Today we’d like to introduce you to Terry Ross.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Terry. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I’m originally from the Bay Area and began acting in musicals in 1976 – my first role was as Dancing Laurie in “Oklahoma” and then went on to perform in “Hello Dolly”, “Cabaret”, “The Music Man” and many more.
I had a moment on stage (during a dancing segment in “Hello Dolly”) that I realized this is what I wanted to do with my life – didn’t how that was going to happen, but I knew then that there was nothing I loved more. In 1978, I went on to simultaneously get into a touring children’s company and performing improv troupe as well as begin studying acting at American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco.
For the next seven years, I studied and performed pretty much non-stop, at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Marin Theatre Company, One Act Theatre Company, as well as getting agency representation and performing in film, television, and commercials. Then (again, in a moment on stage in “Crimes of the Heart”,) I realized I wanted to expand my creative range…I just wasn’t sure how.
I went back to school, San Francisco State University, to complete my B.A., became inspired to teach and went on to get a Masters in Education and Teaching Credential in English at Stanford University (the English credential is needed to teach drama in Secondary education). I secured a full-time high school teaching job for a year while the drama teacher was out, and it was during this year that I directed my first play, Eugene O’Neill’s, “Ah, Wilderness”. It was there that I found my passion for directing, and after the teaching year was over, I enrolled in the Masters of Fine Arts Program in Directing at U.C. Davis, where I graduated in 1993 with that degree.
Following graduation, I taught at Long Beach City College, Mesa College, San Diego State University, University of San Diego and for six years for the Old Globe Masters of Fine Arts Program. The idea of teaching film acting came in 1997 after my local agent was a guest speaker in an audition class I was teaching at SDSU. He suggested I start an on-camera acting class, found a location for me, and began sending some of the actors he represented to my classes. I have been offering these classes ever since!
Over the next several years teaching the classes, I created a showcase format for my students consisting of filmed and live scenes, and during this process, developed a newfound love – directing film! This then led to writing, producing and directing six 48 hours films and eventually to my first feature film, “Carving A Life”, which was picked up for distribution and is now available across many streaming platforms. The second feature film I directed, “Sweet Taste of Souls,” which filmed for several weeks in the town I live in, Julian, is currently in post-production.
And currently, the combined love of teaching, directing and travel has led me to the latest adventure – holding an acting retreat and making a short film – “A Castle in Umbria” in a castle in Italy this October.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The creative road is never smooth…nor -at least in my case, -can one predict where it will lead. I can remember seeing a dear friend of mine acting at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in the early 70s and was so impressed with the actors, never dreaming that I would be doing that one day. Or the first time I was directed by a woman in the play “Lysistrata.” in 1979 and was awestruck – I thought, I could never do that! Certainly, at that time, I never dreamed I’d be directing theatre…much less film.
There were dark times for sure, full of doubt, ….when there’d be long stretches between shows where I was sure I’d never work again. One year in particular I had. a string of roles where it came down between myself and one other person, but not being cast. It was so hard not to get completely discouraged…and then the next year, it changed completely without a break between shows! I don’t think there’s another business where there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to whether you are working or not – it certainly isn’t a linear path nor for the faint of heart. But I can’t imagine being in any other field.
The key it seems is to find ways to stay connected to the work – through classes, reading, going to theatre or film – partly so you don’t lose hope and also so you’re ready when the work does come along!
Please tell us about your work.
Acting Professionally provides training for actors across a wide range of areas – script analysis, character development, improvisation, physical and vocal work, as well as auditions for camera, blocking for camera, continuity, working with directors, film and theater etiquette, the business of acting and industry guest teachers. We also provide an annual showcase for industry professionals at the Horton Grand Theatre consisting of a filmed scene and a live scene – to the best of my knowledge a unique showcase format not offered anywhere else in the country.
I believe one of the things that sets the training apart is that because of over 20 years of studying across a wide range of disciplines (dance, physical theatre, voice, directing, and many approaches to acting ) I am able to offer those various techniques to my students – not every technique or approach to the craftworks for every actor. It allows me to give individualized and specific instruction based upon a student’s need.
My approach to training starts with a deep respect for acting and all its processes – and for the students who are willing to take the necessary risks that go into being an actor. I believe the creative process needs both nurturing and constructive guidance for success and strive to make that a fundamental part of my teaching.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I remember meeting my best friend, Addie, on the first day starting a new school. It was a small private school, and there were only a few people in my grade (4th).
We traded sandwiches at lunch and from then on, pretty much were best friends for the rest of our lives – roommates in college, we were in each other’s weddings, and although as adults didn’t live near one another, remained very close. Oh, and as for those sandwiches, she had egg salad on wheat bread and I had peanut butter and jelly on white…I think I got the better deal.
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