“We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, and inclusion.”
– Max de Pree
The Actor’s Gym, in Toronto, is a space in which actors can accomplish just that. It is one of Canada’s only state-of-the-art, do-it-yourself facilities for taping auditions and rehearsing projects.
This concept is the brainchild of husband and wife team David Richmond-Peck and Alisen (Down) Richmond-Peck, both Gemini and Leo Award winners.
Little bit of a disclaimer; Alisen and I have been good friends for over ten years, having met at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles, where we both studied theatre.
Dave and Alisen have been working in the entertainment business for more than a decade, and have jointly been in well over 100 productions. They met on the Vancouver set of Robson Arms, a CTV show that aired from 2005-2008. On that particular program, the characters that they played were best friends, and that relationship parlayed itself into their real lives. After spending the last few years performing primarily on the west coast, both came to Toronto for the summer of 2011. They moved here permanently in early 2012 and were married that spring.
But they, along with a number of other Toronto-based actors, still have audition opportunities in Vancouver, Montreal, NY, or LA. When one can’t travel to the requested city, taping the audition is the next best alternative. That is the general concept behind the Actor’s Gym; to give actors a place where they can have more control over their creativity and a venue in which to tape auditions with the quality of equipment that matches their talent.
Inspiration for their idea grew from a personal frustration of having to pay enormous fees to tape auditions that they felt were of poor quality and didn’t properly highlight their work. They started taping their own auditions on better equipment and the response they received was incredibly positive. They decided to share this idea and… ‘The Actor’s Gym’ was born.
“It’s like crack; once you try it, you’re hooked”
– David Rickmond Peck, on The Actor’s Gym
There are many reasons as to why they feel their facility is unique:
1. THE EQUIPMENT: Auditions are shot on fully formatted HD cameras with professional lighting and sound.
2. THE ROOMS: There are three fully furnished studios; actors can choose their shots, their background, and whether they sit or stand. This allows for the performer to actually create a scene rather than simply tape an audition.
3. THE MEMBERSHIP: Instead of paying upwards of $70 or more, per taping, there is a membership option. Actors pay a low monthly fee, which allows them to schedule any time, within office hours, to tape auditions. Members also have the opportunity, through a bi-weekly seminar, to learn how to shoot and edit their own auditions so they no longer have to depend on another’s schedule, and they can have complete control over their work. Members will have first access to classes and workshops, as well as the editing computers.
4. THE EXTRAS: Members are offered free demo reel editing workshops teaching them how to find, format and revise their past work on a designated demo editing computer. This alleviates the cost of paying someone else to cut your demo reel, and also allows for an actor to have full creative input with this career-enhancing tool. Additional workshops for members TBA.
5. THE WE-DO-IT-ALL ASPECT: If an actor doesn’t want to be a member, they can pay a single taping fee and their work will be shot, edited, colour corrected and e-pitched for them.
6. THE FORUM: On their website, there is a forum where actors can communicate with each other. If a last minute ‘reader’ is required, or if you want to be kept informed of local events, the forum is the place where additional information can be found.
7. THE COMMUNITY: Actors can visit the Gym anytime they want, even if it’s simply to ask a question or if one is aching to be in the company of other creative-minded people. This is NOT just a taping facility. It is the office space actors have always needed and the home to which they can always return.
Dave and Alisen are also co-teaching a class entitled Mastering the Audition. They will be using their respective strengths from years of entertainment experience in approaching the course material. They are looking forward to being involved with this project, as they find it inspiring to be around a collective creative energy. The class to open to all levels; watching another actors work improve, in any capacity, is a lesson to anyone.
Dave and Alisen are hoping actors will be drawn to the gym, not only for the amazing quality of the audition tapes and the membership option, but also for the reason that The Actor’s Gym was created FOR actors. It was established to give actors a sense of self-sufficiency and control in an industry where so much seems out of reach. They want actors to feel emboldened in what they do and have creative input into the auditions they send. They believe that auditions should resemble the finished product, and actors now have that opportunity at the Gym.
Clearly, both Dave and Alisen love what they do. And although there are many obstacles in this industry, they have confidence in finding ways to conquer such challenges. When they feel overwhelmed by an artistic endeavour, they work toward mastering that aspect of their craft. And THAT is the ultimate goal of the Actor’s Gym: to assist actors in feeling empowered, capable, and creative.