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The Oasis of Insanity: The Study & Pursuit of Acting at the Beverly Hills Playhouse Book

“The Oasis of Insanity” by Allen Barton – Book Release

Well, at long last, after almost 27 years at the BHP, including 18 years of apprenticeship with Milton, 15 years of teaching, and 8 years writing essays for this blog, I have endeavored to capture the whole enchilada of that experience into a book that has just been released: “The Oasis of Insanity.”

Oasis Cover (final)

The Official Blurb reads, “Upon the recommendation of a pretty girl, a young Harvard grad reports to a small theatre on a chilly November evening in Los Angeles to begin an acting class. So begins his unique apprenticeship with a brilliant and temperamental teacher, an apprenticeship lasting fully 18 years until that young student takes over the school upon the master’s death. The apprentice is Allen Barton, today an established Los Angeles director, teacher and playwright. The master is Milton Katselas, one of the most renowned acting teachers of his era. The school is the Beverly Hills Playhouse, the famed training ground for thousands of working actors over the last 40 years. ‘The Oasis of Insanity’ is Barton’s story of his coming of age under Katselas’ unique tutelage, as well as his own valuable guidebook to the study and pursuit of acting in the 21st century.”

Part 1 is an episodic memoir of my time with Milton, which I hope is in equal parts an entertaining, informative and honest appraisal of one of our field’s great teachers and provocative personalities. Part 2 is a collection of essays — many rewritten, reorganized, condensed, or expanded from this blog — and many written brand new for the book. They have been organized into four groups: On Acting, On Study, On Administration, and On Life as an Actor. As a whole, I hope the book presents accurately the current world of the actor, inclusive of the culture and history associated specifically with the Beverly Hills Playhouse.


E-book downloads are available currently at Amazon and iBooks, with paperback-on-demand available as well at Amazon .

—>Click here to download a preview of “The Oasis of Insanity”<—

Allen BartonBeverly Hills PlayhouseFirst Edition
actor training in Los Angeles

Training Pixelation

Actor training in Los Angeles over the last fifteen years has been pixelated more and more into a dozen subcategories of “skills,” inclusive of improv, audition technique, comedy technique, camera technique, commercial camera technique, camera audition slate-your-name improv sit-com technique, how-to-shoot-your-demo-reel classes, how-to-market-yourself-on-social-media seminars, on and on and on. The price tag for some of these items can be $500 or more, and I would submit to you that the most certain result of any of these “educational opportunities” is that whoever is delivering it gets their $500 or more, per student. And then once you’ve spent your $500, say, on some workshop, they’ll come to you with the next level. And the next after that. And then there’s a weekend intensive by so-and-so, and you don’t want to miss the weekend intensive with so-and-so, because so-and-so is so brilliant.

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Dedicated Channel

Jesus I suck why the hell do I continue to pursue this when I could go get a masters or apprentice for a producer or something or go back home where people are real and there’s actually weather okay shut up already you need to be positive you need to channel your confidence this is what your therapist has been talking to you about this endless tidal pull towards insecurity where did that come from my parents or an early piece of shit love affair there’s no need for it I need to grow the fuck up and stop dramatizing my pain except I’m an actor aren’t I isn’t that the point to dramatize my inner pain for the world to recognize as their own pain this makes my pain infinitely more noble and in fact it’s my duty and my responsibility to feel my pain and parade it for others like a freaking pain peacock but holy shit I’m nervous and I’m not sure my pain is what is needed at this moment because fuck it’s stupid fucking comedy and I hate reading for shit like this it’s not what I work on in class why am I taking Continue reading

On The IMDb Star Meter

On the IMDb Star Meter

Fuck the Star Meter. Stop looking at it. Never think about it again. Fuck how many followers you have on some social media platform. Stop looking. Never think about it again. Figure out what you love to do. Take some steps to ensure you’re good at it. Proceed.

How To Be A Better Actor - Workin’ 9-to-5 - Beverly Hills Playhouse

Workin’ 9-to-5

In case you haven’t heard, The Biz is full of gossip. People sleep with each other. Then they break up. They do stupid shit at parties. They get married. They get divorced. They are “difficult.” People talk about people. It’s a shocker. In another stunning development, because of the many intense, small and ever-changing ecosystems in this business  (read: film sets, play rehearsals, and acting classes), you could find yourself in a holy-smokes relationship in no-time-flat, invested fully in any number of ways, discover within eight weeks that this investment was perhaps ill-advised, and yet somehow you keep doing it again and again and again. New people, intense feelings. New people, intense feelings! Quite a ride. It’s part of The Deal,  part of why a lot of people love the business – they thrive off a bit of emotional chaos and the highs and lows of it all. Artists can be manic high-low people, fueled by emotional responses, and it all fits together a certain way.

