Today we’d like to introduce you to Mario Campanaro.
Mario, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I guess it all started as a child. I had never really felt like I fit in anywhere. I always felt different somehow from those in my area except for a select few that were also known around town as the “oddballs.”
So naturally, we found each other. But as a young child, I did not really have the tools to understand what that was all about. So I instinctually retreated a lot and found solace in building a creative world in which I found some freedom, solitude, and belonging to whatever it was that I was exploring at the time. That world often existed in my parents’ basement in which I would create elaborate worlds, build sets out of large pieces of construction paper, cardboard, and odds and ends I would find throughout the house. I would sing my heart out down there and write scripts which often dealt with some kind of “strife.”
When I think about it now, I have to chuckle a bit. I mean, what did I know about suffering at the age of eight? But there was something within me that yearned to understand why others experienced suffering and how to find one’s freedom from suffering. I remember the first script I wrote at that age was called “The Beast and The Servant”. It was about these two extremely different beings that went through all these “trials and tribulations” to try to reconcile their differences only to find out at the end of the 15-page script, that it was a little boy looking in the mirror the whole time.
Around that time, I ended up finding out that my best friend had been cast as one of the two child roles in a professional production of South Pacific. Though I have always known what a play was and did little plays in my basement, I had never seen a professional production. I guess you can say that I knew theater existed, but I had no idea what theater actually was or was capable of creating. Long story short, he ended up getting house seats one evening, and his mom took me to see it. I actually get tears in my eyes thinking about it now because that night forever changed my life. The second I sat in that beautiful theater, the lights went to black, the orchestra started, and the stage lights illuminated and I, for the first time, felt like I was home.
It was like all those “things” that I was doing in my basement and trying to make sense of finally made sense. The creative part and the understanding about people part. From that moment on, I never looked back. It was like a laser focus love affair with the theater, acting, and art. From there, I started to immerse myself in everything I could about acting and the theater. I became obsessed with Broadway. And I begged my parents to allow me to start auditioning. And I auditioned for everything I possibly could. Ironically enough, I ended up booking a role at the same theater my friend worked at about a year later, and the rest was history.
As a child actor, I got away with a lot of bad habits in my work. So it was clear that in order to have a long-standing career, I needed to know what I was doing. Once high school was over, I started to audition for professional actor training programs at some of the most prestigious conservatories in the country. I finally chose to go to North Carolina School of The Arts for three reasons. First, the program was impeccable and consisted of an international legendary faculty that was wholeheartedly committed to teaching the craft of acting. Second, it was in the middle of nowhere so there would be absolutely no distractions. There was literally no choice but to focus on the work and that is why everyone who attended this conservatory was there. It was all about the work.
And third, they only accepted a small ensemble each year giving us all individual attention and amazing opportunities during our training and there after. Following my training, my school offered a consortium, and I ended up in NYC and signed with my theatrical, commercial, and modeling reps. From there, I was fortunate to have had the opportunities to work in noted productions on and off Broadway, on television and film, as well as doing numerous campaigns and commercials. Then one fine evening, I finished the curtain call for a show that I was in at the time and headed to meet up with some friends for a nightcap. It was then that my life changed again.
One of them worked in the admin department of a pretty well-known studio in the city and asked me if I ever thought of teaching acting. We discussed my process, approach, and how I personally worked. Next thing I knew, I was offered a job teaching acting. Looking back now, though I was confident in what I was doing for myself as an actor at 23, I probably had no right to teach at that age. I was still trying to implement what I learned in my training and continue to refine my craft and make it my own without it being some formula or heady equation. I was still learning to allow my craft to bring me fully alive to the truth within the work. With that said, I accepted anyway and started teaching when I was not doing the show. The rest is history. I fell in love all over again.
I began working with actors of all ages and from all over the globe teaching craft while also implementing some of my intuitive abilities to help those experiencing obstacles in their life and work connect and transmute the components contributing to those circumstances.
Eighteen years later, I continue to increasingly become more and more passionate about teaching and focus my teaching approach so that actors know that there is not THE way to get there! But there is A way. And that way is the way that resonates and stimulates with the actor’s instrument to do honest, exciting, sophisticated, and unpredictable work in relation to the circumstances at hand. This is a craft that never fails the actor. It always has the actor’s back. It supports the actor in his or her knowing so he or she can experience that sweet spot of freedom within the unknown of the moment.
