‘Celeste Legaspi wanted to learn more,’ and so an acting school is born | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

ACTRESSES Nanette Inventor, Celeste Legaspi and Rachel Alejandro under Allan’s tutelage
ACTRESSES Nanette Inventor, Celeste Legaspi and Rachel Alejandro under Allan’s tutelage

It doesn’t pay to be nice and polite at Actor’s Studio East (ASE). The school, which is dedicated purely to acting, encourages students to check their niceness at the door if they are to progress in class.


“The actor’s job is to make themselves emotionally available, to respond truthfully and make instantaneous decisions,” writes ASE mentor and creative director Blake Allan on his blog. “We don’t ‘act’ like we’re mad. We really, authentically, 100-percent f**king truthfully GET MAD.”


Truth, or authenticity, is one of three core elements of the ASE discipline, followed by technique and training.


Designed to train the mind and body for the acting profession, the school’s curriculum is grounded on the ideology of three of the industry’s biggest influences: American acting coach Sanford Meisner, proponent of a performance technique based on being truthful under imaginary circumstances; Russian innovator Constantin Stanislavski, the father of method acting, or the process of drawing from personal experience to play a role; and Michael Chekhov, whose psychophysical technique aims to develop the actor’s psychological and physical parts to their highest potential.

ACTOR’S Studio East mentor-creative director Blake Allan


ASE’s challenge to students? Take risks. Make choices outside your comfort zone. Find your voice and means of expression. Do not ape your teachers or coactors.


Helping students on that path is Allan, known to his wards as “Teacher B,” who admits he can be very confrontational about coaxing honest, authentic performances from them.


“I yell if I need to but … not to intimidate,” he says. “Depending on what I need out of you on stage, I’m going to provoke you in that manner.”


Zero acting credits


But who is Blake Allan, and why should anybody want to be mentored by a foreigner with zero acting credits in the local industry?


FROM LEFT: ASE’s Girlie Rodis, Allan and wife Waya Gallardo. FRAN KATIGBAK

Raised in Chicago, Allan had an early start in show biz, modelling at age 7 for American clothing brands Gap and Nautica. As a young aspiring actor, Allan sought greener pastures, leaving his small hometown which had the mentality that art isn’t a real job.


“I always felt like an outcast and that I needed a change,” he says.


Early in his career, Allan gladly settled for acting workshops as training ground. He entered formal training only after being prodded into it by his soccer coach Vinnie Jones, the actor playing Juggernaut in “X-Men: The Last Stand.” After taking up Acting and Drama at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Allan headed to Los Angeles for further studies.


He has since taught in every major city in the United States, as well as Mexico, Ireland and the United Kingdom.


In 2009, Allan went on a vacation in Manila. He had racked up two months’ worth of vacation leaves from his teaching post and, with his Filipino manager about to head home for retirement, the trip would be timely.


The vacation turned into semipermanent stay, with a little help from Cupid, and Allan’s other artistic pursuits.


Something more


Allan’s love of music (he plays the drums, too) led him to the local indie-rock scene where he met his wife, actress Waya Gallardo, daughter of pop music legend and actress Celeste Legaspi and advertising man and songwriter Dominador “Nonoy” Gallardo.


Allan said Legaspi has had no formal training, though she has been acting for a long time.


“IT’S REALLY a classroom environment where you begin to learn technique,” says Allan, or “Teacher B” to his wards.

“Celeste wanted to learn more,” he said of his mother-in-law’s interest in padding up her professional portfolio. Thus began her training with Allan, which started what would become Actor’s Studio East.


Legaspi opened the school with longtime friend and manager Girlie Rodis. The two have collaborated on a number of projects, notably on Musicat, a theater company dedicated to creating new Filipino musicals.


Rounding out the ASE team are Nonoy as creative consultant; Waya, student coordinator; and Allan, whose duties include formulating the lesson plan and tracking the progress of his students.


Strictly audition-based


Limited to 13 students per class, courses offered by ASE begin with the requisite Tier 1, an intense month-long training that takes in enrollees without acting experience. However, acceptance into the succeeding courses (Tier 2, Advanced Program, Master Class) is strictly audition-based.


The school also has the International Professional Program, designed for those based abroad who are serious about taking on the craft. The nine-month program combines the training in all tiers and succeeding levels.


A daily course called Actors Physical Training (APT) is run an hour before each class. It consists of games, group activities and vocal practice—all designed to complement the Chekhov and Stanislavski techniques—aimed at preparing students for the day’s work.


In lieu of recitals or grand productions, students get to show the extent of what they’ve learned through Works in Progress (WIP). These once-a-month sessions give Allan the opportunity to test students, assigning them in difficult scenes that last five to 10 minutes.


“It really depends on where their troubles or obstacles lie,” he says. “I never give them easy tasks.”


Locally, the biggest problem Allan has observed is the lack of acting schools that train using performance techniques other than method acting.


“A lot of actors here are so-called method actors who relive past experiences, pull it out on stage and harm themselves over and over again,” he said.


“Here you have workshops, but they’re not for acting… They’re accumulated workshops on dance, song, jazz hands. There’s no dedicated school.


“You cannot learn what you need in just a month [of workshops]. We [at ASE] do it all year.’”


Length of training


ASE fills the void, providing the classroom environment and necessary length of training for people who are serious about pursuing an acting profession, or for those involved in related arts, such as directing, musical theater or any other creative medium.


Even the mentor has had to continue honing his craft despite nearly a decade’s worth of training under his belt. During the annual school break, which lasts three months (November-January), he goes to the US not just to visit his family but also to work with his casting directors and train further.


“Learning is important and you cannot stop,” says Allan.


The school expects students to be as dedicated as the people who run the facility. As it says on the ASE website: “We are not a hobby. We do not babysit. We do not believe in shortcuts.


“Nothing worth working for can be attained quickly, and we expect nothing short of excellence, from both our students and our faculty.”


Actor’s Studio East is at 70-D 18th Ave., Cubao, Quezon City; tel. 4381111, 0917-5806055, and +1 (818) 850-2234 for international callers. For further details, visit www.actorsstudio

east.com; Facebook Actor’s Studio East; Twitter @ASEQC.




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