Acting school’s arrival brought on by volume of talent in Palm Springs

Masterclasses starting this month at The Actor’s Lab, led by Terry Ray, are for anyone wanting to fine-tune their craft, beginners, or others wanting to explore their capabilities and themselves.

The Actor’s Lab, one of the nation’s top acting schools, is coming to Palm Springs.

J.D. Lewis, founder and coach of the Actor’s Lab since 1990, is behind the effort. Lewis has coached actors on shows including “Weeds,” “Better Call Saul,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Breaking Bad,” and many more. He has also coached writers, and directors in Hollywood and across the nation.

Why Palm Springs? Lewis said he knew that it would be a good market because of the volume of artists here, many of whom he feels are underserved.

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“It has exploded into an art and cultural hub,” he said of the city. “It’s also an amazing place, where the color of the mountains change during the day, and has the most spectacular view in the world.”

Actor and playwright Terry Ray will serve as the coach for the studio’s masterclasses at the yet-to-be-announced location.

Why Terry Ray? “I had known Terry’s work for years and thought he would be a perfect fit for Palm Springs,” Lewis explained. “Terry is the perfect choice to launch our efforts in the desert.”

Ray, who has more than 100 plays, 70 films and TV shows under his belt, has lived in Palm Springs since 2018. He was drawn to the area for reasons that will sound familiar to anyone who has planted full-time roots here.

“I moved here from LA because it’s an easy lifestyle and doesn’t have the hideous cost of living in LA,” he said. “It also has gorgeous scenery and mountains.” The distance from Tinseltown doesn’t worry him, Ray added, because “after COVID, auditions are mostly done online.”

Ray’s recent work in the city will be familiar to many. “Electricity” — poised to run off-Broadway in New York — had a nearly four-year run in Palm Springs. One reviewer wrote of the show, “It’s a riveting story that unfolds over four decades, and Brad & Gary’s epic journey will stick with you long after the evening is over. Is the person that you can’t get out of your head truly the person you’re meant to be with?”

Being an actor has its ups and downs, and many of Ray’s friends gave up. His own worst movie experience was playing a POW in the Vietnam War when he was 25.

“Motor oil was poured all over my body, then they threw dirt on it, that was my makeup,” he recalled. “Then my neck and hands were tied to a tree outside, where I was freezing. They forgot about me until the evening.”

He had to go through the same ordeal the next day, and added, “My only line in the film was ‘Run!’”

Still, he never once contemplated giving up.

“It’s part of my soul,” he said of acting. “There’s nothing better than telling a story, making people laugh or cry and getting into other minds.”

The masterclasses led by Ray at The Actor’s Lab are for actors wanting to fine tune their craft, beginners, or anyone wanting to explore their capabilities and themselves. They will be held on Mondays from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m., starting this month, focusing on improvisational exercises, cold readings, and scene work.

More information:

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