In my opinion, that is the craft the actor wants to cultivate. That is the craft an actor wants in his or her toolbox. That is the craft that keeps the actor in love with the glorious art form of acting. After two amazing decades in NYC, I moved to Los Angeles where I created Mario Campanaro For The Actor and MC²=Mario Campanaro’s Masterclass and continue to teach, coach, and guide actors from all over the globe.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
You know, it’s really interesting. I am looking at this question, and I have no idea where to begin to answer it. It actually brings up a lot of feelings for me as I contemplate all the things that I have had to endure to get to where I am at this moment in time. Sometimes we forget all that we have been through because we are taught just to forge ahead. But sometimes, it is really important to remember not so much to wear all those things as a badge of honor, but to remind oneself in the midst of tough times that you do have what it takes to get through it all so you can keep moving forward. And I would not have changed any of it for the world. It made me who I am. It all made me extremely strong as well as extremely sensitive.
All those obstacles, all those hard and treacherous times have actually been the stepping stones to where I am today. They have formulated the way I teach and the way work with all my actors/artists/students/clients. Those circumstances have blessed me with the compassion, insight, wisdom, and understanding of the human condition in a way that I would not be able to had I not been through those tough times. So I guess the answer to the question is a definitive no. It has definitely not been a smooth road. Does anything worthwhile ever come easy? We all go through seasons in our life that come with some pretty difficult trials and tribulations. It is something that connects all of us. I mean aren’t we all trying to improve our lives moment to moment to experience peace, love, happiness, joy, success, etc. I know I am.
And I also know every story ever written is about a human being trying to overcome obstacles to achieve those things. For me, the rough road was not so much coming from the professional side of things. I was pretty fortunate in that regard. I worked hard, made myself accountable, and things paid off. But it was more personal. And as an artist, you are your instrument, so it was stuff that had to be dealt with eventually. As I described, at a young age I really struggled with who I was. Looking back now, it is strange that I would be asking those questions of myself at such a young age. But I did. It was in the cards I guess. It was a necessary part of my path. And it was hard because I felt so alien to the rest of the world. I felt like I did not fit or belong to anything or anywhere until I found the theater.
I also had certain gifts that I did not understand which made things even more difficult because I really did not have a mentor at that time that helped me understand what those gifts were or how to harness them to as not completely deplete myself. I also was aware that I was gay at a very young age, so it really messed with my self-esteem and caused a lot of unwarranted self-hatred, guilt, and shame. I was not aware of many others “like me” at a young age. I wasn’t sure I really understood what it was. So I always thought there was something very wrong with me until I woke the hell up one day at the age of 16 with the help of a really special director I was working with. She cared about me. She saw me. She really believed in me. She saw this internal conflict waging war within me. She helped me get through some really tough times. She introduced me to other artists who I could trust and was finally able to come out to and be myself. It was like taking a first breath. I will never forget that kind of love and support. I will always have so much gratitude in my heart.
But all that hell of guilt, shame, and self-hatred allowed me to understand its opposite and also to understand others. To see it in others. And to be a source of support for those going through any circumstance that may make one feel those lower energies.
The icing on the cake was in my early thirties, I ended up developing this mystery chronic illness in which I almost lost my life. It caused me to taste every single symptom one could imagine. Physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual. I used everything that I had within me and went all over the globe to find answers, a way to conquer this “thing” that was trying to take me out. Sometimes I did some pretty crazy treatments, but I deeply wanted to stay here. I had too much to do on this earth and wanted to make a difference.
I lost A LOT of things along the way because of it. But I also gained that much more. It helped me understand life more. It helped me appreciate life more. It helped me understand others so much more. I not only witnessed and experienced my own suffering but was in the company of so many others suffering inexplicably. It opened me. It opened my heart. It helped me taste many aspects of life that many of us try to push away or pretend as if they don’t exist. And it’s crazy because the whole time I have been on the healing journey, I never stopped working. It was my work that fueled me to fight harder and try to win the battle. And everything that I have learned along this journey, however difficult, has been the key components to my work and having the ability to bring out the very best in all the artists I work with. It just gave me a more profound vocabulary of the human condition which is invaluable when it comes to the world of acting.
