"Do you intend to pay me?" he said smiling from a wooden chair in the center of the room.
Half-way out the door, I mulled the question over in my mind. The last hour had been so personal and effective that it seemed to surpass being something I could pay for. Its value was beyond monetary. Of course, I had to and wanted to. Anthony Abeson's time is certainly worth every penny.
I found Mr. Abeson's name while on the hunt for an acting coach. After being cast in a supporting role as a cop in the upcoming feature film Live to Tell I decided I needed some help. There was a common thread while talking with a few actor friends and completing numerous google searches - Anthony Abeson. His name kept coming up. And for good reason too.
For the last twenty-five years, Mr. Abeson has been an acting coach in New York City. He has a glittery list of students, including stars like Ian Somerhalder (The Vampire Diaries), Ellen Pompeo (Grey's Anatomy) and, most notably, Jennifer Aniston (see part of her love letter to him below).
"Anthony helps his actors find the honesty in every moment. So for any actor to just have a moment with Anthony or a class with him, or by luck, have his words to read and reread, one will be twice or three times the actor for it." - Jennifer Aniston
After a few email exchanges (Anthony is a busy man) our appointment together was set for a Tuesday morning.
There's a freudian charm to his Hell's Kitchen workspace which has doubled as his living space since 1979. I walked up a flight of stairs to his apartment to find his head poking out at the end of the hall. "Come on in!" he said flashing a huge smile. I was a bit early, so I sat in his waiting area (a quaint kitchen) while he finished up with another student. I knew then that I was in the right place.
When my time came, an immediate trust blanketed the room. I sat in a chair across from him and watched as he studied the materials I told him I wanted to work on. We had a conversation about the text and within minutes dove into the work. He said all the things I needed to hear, even the ones I didn't know I needed to hear, and appreciated everything I said to him. He didn't just talk at me, but spoke to me and worked with me. After our session (and - for the record - paying, of course), I left not only feeling more comfortable, but fully knowing that Anthony Abeson must be a genius.
Upon asking Mr. Abeson why he is so dedicated to teaching actors, he told me (with the proviso that it's quite possible you'd be able to glean a much more nuanced answer from sections of his book):
"I love teaching actors because, having been one myself for many years, I deeply understand them and am very alive to the many challenges they face in today's culture. I regard them as an invaluable national resource whose full potential as runways of the human spirit is rarely realized by an industry often more interested in their looks, charm, et al. They are, as a tribe, sensitive and gentle, and therefore are often taken advantage of/abused. It moves me greatly to see them blossom, develop their talent and, thankfully, often do work that gets work on stage and screens. I love actors, period, because they're open-hearted and still children in heart and soul, which is why they're able to believe in imaginary things and react to them as if they're real - this despite the many slings and arrows of the business, the city and the harsh economics of the pursuit of their dream. Their hurt has not made them hard. I was once on a SAG Foundation panel and was asked: 'Why are you happy to be here?' I replied: 'I'm in the company of a magical race: the sons and daughters of magicians, shamans and sorcerers. How could I not be?'"
It's clear that any actor who has the privilege of studying under this man has unearthed a little bit of gold. His heart and mind are fully accessible and open to you from the moment you meet. Not to mention that he can read you like a script. So run and schedule a session now. If you can't get to NYC, don't worry, he wrote a book just for you. And you bet that I paid for that too.