We had the good fortune of connecting with Mario Campanaro and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mario, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
One very important point that I always speak of at our studio, MC² Actors Studio, is that Life will always be the most potent, informative and powerful acting teacher any actor will ever study with. Life itself gets all the credit and acclaim! What we do, this thing called story-telling(living), is a mirror or reflection of life. It is there reflecting the human condition generation to generation. We will always connect with the things that we relate to. And those things will always be the stimulus that create story.
With everything that has unfolded and continues to unfold with the pandemic, I recently felt compelled to share a very critical season in my personal life and an important lesson that I learned from those circumstances to one of our masterclasses. Because of severe chronic illness that I fought for many many years (often in secret), I almost lost my life. In addition, I lost friends, family, career, joy, happiness and even love. During this time, the one thing I had to do was basically isolate for quite some time to protect myself and my immune system. That isolation, that loss of time and life, created a craving that I knew was my calling. Everything that I missed out on became my mission. That long, difficult, horrendous, scary, lonely desperate test became my testimony.
The opportunity I was given during that downtime was an opportunity to understand things about people, circumstances and life that I was not able to see or understand before. Everything beforehand came easily until it inevitably didn’t. Those circumstances forced me to stop doing what I loved (my career as an actor on stage and screen as well as teaching) and gave me the chance to study acting in a completely new, and often times, uncomfortable way. It begged me to observe, witness and understand humanity with a completely new consciousness and compassionate lens. It forced me to slow down. It stimulated me to ask questions. It inspired me to seek answers. It opened me to bear witness to others, their circumstances and their pain with a newly found awareness. And more importantly, it aligned me to relate! It completely changed me as a person, actor and teacher. What I was learning/experiencing from life allowed me to see and understand things in story that I never even thought possible. It deepened my relationship to the work and the understanding of characters/people. It expanded me to understand why they/we do what they/we do based on the circumstances they/we are in.
Why do I bring this up? During this crucial time in all of our lives, it is so important to remember these three simple yet powerful statements that I have learned to adopt:
WHAT WE CRAVE IS OUR CALLING. WHAT WE MISS IS OUR MISSION. AND WHAT WE ARE TESTED BY WILL BE OUR TESTIMONY.
What we are experiencing in the world right now is inevitably going to create stories. It is going to create many many very human beautifully-complicated-layered-heartwrenching and also victorious stories. And everybody’s story has the right to be heard and witnessed in some way. Every single one of our stories is backed by the pain we have endured and experienced during some season in our life and all of what we have done to try and overcome that pain and suffering to make it through. Tough times and tough circumstances will always try our most vulnerable point. And that is a beautiful and very human map as to what needs our attention…our awareness. It is our awareness, observation and the exercising of what we learn about ourselves, others and the human condition that will inevitably inspire and inform how we live honestly, truthfully and authentically in our work as actors.
And let’s face it, a lot of the time this may feel/be inconvenient, difficult, tedious and maybe even heart-wrenching work during the process… during the season… especially when there is not an immediate payoff. But the more we stay on track… the more we continue to persevere… the more we continue to align, refine and cultivate our craft… the more we continue to grow and expand… and the more the payoff will eventually and inevitably come. It is about persevering through. Even during those moments when we feel like we don’t want to or think we can’t persevere through. It’s not about going around it. It is not about going over it. It is not about going underneath it. It is about going through it and knowing we will indeed make it through. It is about being religious (meaning disciplined) in our approach to what we want to achieve as artists. Being focused, disciplined and holding ourselves accountable within and throughout the process because we love what we do. And because we know there is… always has been… and always will be greatness within each of us worthy of doing the work that we love with all our heart and soul.
Our work, this thing called Acting, is not for the faint of heart. And it is not trivial or substance-less. It is pregnant with the human condition! And with that invested, mindful, committed work, we must remember that the word ACT means TO DO! And the artists perseveres when it may make sense to want to crumble. The artist perseveres because by the very nature of being an artist is to create… to move forward… to give birth to something from something and because of something.
