Terry Knickerbocker Studio
in New York City
Located in the heart of Brooklyn, you will find the Terry Knickerbocker Studio, a Meisner acting school offering a holistic approach to actor training and development. Providing a conservatory setting, their expert faculty trains the actor in a generous, collaborative, spirited way. Led by Terry Knickerbocker, who has spent over thirty years training and teaching with William Esper, he is also a core faculty member and alumnus of the Experimental Theatre Wing at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
The Terry Knickerbocker Studio’s primary aims of their actor training conservatory seek to provide students with the tools and a process necessary for creating authentic, imaginative acting while empowering their students with their own unique humanity, plus cultivating standards of craftsmanship and artistry in their students.
The basis of their work is the training created by Sanford Meisner – The Meisner Technique – training the entire instrument of the actor – while preparing the actor for their profession. Their curriculum is designed to support the holistic development of their students.
Terry Knickerbocker, who studied at New York University, has dedicated his life to this art form. He has also taught directing at Playwrights Horizons Theatre School and Yale University, and has coached actors on over three hundred films, television and theater projects, both on and Off-Broadway, and regionally. Some of the actors he has worked with and trained include: Sam Rockwell, Chris Messina, Boyd Holbrook, Natasha Lyonne, Leslie Bibb, Emmy Rossum, Yul Vasquez, Jordana Spiro, Gillian Alexy, and Gretchen Mol. He is a past recipient of the Drama League of New York’s directing award/fellowship for emerging directors, and his directing includes Measure for Measure, Tartuffe, The Normal Heart, Candida, All My Sons, and In the Boom Boom Room. As an actor, he was a member of Rina Yerushalmi’s Teatron Company at La Mama E.T.C., and acted in numerous productions directed by Anne Bogart. Terry continues to direct and act.
He believes that the hallmark of quality acting is precision and clarity, fueled by the unique personality, soul and imagination of the actor. Mr. Knickerbocker has said talking about why he created his Studio: “Life in its very nature is a moving thing. Grass grows every day. Things are born, they live, and they die. It’s a dynamic process so if you’re not moving, then you’re not in life. And moving involves going to some place new. If you keep doing the same thing every day you’re going to decay through the process of entropy. It’s important to be on the edge and going towards the sound of the cannons, and asking yourself: What is the healthy risk to be taken? Not a daredevil risk; take a healthy risk but one that challenges you, whatever that might be. It might be auditioning for something. It might be opening an acting studio! No one in New York was saying: “Please open an acting studio.” It wasn’t necessary, but it was necessary for me.”
“I firmly believe in the power of art to heal. Art makes the world a better place. Broken people attend performances, see paintings, hear music, and walk out feeling not so alone. That experience that art is holding the mirror up to nature, specifically their nature; they don’t feel so alone. Stories are so important. Art is a way to share those stories and to heal the world. Storytelling enhances our culture, and the medium of storytelling includes actors. But that also includes directors, designers, dancers, cinematographers, all the people who support whatever the medium is, which in our culture includes theatre, film, or television.”
“People need to know how to make art. It’s hard to do it well. So that was a moment of awakening that I had. Most actors who start out haven’t had lessons. I mean some kids go to performing arts camps, there are such places, but I never did. I was just doing it based on a love of story-telling and a love of pretend.”
“When I watch my son and he pretends to be Iron Man, he just loves to play and uses his imagination to tell stories. This is inherent in the human experience. But at a certain point you get that you’re not so good at it or that your work is hit or miss.”
“Leonardo Da Vinci needed to train. Picasso needed to train. Duke Ellington needed to train to learn how to compose and play the piano. There is no real great actor worth their salt who did not spend a lot of time training, whether it’s in England or Australia or the United States.”
“I think young actors need teachers who understand the art form very well. They need to have a nurturing spirit and know when to be strong when necessary and when to be tender depending on the situation, and depending on the person. They need to see every actor as individual, so that they’re not just running through a curriculum. They need to hold their responsibility as sacred because the relationship between an actor and an acting teacher can be very intimate. The relationship requires sensitivity, and care, and a refusal to exploit that relationship.”
“I think the best teachers love teaching. I love what I do, I like to get up in the morning and do it. It keeps me young and engaged. I feel that being in touch with young people, who are the future of the art form, helps me to understand culture and how they see life. I can learn from them.”
“I did a Meisner activity when I was training. I saw my classmates coming to life in the activities and I wasn’t coming to life, and I was disturbed by that because I like to achieve. My choice was “Oh, what if I had a little brother and I made a sailboat for him?” I don’t have a little brother but I found this sailboat kit at a Boy Scout store. I was sure it would bring me to life but it did nothing for me. So this so-called “mistake” or “failure” led me to re-investigate what I thought would work that didn’t work. That’s how you grow.”