Testimonial from Nicole Power

I had a very short notice for my Kim’s Convenience audition and immediately called John.  He challenged me to dig deeper into the scenes and reminded me to slow down and work moment-to-moment. He gave me the confidence to trust my instincts and truly bring myself to the work.

There are so many reasons why I continue to study with John but what I have found most useful over the years is simple: it really is a class.  You aren’t prescribed what your ‘type’ is or given material according to your ‘hit’.  John works with each individual and offers guidance to help actors find a process that is entirely their own.  He creates a room full of curiosities and humour where you are given space to learn and grow, a space where “failing” is celebrated.  The goal is always toward finding truthfulness while breathing and playing with your heart wide open.

Nicole Power (Kim’s Convenience, Sisters {Soulpepper})

2 day Improv Workshop offered at The Dirt

As actors, we come to realize much of our career is about stamina. How can we keep things interesting for ourselves? Continue to seek out inspiration? Our agent and peers tell us how well we’re doing; auditioning semi-regularly, booking a few times a year. That fun day on set arrives. We update our resume: Cop #2, Funny Chick at coffee shop, Grieving Mom, Aggressive Frat Boy. Essential to the story, but nameless.
We’re searching for something more creative, to sink our teeth into… So we sit down, start to write. We’re excited. We’re going to have a name! Maybe even a last name!! Our protagonist begins to take shape: A person who grew up in the suburbs, works a meaningless job, barely keeping their artist dream alive, earnestly taking to heart the dreary advice of ‘write what you know’…

Let’s reinvigorate this inevitable stage of creation. Attend a 2 day collaborative weekend workshop at The Dirt to unlock characters within; characters you’ve been talked out of believing you are equipped to embody.

Over this 2 day workshop we will use improvisational techniques to develop a character with you. We’ll work through exercises to develop physicality, lean into status work, and have you live within imagined scenarios. We’ll work to find your protagonist. Whether that be Young Woman From The Prairies, Wacky Neighbour With A Dark Secret, or even… no…that’s unrealistic why bother?…the lead. The lead!!!??? Yep. The character with seemingly effortless ease and status who has a long long term objective and spends the whole play/series/movie getting f’d with and overcoming. Whoa. Weird. Are you guys sure about this? For the love of heck, why not!? We’ll give you the space to experiment and explore, using your own lived experience to create a unique and multifaceted character. This weekend requires commitment and a willingness to throw yourself into the deep end and stretch. If you are brand new to improv we recommend taking a few drop-ins at the dirt before applying.


Testimonial from Stephanie Belding:

Working with John at The Dirt allows me to get out of my own way while staying in my lane. I’m always looking for ways to stay loose while digging deeper into the work without getting hung up on old (bad) habits or tricks, or letting fear of failure and stagnation lead the way. I don’t get to muscle through here.

As a coach, John’s generosity towards the actor and their work is limitless- he facilitates a safe space to explore, create, and grow which creates confidence and ease on set, regardless of the circumstances. Often times I’ve been in classes where I’m in performance mode and don’t get the opportunity to dig down and open it up, seeing what potential may arise. John encourages us to step back in over and over again and to stay courageous with the work. There’s no fear or judgement here for me anymore, just a deep renewed sense of joy and excitement about working out.

If you’re looking for a place to really play and explore the work while witnessing and sharing in the development of colleagues and peers, The Dirt is where it’s at. There’s joy here. That’s a great thing. That’s John. And the music and chat before hand are stellar…

Stephanie’s credits: Cardinal, Shadowhunters, Workin’ Moms

Improv classes now offered at The Dirt!

On Thursday May 17 Hannah Spear will be offering our second improv workshop from 6:30-9:30pm.  Starting June 7, drop-in improv classes will be offered the first Thursday of every month, 6:30-9:30pm.

In this workshop we will use improv exercises to get you working more from impulse and instinct. We’ll work on playing from your personal point of view, using the wealth of experience from your life to make confident character choices. We will also work to get you comfortable failing.

Whether you are a pro, have taken a couple improv classes, or have felt slight terror at the mere thought of improvising… come to the Dirt for a few hours of challenging fun. This three hour workshop will be $15 (cash accepted on the day of workshop). Register by emailing hannahjspear@gmail.com

Read Hannah’s bio here

The Dirt: A place for actors to practice. To dig in the dirt.


Now what about actors? We show up and good for that. With the best of intentions we develop habits, many of them involuntary. Some give us a career, but we wonder why we’re not having as much fun as we used to. We seek spontaneity, but get onstage or to set and perform exactly the way we did at the kitchen counter. We feel this problem is unique to acting. We are unable to see similarities between art forms, only differences. Actors, like every other kind of artist, are growing, changing and need to practice. It’s amazing that we think we don’t need to.

First and foremost, acting is embarrassing. It’s way better when it is. We need a space to break patterns and habits, to stop worrying about whether it’s polished enough, to develop new points of view, to know not just know what the characters want, but why they deserve to get it. I believe breath connects us to emotional and physical impulses and that cannot be emphasized enough. I believe in comprehensive script analysis and working moment to moment to achieve visceral objectives. In front of the camera and onstage at The Dirt, this pursuit is not sacred and is full of silliness and joy.

The Dirt Underneath has been open for business  since 2014. Working actors at the top of their game are practicing here year round. I taught and trained at the Professional Actors Lab for nine years, two at Equity Showcase and conduct workshops at Bishop’s University. As a young man I trained at Bishop’s and Studio 58 in Vancouver. I direct, act and continue to study in Toronto. Actors need a place to practice. To dig in the dirt.

“Working with John over the years, both privately and in class, has been (as John would put it) ‘a blast’. His approach to a scene or character is always with a sense of curiosity, and humour, using his knowledge of life and work to lend empathy and insight. He has both deepened and brought a sense of ease to my work and how I approach it. I believe learning comes through doing; coaching with John provides the forum to explore a scene a variety of ways, providing me with options, layers, and the readiness I need to go into any audition or set feeling prepared and ready to play.” Natalie Brown/actor (The Strain, Cracked, Sophie)