All of us, in our darkest of times, are spending much of our time being moved by the actor, in our homes or other venues where the actor’s work lives. This is why we must take our work (acting) seriously and with responsibility. The actor can’t forget what he or she does…why he or she does it… and what it serves. It is a rite. It is a responsibility. It is a gift. And it matters! Our darkest moments will be the greatest inspiration for our most important artistic endeavors and creations!
With all that said, MC² Actors Studio is my calling. MC² Actors Studio is my mission. MC² Actors Studio is my testimony. I founded and created the MC² Actors Studio Los Angeles | New York City | London for professional actors to consistently have a safe-yet-challenging-conservatory based-ensemble oriented-trustworthy-dependable-professionally minded-acting studio to learn, explore, discover, exercise and cultivate all aspects of the craft of acting and the full color wheel of the human condition as it pertains to countless stories/texts. And to do so along side other actors (ensemble members) wanting, yearning, investing, committing and holding themselves accountable to do that level of high standard-sophisticated-truthful-visceral-exciting-very human work.
Our craft takes work. Plain and simple. It takes discipline. It takes commitment. It takes accountability. It takes consistency. And most of all, it takes dedication. We have to understand that our craft will only support us as much as we have it ingrained in our being as a second muscle easily accessible for the demands of our work. It is not going to be there to fully support us unless it is exercised. It cannot live in theory. It cannot just live in our head or an idea space. We have to know what we are doing, how to get there, and why we use certain tools to fulfill specific aspects of the life of the text.
We have to be in the known so we can live in the unknown of the moment. And it all has to be practical. It has to be tangible. It has to be useable and executable. And for that to happen, it needs to be exercised and exercised and exercised no matter where we are in our career or however long we have been doing it. It asks of us to consistently exercise/explore/discover physical, psychological, listening, and emotional muscles (not to mention textual detective work and the art of actively listening/pursuing/overcoming) that we do not really tap into within our everyday life and then have the tools and awareness to be able to utilize our instrument to reveal that part of the human experience.
And let’s be honest, most do not have the privilege of working in this manner every day. And depending on this or that audition to test out/try to do the work is not going to do the trick. That is a whole other set of muscles that our craft needs to support us in, so our work can fulfill the text with truth, authenticity, and uniqueness in the room or on tape. Just like holding off going to the gym, if we do not work out those muscles, they, unfortunately, become weak and do not have the stamina/know-how to fulfill the task at hand.
We live in a day and age where everyone seems to want the easy road. Why wouldn’t we, right? Insta-fame is the new normal expectation or desire. It is natural for us to want to pursue the easy way when we see the way social media presents notoriety. However, when we choose this path as actors, as artists, we have to be honest and understand there is nothing easy about the journey. We cannot be lazy in the pursuit of our work. We have to be responsible. We have to reveal the complexities of the human condition. We have to go to places within ourselves that are complicated, vulnerable, uncomfortable and then be generous enough in mind, body, and spirit to share a piece of ourselves in service of the text, for the purpose of art and in honor of the human condition.
And as we exercise those muscles, we may have to go through growing pains many times as we explore the full color wheel of the human condition. And we have to explore all that in a safe yet challenging environment. It is through those difficult times and the exploration of them, that will come our greatest inspirations for our work. On the job is not the place to experiment and find our craft. We are there, paid, with the expectation to deliver…to already know what we are doing so we can do the job at hand. We have to keep our instrument awake as we do our part in understanding the fullness of life in the text that gives birth to the text and what is between it. And then we have to have a toolbox that we can depend on that will support us in going to those places within our instrument that are necessary to live the full spectrum of the life of the text. Studying the craft, going to a responsible studio, holding our mentors/teachers accountable for challenging us, being honest with us, caring about our growth, and really knowing how to individually give us the tools that will support our craft and work as an artist is simply necessary. Stay in the learning. As long as we are alive, we will have to continue to study the craft because life itself is an endless unpredictable complex lesson…and therefore, so will every piece of text that is presented to us.
