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Broadway World Review:


BYOB Act & Sip In New York City

by Carissa Chesanek Sep. 30, 2019


If you've ever wanted to try acting but have been too shy, the Russell Acting Studio's Act & Sip class is the way to do it. This 90-minute class gets you reciting lines without any pressure.

Everyone is a beginner and from all walks of life. Young and old, some are math teachers, others are personal trainers, and a few may prefer not to say. Regardless, everyone is there for the same reason: to try and act without being too serious about it.

The acting coaches, Cathy Russell and Bradley Bemboom, are fun and as relaxed as the environment itself. You'll notice this the minute you walk in and they greet you with easy-going chitchat and a form to tell them the weirdest thing about you. Right from the start, these guys want you to loosen up. Of course, the bottle you bring with you also helps. It is a BYOB acting class after all. The coaches provide you with the cups, and if you're lucky, may even put your bottle of Sauvignon Blanc on ice.

After drinks are poured, you'll take a seat in the theater and introductions will be made. Prepare to go around the room, listening to each participant spill whatever they can about themselves while the spotlight is shining on them.

Cathy and Bradley will then go over the instructions to the class which are fairly simple: read the script you're given, practice and practice some more before performing it in front of everyone. Each script comes from well-known films and series: think: As Good as It Gets and The Office, and matched with the right person for the job: complementing similar personalities and to those who have never seen the show or movie.

Everyone is paired off with a partner, but not the person you came with, and the two of you take time to recite the scenes together, all while enjoying sweet treats made by Bradley himself.

Once you devour a chocolate ganache-filled cupcake or the most decadent chocolate chip cookie on earth, and have practiced your lines several times, each pair will take turns acting it out for the class. The first round is rough, as there is no direction from the coaches. You simply have to wing it. And most don't know what to do or how to act, literally. It's the second and third rounds (when the coaches come in to help) that are most beneficial, and you can see the growth of just about each person.

But if you're looking for real one-on-One Direction, you're not necessarily going to get it here. This is not an intensive class. But it does get you in front of your peers and to loosen up. If you do it right, you're half in the bag by your turn.

Don't expect to walk away with a new acting career on the horizon, but do expect to feel more confident about speaking in front of people and not giving a damn about how you look. It might be the booze talking, but with an environment this fun, it's hard not to be anything but relaxed.

Book a Saturday class here.

(Photo courtesy of Russell Acting Studio)

Jonathan reviewed Act & Sip Nyc from your experience on November 14. Here's what they had to say:

5 out of 5 stars

"Cathy and her staff were incredible.  They made us feel comfortable right away.  The scripts were thoughtfully chosen for us and were so funny.
The set, stage and theater provide an incredible vibe.  It's an incredible experience to go with a group of friends.  Well worth the money. 
Make sure to pregame with plenty of alcohol. 
Btw- Cathy, may be modest about it, but she is a theater legend, with an Guinness Book of World Record to show for it.  Cathy is devoted to the craft of acting and shares her love of acting in a way that is light hearted and fun.   
This experience met and exceeded all my expectations.   I would do it again in a heartbeat."

Guides Association of New York Review;

Act and Sip – An Enjoyable Experience

Posted on August 8, 2019 by Karen Nowosad

Introducing Act and Sip

Have you ever wondered what it feels like to stand on a stage and give a live acting performance? What if that stage was in the heart of the Broadway theater district? Wonder no more –  Act and Sip is for you. You can be “the star in your story.” 

Act and Sip provides classes that give everyone an opportunity to be on an actual stage in a famous Off-Broadway venue right in the heart of New York’s Theater District. With the fine coaching and relaxed atmosphere provided, you may find yourself wanting more.

Act and Sip is run by the Russell Acting Studio. It was developed after Catherine Russell sensed a new trend after she attended Paint & Sip classes. Ms. Russell’s Acting Studio already gives more conventional six week acting classes. However, this class is designed for people to come in for 90 minutes, see some of the basics of acting, and have some fun. You can also have a drink or not have one. You might also be able to sample some outstanding locally baked cookies.

How It Works

Act and Sip is held at the Theater Center on W. 50th Street. Be sure to stop for a moment to enjoy the fact that you are in a venue with has a long history of hosting very successful Off-Broadway shows. The gallery of photos on the walls on the 4th floor is worth taking the time to see. The longest running play in New York City, The Perfect Crime, performs here. The Fantasticks graced the stage for a number of years here as well. 

You are ushered into the Jerry Orbach Theatre where you meet your instructors who instantly make you feel welcome. The team of Catherine Russell, owner of Russell Acting Studio, and Bradley Bemboom help to get you situated. Their enthusiasm for what they do is evident. Concerns about standing up in front of people to act out a scene will diminish after you meet them. 

Over on the side of the stage a small bar is set up. Beer, some flavored shots, and water were available the day I visited. So there’s the sip part if you desire. But for someone like myself who loves sweets, the Pina Colada cookies were what I wanted. They are delicious and baked by Bradley who not only is an actor and coach, but also runs a small local baked goods operation.

After everyone is seated, a few introductions are made. Then the acting coaches pair the participants into groups of two. Each group receives a script from a known movie or television show. I was paired with a gentleman I did not know and we were given a scene from the movie Body Heat. Although we had never met before, we had no trouble getting into our scene as we did a first read. From there, we made decisions about how to stage the scene. And we were off to practice. 

Mini Performances

The real meat of the activity arrives as each group takes their turn on stage to present their scenes. The acting coaches give feedback and suggestions for improvements. Then a second run through of the scene takes place. In some cases, a little more tweaking was suggested with another brief run through. The group was pleased with the results. I didn’t see Tony Awards being handed out but one never knows what the future holds! Yes, there were some very fine performances.

My companion that day has attended acting classes and also has done acting on some theater stages. She had positive remarks about the experience saying that the level of professional style coaching was impressive.

My own impression was to give high marks to Cathy and Bradley for the way they graciously critiqued each group. Their suggestions fit well with each person’s delivery style. Improvement noted! Improvement made and so quickly!

Why Go to Act and Sip

Act and Sip is billed as “a crash course in acting” and in a sense it is. However, it is a lot of fun especially for groups of people who attend together. The drinks and snacks are a nice touch, you feel like you are at a party. But you also get a chance to try out a new skill and develop some appreciation for what goes into acting.

The classes are designed for total beginners. It is a lot of fun for friends, family, coworkers or couples looking for a unique date night.  Work groups can use it as a team building activity. It can also be done solo with the chance to meet some creative people.

For more information, visit the Russell Acting Studios website at https://russellactingstudio.com/byob.