Geneseo's Acting II class allows students to work on their technique through scene study and various methodologies. On Feb.13, they received an exciting visit from professor Randy Kaplan's former student, Bruce Altman.
Altman is a well-seasoned working actor who studied at the renowned Yale School of Drama and just finished auditioning for pilot season in Hollywood. He shared his experiences in show business while giving advice to Geneseo's acting students. For anyone wanting to break into the business, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Altman began with a basic explanation of how he got started in acting. He was a student of Kaplan back in 1975 at SUNY Albany. Starting out as a pre-med biology major, he never expected to eventually share the screen with big names like Robert De Niro (Cop Land) and Alec Baldwin (It's Complicated). He took up acting during his sophomore year and appeared in a musical production called "America Drinks and Goes Home."
He always felt that scholarship was extremely important and considers theater part of that experience. "It's important to act and to see how it feels," he remarked. After graduating with a degree in biology and English, Altman eventually made acting his main career.
Like many young actors, he moved to New York City. Although he was originally there to pursue teaching, he found himself doing one play after another. Altman had the opportunity to take classes with Geraldine Page, a distinguished actress and mentor. After acting in countless "off off-Broadway" productions, Altman took the leap to audition at Yale where he became a student in the School of Drama.
He reflected that back then you only needed to audition with two monologues and an interview. It astonishes him how many callbacks and auditions applicants must go through now. Altman firmly believes in the notion of needing "one good audition" to make it, especially as his Yale audition jumpstarted his career.
Altman offered Kaplan's students valuable advice over the course of the session. He shared that when he is eyeing a part he needs to think to himself, "Who am I? What do I want?"
As an actor, he believes that you need to know every inch of the person you're portraying. Before he came to this realization he encountered a lot of self-doubt as a performer.
"I couldn't feel like an artist if I didn't know how to make choices," Altman said. "I was missing something." Fortunately, he found what he was looking for in himself during his time at Yale.
Like many members of the business, he had his fair share of insider stories to tell. He shared an experience rehearsing a scene with Robert De Niro, auditioning for director, writer, producer and comedian Mike Nichols and landing a job by telling a casting agent, "That's a diet coke." The session concluded on a sentimental note with Kaplan presenting Altman with photographs from his old theater days at Albany.
Altman was recently featured in Big Miracle with Drew Barrymore as the chief of staff and will appear in the Sarah Palin biopic "Game Change" with Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson later this year.