MC² Actors Studio is my calling. MC² Actors Studio is my mission. MC² Actors Studio is my testimony. And I truly believe that it is because of that spine that supports the the undercurrent of the studio, that is the reason why MC² Actors Studio has the international success it does.
Please tell us more about your career. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
MC² Actors Studio Los Angeles | New York City | London is dedicated and reserved for the professionally oriented actor. It is all about exercising the professional actor’s instrument. It is about going to the gym, artistically speaking. All MC² Actors Studio ensemble members are invited to study at the studio based on his or her audition and interview. It is of the utmost importance that all actors invited to study at the studio are there with the common goal of wanting to commit and invest in really doing the work and explore the full spectrum of the human condition. Once each ensemble is formed, that specific ensemble comes together each week to wholeheartedly cultivate and strengthen the craft and all aspects of what an actor’s work demands.
When our actors walk through the stage door, they know whole-heartedly that they are stepping into an extremely safe, respectful and professional space that is fully dedicated to each of them individually as well as the entire craft of acting. It‘s a professionally and artistically challenging environment in that it holds all of our actors responsible and accountable artistically, professionally, business-wise, and frankly, ALL aspects of what is needed and expected to experience longevity in this complicated business.
MC² Actors Studio is committed to exercising the actor’s artistic and professional instrument on all levels. It is about developing professional and artistic tools that support the actor throughout the entirety of their career. It allows for our actors to learn and know what they are doing so they can live in the unknown of the text in an exciting, organic, unpredictable, instinctual, honest, and truthful way.
Actors are paired up by their specific instructor and then assigned a scene or exercise that excites, stimulates, and challenges his or her instrument. Scene work will always be from a well-written play that is age-appropriate, well-characterized, and contains a multitude of stakes and challenges within the circumstances. Each group is required to do all the necessary work on their scene or exercise. That includes all of the text analysis, the breakdown of given circumstances, becoming grounded in the character’s spine/through-line/super-objective, identifying the action of the scene, formulating actable objectives, identifying obstacles, understanding intentions, viscerally endowing the stakes/relationships/objects/environment, creating environment, making strong and specific physical/vocal/psychological/emotional choices, choosing appropriate character attire and then marrying all that work with personalization, imagery, substitution, emotional recall, as if’s, all the crucial endowment work for all of the aforementioned. In other words, any and all necessary steps an actor must implement to bring any given text alive.
Actors must significantly rehearse their scene or exercise with their partner(s) before getting up into the space in order to get the most of their time. This is to test the work the actor has done on their own and then, more importantly, drop it so as to live and experience what all that work has done for their instrument in relationship to the circumstances within the unknown of the moment with their partner(s). There will always be another group in the ensemble that has been assigned the same scene in case, by chance, one’s partner cannot be in class. This way each group will always have someone who can jump in as a partner who has also committed and invested in significant work on that same scene. Think of it as if all scenes always have an understudy.
The studio work is not about trying to prove oneself as an actor/artist…or about playing a result of performance…or about having the pressure to perform for an audience while training…or about getting the job…or about being perfect…or about being addicted to adjustments to‘get you there. It is for the professional actor, as a safe space to cultivate the craft of acting…to be courageous…to take risks…to get messy…to get specific… to struggle when there is struggle…and to celebrate diving into all the obstacles and blocks that may be experienced in the work equally as celebrating all the breakthroughs and successes! It is not about hoping one’s work goes well and it is not about being lucky if it does. It is all about the craft of acting and how it supports the actor consistently.
And within that, it is also about knowing that there is not always The way to get there. But there always is A way! And that way will resonate with the actor and stimulate his or her instrument to do honest, truthful, exciting, sophisticated, and very human unpredictable moment-to-unknown moment work in relation to the circumstances at hand.
