ACTING SCHOOL: What makes Tahirah Stanley, Greg Pragel, and Mario Claudio so special?


A Rant from Bob Greene

Acting Schools are NOT meant to give you talent, they are meant to help that talent unearth. That’s is where many people become disenchanted. Just because you attend a school; just because you pay tuition, doesn’t mean you will be famous. You have to have it in you. here are three students who understood that.

Tahirah Stanley’s wild hair and piercing eyes make her tower above her fellow artists on stage and on screen. Her voice much like the line in Les Miz… “is soft as thunder.” The aforementioned piercing eyes act as a television to a powerful inner life. These were hers all along, no doubt but it took training at Lee Strasberg to allow her to access it. Ms. Stanley had great abilities … a simple turn of the head and laughter is elicited. A breath before a line creates drama; even the tilt of the tousled head in a musical break makes her the leader of a chorus number. This is the dance that happens when a talented soul meets a professional eye. Tahirah Stanley will surely be an asset to the industry, and it’s due to the time spent on her – and the belief given – by her teachers and mentors at Lee Strasberg.


cover“One of my teachers, at The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, once spoke about talent as a gift given from God. Everyone is good at something and for some reason acting was chosen for me. The Eleonora Duse Scholarship was one of the greatest gifts anyone has ever given me because it allowed me the opportunity to train with the best and gather skills necessary to be the confident actress I am today.” 


Greg Pragel recently received reviews that could be said were the best in a production of Hamlet … and he was playing Horatio. Pragel’s meticulous depiction of character; his perfect posture; his brilliantly projected tones, again, all there before, but Stella Adler’s staff of experts seemed to bring them out. At first glance you might not imagine him a powerful presence. Thin and unassuming, Greg Pragel packs a punch on stage. Sonorous voice, sphere of energy making him 20 feet tall, and a depth of character that is hypnotic. Here is another case of a teacher having faith in the student. It takes an acting teacher of great care to look deep into the eyes of the unassuming and pull the warrior.

image1 (1)“Pragel portrayed Horatio as the eyes of the play, witnessing, watching, and notating. One gets the idea that this play was written by him. Pragel made Horatio the most engaging – and identifiable – character on the stage. His immense presence was placed in a sensitive portrayal … his mastery of the language didn’t hurt either.”
OuterStage review of Hamlet



Finally, Mario Claudio, an AMDA grad, spent years in the M Center Master’s Program. He had two programs to help his rise. It seemed – strictly by timing that it was the M Center that did the trick. Recently Mario appeared as the lead in Generations, a concert produced by the M Center’s umbrella organization, Genesis Repertory. This one-night event acted as an audition of sorts. He used all he had learned from the staff at the M – voice manipulation, character creation, and vocal training. It caught the eye of two directors at the 13th Street Rep and today, Mario now has Hamlet (yes, Pragel’s production) under his belt and is currently running in the renowned play LINE, the longest running play in theatre history … ever. Claudio, slightly older that our other two actors, took some time off in between studies. But a fine teacher can unearth talent, no matter how dormant.



“My time at the M Center, has and will always be the best decision I have made in my acting career. The personal one-on-one lessons made me feel comfortable in trying different styles and techniques in a nurturing and non-judgmental environment. They helped me obtain my untapped potential and boosted my confidence in my talents.”



Raw talent is exactly that… raw. When Marlon Brando walked in to his first audition, that smart director grabbed him but as history shows, his road was not a smooth one. James Dean first appeared in a low-budget sci-fi series in the 50s as a lab assistant … and was terrible.

We must return to the concept of pride in our art. If you strolled into a doctor’s office to be told that the doctor has no training but has a knack for healing, you would run out. If your lawyer said they never went to school but they can “read” people… you’d leave in a hurry, maybe even report them.

How about your sources for entertainment?

Even if you are on Off-Off, you need to have been In-In school.

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