Please tell us about Mario Campanaro For The Actor & MC²=Mario Campanaro’s Masterclass.
MC²=Mario Campanaro’s Masterclass is a really special class that has been created to specifically to serve the actor and his or her needs when it comes to learning the craft of acting in a tangible, exciting, usable, stimulating, trustworthy, and very human way. The class is about exercising the actor’s instrument. It is about going to the gym, artistically speaking. It is not a class about having the pressure to perform for an audience, or about necessarily getting the job or being perfect. It is there for the actor, as a safe space to get messy, to get specific, to struggle when he or she needs to struggle within the work, to celebrate diving into obstacles/blocks equally as celebrating breakthroughs/successes, and most importantly to CULTIVATE CRAFT!
It is about exploring and telling all the stories about the human condition in all its grit and glory. It is about doing the work without judgment so the actor can continue to learn, grow and expand as an artist. I know I said it earlier, but I really believe it is worth repeating. I truly believe, and I have seen its magic in the work with those I work with, that “There is not THE way to get there! But there is A way. And that way is the way that resonates and stimulates with the actor’s instrument to do honest, exciting, sophisticated, and unpredictable work in relation to the circumstances at hand. It is about learning and being able to use a craft that never fails the actor. It always has the actor’s back. It supports the actor in the knowing and therefore in his or her freedom within the unknown of the moment. That is the craft an actor wants and needs to cultivate. That is the craft the actor wants to continue to work with! That is the craft that will sustain the actor throughout his or her entire career.”
Each class has been structured with a select group of committed actors working at a congruent skill level. I think it is really important to make sure that all those in each ensemble are working at somewhat of a congruent skill level to keep the momentum of that specific class moving forward in a challenging yet supportive environment. I also believe it to be of the utmost importance that the group of actors come together to form an ensemble in which everyone feels safe to explore the full spectrum of the human condition. Many who are already part of the MC² ensemble have studied with me in class and/or privately either in NYC or LA and know that the class requires a high level of quality, commitment, accountability, respect, and of course professionalism when it comes to the work.
My number one goal at MC² is to teach and support the actor in cultivating a craft that works very specifically for him or her. The class is structured with a conservatory like feel in which each class’ ensemble comes together weekly to wholeheartedly exercise, stretch, and strengthen his or her instrument and craft in order to explore the full range of the human condition that the actor’s work demands. For each class, I pair each actor for scenes and then each group is held responsible for choosing material that excites and challenges their instrument to work on in class. Each group is required to do the necessary work on each scene, i.e. text analysis, making strong choices, and all the necessary steps an actor must implement to bring the text alive.
Actors then rehearse their scene with their partner(s) sometime(s) in the week before getting up into the space. It is not required for scenes to necessarily be completely off-book (though it naturally happens) but each actor should be familiar enough with the text to be off the page as to allow for the necessary connection with their partner, to go after needs, and the ability to respond instinctually. It is an amazing class environment full of inspiration, celebration, and appreciation for actors and the craft of acting.
Mario Campanaro For The Actor, on the other hand, has been created to give actors the option to work one on one with me. Whether it be for an audition, film, television, or theatrical production, each session is individually crafted to serve the actor in cultivating his or her craft and to profoundly resonate with the material at hand in order to live instinctually, honestly, and authentically moment to moment.
The full services for the private sessions include:
▫️In-Person Off Cam Coaching Session
▫️In-Person On Cam Coaching Session
▫️One On One Audition Prep Coaching Session
▫️Individual Craft Cultivation Coaching Session
▫️On Set Coaching Session
▫️Remote Skype Coaching Session
▫️Voice Over Coaching and Recording Session
▫️Remote Artist’s Life Coaching Session
▫️Remote Life Coaching Session
▫️Remote Spiritual Life Coaching Session
★ On- Camera lighting and equipment are available for all self-tape auditions.
★ Skype coaching is available and very convenient for out of state clients and for last minute auditions!
★ All Artist Life Coaching sessions are done remotely by phone.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I do not even need to hesitate when I answer this…It would definitely be the first time I stepped foot in that theater and knew I was home.
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