MC² Actors Studio’s main objective is to teach, challenge and support the actor in cultivating a craft that is tailored to work specifically for him or her. Our studio sets a very high standard when it comes to truth, authenticity, responsibility, accountability, commitment, respect, and professionalism in the work. Our instructors use their powerfully effective and intuitive individual teaching style in combination with the ingenious methods of Stanislavsky, Hagen, Adler, Strasberg, Meisner, Chekhov, Linklater, Rosenburg, and Alexander to name a few.
The actor is urged to cultivate a craft that he or she can always put to the test, refine, mix and match and…most importantly…trust. The actor needs to find solace working with and supported by a consistent, fail-proof, reliable technique that allows him or her to fully live within the unknown of the moment. The craft of acting needs to make ‘human sense’ in order for it to be tangible and viscerally executable. If it does not mirror life, it is not going to be relevant or useful in the work. The craft of acting is not suppose to be this complicated equation forcing and imprisoning the actor into his or her head. It needs to come out of theory and viscerally resonate within the actor’s being based on how we humans…in all of our grit, glory, and colorful complexity…authentically and honestly live moment to unknown moment within the full spectrum of life circumstances. It has to vibrate within the actor’s mind, body and spirit so the actor can be fully free, alive and specific within the circumstances of any given text.
That is the craft that allows the actor to throw caution to the wind, dissolve fear, live truthfully moment to unknown moment and stay in love with the craft of acting! That is a craft that will never fail the actor. It will always have his or her back. It will support them in their knowing and therefore open the door to that delicious desired freedom within the unknown of the moment. That is the craft that the actor wants to cultivate! That is the craft that the actor wants to continue to work with!
We couldn’t be prouder of all our actors, internationally, and the incredible successes they are experiencing in their careers. There is no greater feeling than to be able to consistently witness our actors experience their professional dreams manifest each and every day!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
There are so many incredible things to do in Los Angeles. It would be so difficult to try to fit all that I would want to show in one day. But we would most likely have a wonderful brunch, possibly at Cafe Gratitude, and then grab a coffee at Alfred or Groundworks. From there we would take the scenic route to Malibu or Zuma and relax on one of the beautiful beaches, watch the dolphins jump, the pelicans dive and hopefully see a whale or two breach. From there we would go to this little Thai restaurant, Cholada Thai Beach Cuisine, on the PCH (which is so delicious) and enjoy an early dinner so we can get bak in time to see one of the amazing shows that would be playing at the Mark Taper, Geffen Playhouse, The Ahmanson or Panatages. And after the show, we can grab a quick nightcap at Gracias Madre (tequila on the rocks with fresh lime) and reminisce about what a great day we just had.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Gerald Freedman, Cigdem Onat, Bob Francesconi, Yury Belov, Tanya Belov, Marty Rader, Matthew Bulluck, Mollie Murray, Mary Irwin, Robert Beseda, Felix Ivanov, Jacklyn Maddux, Barney Hammond, Lesley Hunt, Dale Girard, Mary Zimmerman, John Dillon, Michael Breault, Joe Mantello, NCSA, Chris Callahan, Stan Barber, Randy Grauerholz, Elaine Ricardelli, Darlene Yannetta, Ashley Murray, Amy Pemberton, Sam Mackay and of course my parents Phyllis & Mario Campanaro.
Facebook: MC² Actors Studio: www.facebook.com/mc2actorsstudio
Facebook II: MC² Actors Studio Masterclass: https://www.facebook.com/mariocampanarosmasterclass/
Facebook III: Mario Campanaro For The Actor: www.facebook.com/mariocampanaro
MC² Actors Studio Blog: www.mariocampanaro.com/blog
MC² Actors Studio Amazon Storefront: www.amazon.com/shop/mc2actorsstudio
Featured In The Photos:
MC² Actors Studio Los Angeles Ensemble Members: Al Calderon, Alex Raines, Amanda Bird, Amy Pemberton, Anna Zigmond, Ashley Murray, Ben Cichowski, Brendan Kane, Casey James, Christian Velky, Dominque Domingo, Dralla Aierken, Holly Hubbell, Jabari Redd, Laura New, Lynne Davis, Nicole Wensel, Shan Harris,