Training actors

Brian Frishman, Actors Conservatory of Northern Nevada

Students from the last Master Ensemble class performed in Dames at Sea this spring.

Students from the last Master Ensemble class performed in Dames at Sea this spring.

Who could forget the film Midnight Madness? A film reviewer at the Michael J. Fox database on the Web wrote, “For anyone who had HBO in the 1980s, this very well could be a sentimental classic.” Brian Frishman, local theater director at Actors Conservatory of Northern Nevada, played the role of Barf in Midnight, described endearingly as “the dumbest character in the entire film.” He also played Bleitz in Back Roads (1981) and Melvin in Amy (1981). He worked on TV shows such as Matlock, The Fall Guy and The White Shadow and acted in many TV movies.

But at 6 feet 6 inches, Frishman was getting tired of being typecast and decided to shift into a field where he could better nurse his creativity. He wanted to direct. He got his MFA after deciding to quit film.

“I was being an actor because it was easy for me,” Frishman said. “I got into stage because I had a love for the art form, and I was able to be more involved being a director and a coach. I was much more satisfied creatively once I moved out of film.”

Frishman opened a theater in Santa Rosa Calif., all the while coaching actors. On and off, he was still doing TV and film, but he no longer viewed it as a career, only as an income. Frishman taught at several colleges, and three years ago he moved to Reno. He opened the Actors Conservatory last year.

Actors Conservatory focuses on youth ages 8 to 19 who have the drive and the dedication to commit a hefty part of their life to acting. All classes lead to performances, and if anybody remembers this past March’s trial drama Mr. Bundy about sex offenders and the criminal justice system, they know that ACNN isn’t afraid to let students work with mature material. Frishman says that such topics spur valuable discussion.

Classes are frequent and rigorous, and the cost is hardly slight ($3,000 for the Master Ensemble program, $450 each for the child and teen classes—although, ACNN will be awarding 16 scholarships). Still, Frishman says ACNN won’t be able to meet the demand for classes.

“We offer a great faculty,” Frishman said in reference to acting instructors Stacy Spain and Janet Lazarus. “Between my experience, my education, my background and the rigor that’s demanded of the students in the program, as well as the chance they get to work with guest artists from in and out of town, they will get very specific training.”

Between a partnership with the Lions Club (raising money for eye glasses for low income people), an upcoming production of Whose Life is it Anyway? featuring an entire cast of disabled people and a free acting boot camp, Frishman is trying to be a social advocate in the Reno community.

“Our main mission is to train actors to be theater artists … as well as assist the community in many ways. Whether bringing people downtown, providing access for disabled actors, helping Lions club raise money for their charitable programs, we want to be a positive part of the arts and social community in the Truckee Meadows."