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Podcast Interview with Allen Barton - Beverly Hills Playhouse

AB Podcast Interview

Here’s an interview I did for Destination Hollywood Radio, in which I discuss my history at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, the BHP Approach, specifics on career administration, actors v. writing, actors v. agents, and why Brits and Aussies deserve the work they’re getting. They did a partial transcription, and below that is the link to the full podcast.

Acting Training for Professional Storytellers

For almost 4 decades the Beverly Hills Playhouse has helped actors hone their craft of professional storytelling. Recently, DHR’s Patty Lotz sat down with Beverly Hills Playhouse Owner/CEO Allen Barton to talk about the “new normal” for actors in this Internet age and BHP’s unique approach to acting training that addresses Acting, Attitude and Career Administration. Here is an excerpt from the podcast interview:

DHR: Here you are the Owner/CEO of the Beverly Hills Playhouse. You stepped into some huge shoes.

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How To Start Acting: F- Improv Classes 5 Points - Beverly Hills Playhouse

F— Improv Training

Allow me to rage, give voice to thoughts hushed and guarded, unexpressed, trapped, traversing the crania of teachers of serious acting, for fear of grave offense against what THEY say, for fear of pissing off a longtime student who has wandered or wants to wander from serious acting training, and by serious acting I mean training geared towards creating a serious actor, which is to say not someone without a sense of humor, no, no, not that, definitely not that, god have mercy, forbid it, but rather one whose sense of humor is not necessarily the issue per se, that is to say, the thoughts of those of us trying to train a skilled actor who simply can have a real shot at a career in film, television and theatre, an actor who is skilled in both comedy and drama, and can honestly investigate a writer’s premise in any style and any form and do so richly and believably and consistently for as many performances as you’d like, in as many or as few takes as is your preference, on as little notice as you’d wish. Got it? So here goes: Fuck improv training.

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How To Be A Good Actor - Cynema (Cinema with a Why?) - Acting Blog

Cynema (Or Cinema with a WHY?)

[I posted this entry in 2010, but the topic keeps smacking me in the face, so I thought it was worth revisiting with an edit, update and repost.]

It doesn’t quite work, because “Cynema” and “Cinema” are homonyms. Visually – okay. To the ear, it needs to be “Cynical Cinema.”

cynical, adj., 1. concerned only with one’s own interests and typically disregarding accepted or appropriate standards, 2. distrustful of human sincerity or integrity

cynema, n., filmmaking motivated by cynical inclinations as to what will move the creators’ careers forward, at the expense of coherence, humanity or passion; cynema is often characterized by slavish devotion to a style, it rarely demonstrates any devotion to a focused story, it is marked by poor craftsmanship, improvisation in lieu of writing, a desperate desire to be funny (often by imitating others’ humor), emphasis on the ‘mockumentary’ form, hitting visual punchlines, etc.

We’ve all had enough of it, right? How many invitations have we received to look at vimeo, youtube, whatever, to see the latest work by an acquaintance, and you want to throw heavy objects at your fragile computer? If I never see another stupid fucking unfunny mockumentary again in this lifetime or any lifetime to follow, it will be too soon. Stop it! If you aren’t going to be funnier than Spinal Tap or Waiting for Guffman (or that delicious Extras skit between Gervais and McKellen about acting), don’t do it! And trust me, you probably aren’t funnier than those films. Those are professionally funny people, and in this business if you haven’t been paid to be funny, there’s an awfully good chance that if you tried, you simply aren’t funny enough to be paid for it.

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How To Become an Actress: Follow Up! - "Peer to Peer"

Peer to Peer

I’ve emphasized in plenty of entries here how important I think it is that actors follow-up on all professional interactions. Auditions, callbacks, meetings, on-set work… Fact is, once an actor knows how to act, the business they’re really in is the name-collecting and follow-up business. In A Universal Career Jumpstart, I put down three lists I think every actor should draw up and add to on an ongoing basis. Setting to the side any and all internal work the actor might do to keep themselves moderately sane, and all the forward-gazing goals, mantras, and conceptualizing, if an actor can do these two things – act well and follow-up – those two skills alone, pursued with discipline over time, will beget more acting work.

So. What to say to these people? Not for me to dictate, as clearly it’s too context-dependent. BUT, I can say this: Communicate on a peer-to-peer basis. By this I mean that too much of the correspondence I have occasionally been able to review comes from a lowly, I’m-just-aspring, you-are-a-god-and-I’m-out-of-work, look-how-clever-I’m-being-to-get-your-attention place. That stuff reeks of insecurity and low esteem. Don’t do it.

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