Guest Teacher | TAKING THE LEAD – Carly Zien

A four-week class that dives deep into the mechanics of playing a leading role.


Shape a leading role and make it your own by practicing deep, extended character work. Learn how to craft a main character’s arc from beginning to end.

THURSDAYS | OCTOBER 3, 10,17,24 | 6:30-10:30pm

Limited to 8 students

Prerequisites: Open to all 



$400 Total

October 2019


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Anyone who understands that acting on film is a craft! Craft takes time and attention to develop.

This class is for actors who know they’re talented and who want to harness that talent using structure and craft.

This class is also for actors who are uncertain of how to focus their talents into conscious character choices.

This class is for actors and actor-creators who want to work with strong attention to character arc.

All are welcome: all skill levels.  These tools and exercises are timeless and they’ll serve you no matter where you are in your process.


In this four-week class, you’ll do a deep dive into a leading role. In this class, you’re first on the call sheet, and that means you have a lot of decisions to make! Who is your character? How do they move? How do they grow and change from the first scene to the last? We will work with the same character all four weeks, crafting their arc from beginning to end. Carly will also share her tips and tricks for faster memorization, preparedness on set, and closure after shoots and performances.

  • Deep character work
  • Extended work on one character
  • Shaping a character
  • Taking the lead
  • Making a character your own
  • How to prepare for a longer job
  • Script analysis
  • Creating physicality
  • Memorization



The actor will choose a three-minute scene from the “first act” of the character’s life. Through scene work, we will create a solid physical, emotional, and vocal beginning for the character, as well as review techniques for breaking down the script and memorizing effectively.


This week, the actors will prepare a scene that contains their character’s inciting incident—the event that sets the course for the character’s journey through the film, episode, or play. We will build on what we created during week one, discuss appropriate rehearsal conduct, and learn how to create your character’s gestures, habits, and relationships with others.


This class will focus on a scene from the climax of the story—the moment in the story that changes your character’s life forever, the crest of the wave of rising action. Carly will help the class make physical and emotional choices that tell the story of the character’s growth from the beginning of the story to this climactic moment. We will also discuss tips for staying healthy when performing: warming up, taking good care of our instruments, and being a strong ensemble member.


In week four, we will tell the last chapter of the story and use the script as well as our previous work to create an ending. We will perform scenes from the final act of the story, and we will also perform our scenes from week one again, to see how far the character has come. We will also discuss how to bring your relationship with the story, the character, and your colleagues, to a close. 


What was a difficult challenge for you as an actor? 

I’m in an uncomfortable moment right now! I’m currently taking a year away from performing so that I can focus on other areas of my life. I miss performing, but I stay connected to the acting community through teaching and intimacy coaching.

What was a crazy or silly moment on set? 

I’ve trained with a lot of wonderful teachers who taught me what I know about acting. I’m inspired when I can pass along my knowledge and give it to others.

What is the main thing you wish you knew then but that you only understand now?

I get frustrated when I feel like I’m shouting into the void and that the industry that I love isn’t listening or doesn’t have room for someone like me.

What moment or experience as an artist do you feel most proud of?

The first play I did after getting my MFA was a three-person show in Cincinnati. I was proud of my preparation, my performance, and the close bond that my two castmates and I made together.

Who do you really look up to in your field and why?

Frances McDormand, Laurie Metcalf, Jane Houdyshell, and Kristen Bell, because they seem to be forging their own paths without conforming to pressure from the industry to be or act a certain way.


Carly is a working actress, business owner, and audition coach for actors in all mediums.

Carly attended Yale School of Drama for both her undergrad and her MFA, and she was always involved in the audition process for their MFA program. From watching thousands of MFA hopefuls, she learned what makes a strong, well-crafted, and inspired audition. Carly is passionate about empowering artists and helping actors discover and rediscover their passion for what they do.

Carly is also an alumna of my Studio and shares a philosophy of empowering actors with inspiration and tools. At the Studio, she also teaches a one night workshop called HOLDING COURT: Film & Theater Monologues. 

When I first met Carly years ago, she had recently graduated from Yale School of Drama and was fully committed to breaking into film and TV. I loved her focus and her approach as a highly trained actor, and I noticed that it made a real difference in her on-camera work. She had such solid foundations. She is the perfect teacher for this class!


Full disclosure—please note that we do not guarantee that actors in these workshops will be hired for any project that we might direct or cast. We do guarantee my supportive honesty and my open sharing of knowledge. We teach and coach because we enjoy supporting actors as they develop their process of working within the audition room. We seek to build their knowledge about the business of auditioning.


Carly is a great teacher. She creates a fun, warm atmosphere to learn in.

- Dave Weinstein

“As a dancer transitioning to acting with no training, I’ve tried to be very pragmatic in building a technical foundation. I felt that this workshop fit perfectly. Its impact was how well Carly was able to simplify and summarize techniques and of course her infectious love of the craft.”

- Briana Reed

I had the BEST experience!

- Lauren Bell

I feel much better about my prep process, and I feel more confident in general.

- Amanda Goble

Absolutely thrilled! One of the most useful classes I’ve taken that provides more resources to explore!

- Brian Culbertson

I feel like a have a much more solid idea of what I need to do to prep and then let go and trust. It sounds basic but I felt lost before the class and I feel like I have the tools to work so that I may play now.

- Gabriel Awan

Loved, loved, loved Carly!! Wonderful supportive teacher and class. Would love to have a Part 2. As always, you always provide the best teachers and the most supportive environment! Thanks, Heidi!

- Dawn Vicknair

It was beautiful, challenging and a safe environment! I feel more self-trust! Thank you, Carly and Heidi, for keeping the actor’s life meaningful! It gave me awareness of my body sensors! It reminded me that it is not about me! This class drew myself out ! I got the tools how to do it ! I will approach learning script with more depth!

- Sofija

The class has had a great impact on how I prep for a scene. What I’ll do differently is….follow Carly’s guide! She gave us so many tools and revealed her exact process in how she preps for every character/audition. Following them really helps me understand the character, even more than I realize. Her in the moment coaching was super helpful in helping recognize and break certain patterns/habits. So great! I got a lot out of this! I also want to credit my fellow classmates for really bringing it. People brought great challenging scenes that really made a safe environment for us to be vulnerable and try things. Carly of course was amazing at pushing us to try these things and challenge ourselves.

- Lee Hubilla

“Loved, loved, loved Carly!! Wonderful supportive teacher and class. Would love to have a Part 2.”

- Carly Alumni

“It has given me the confidence to look at a script or side and decipher the meanings, subtext and importance of what I am going to be presenting to my audience. It has also shown me that I have a true love for this art form that I want to pursue further.”

- Carly Alumni

“I have been so BLOCKED recently, and this class was step one in loosening up the blocks and trying to get back into acting. It was a very useful first step. I think I will go from not auditioning at all, to prepping auditions and actually getting a reel together.”

- Carly Alumni

“I feel like a have a much more solid idea of what I need to do to prep and then let go and trust. It sounds basic but I felt lost before the class and I feel like I have the tools to work so that I may play now.”

- Carly Alumni

“Absolutely thrilled! One of the most useful classes I’ve taken that provides more resources to explore!”

- Carly Alumni