“It’s easy to keep training at the same place and get comfortable but the job of the actor is always changing, so Its good to shake things up. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started training with Shaun, but my expectations were blown away immediately! Shaun is so passionate about teaching acting and it shows. Compared to other classes I have taken, you get a lot of time on-camera, giving you multiple takes to explore as an artist. The class environment is a great place to fail, learn and try new things. Shaun is an invaluable asset to anyone who takes their acting career seriously.”

Joel Labelle
(X-Men, Killjoys, Shazam!)

Digging in at The Dirt…

Testimonial from Christian Lloyd (select credits: American Gods, The Handmaid’s Tale, Map to the Stars)

“I just saw US; the latest film from Jordan Peele.  It’s a brilliant allegory for how we, as humans (and especially artists), get in our own way.    There’s forever a demon on our shoulder telling us we’re not good enough, attractive enough, tall enough, short enough, bookable enough and we let that “other” side, the fear based side, win.   John has a finely tuned, innate ability to cut ourselves from ourselves and let our individualism approach the scene.  

The demons will always be there.   John has a way of giving them less agency. ”

Photo Credit: Christian Lloyd (Getting Captured Photography)


Shaun James McComb joins The Dirt…

We are ecstatic that Shaun James McComb will be joining our teaching roster and starting a brand new On-Camera Scene Study class (The Cycle) on Tuesday evenings, in March 2019. Shaun use a similar vocabulary to communicate The Dirt’s concepts as John does however while John offers many tools at once, Shaun layers in one tool at a time week-by-week.

More about The Cycle: As actors we can spend a lot of time trying to be ‘good.’ Perhaps this elusive goal is set because we simply need the next job or we want some sort of feeling of success to justify our life choices as an artist. At the Dirt, we understand that that pressure we put on ourselves can restrict our playful impulses while in the act of make-believe. The Dirt has honed in on some key concepts that The Cycle unpacks to bridge the gap between technique and play.  By working at a slower pace The Cycle aims to keep acting fun, develop strategies to utilize the actor’s natural nerves, and form a vocabulary that ignites a free imaginative flow from analysis to practice to performance.

More about Shaun: Shaun is a graduate of Humber College’s Theatre Performance. He completed the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre Training at the Stratford Festival under principal David Latham. Shaun had a short stint in the MFA program at York University and is now currently completing his MA at the University of Guelph where he is also teaching acting. Along the way Shaun also studied privately with a variety of on-camera coaches including John Gordon. Shaun splits his time between Toronto and Guelph, where he grew up.

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})

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)