in the Visual Arts will distribute one-time unrestricted cash grants of $2,000 each to freelance, contract, or non-salaried archivists, art handlers, artist/photographer’s assistants, cataloguers, database specialists, digital assets specialists, image scanners/digitizers, and registrars. Applicants must show proof of residency in Connecticut, New Jersey, and/or New York from the last two years. They must also have a minimum of five years experience in the aforementioned behind-the-scenes roles in the visual arts, and be able to show proof of critical financial need due to loss of income directly related to the COVID-19 crisis.

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