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Act like a writer: Andi Matheny pens an instruction book

Bill DeYoung



Actor and teacher Andi Matheny was a resident of St. Petersburg from 2010 to 2021. Photo provided.

After she’d finished writing down everything she’d learned so far in her acting career, and put pen to paper to pass on the accumulated wisdom of her 12 years as an acting teacher, Andi Matheny learned one more thing – one very important thing.

“Even though writing is horrible and tedious and excruciating while you’re doing it,” she says, “the product is fantastic.”

The product, in her case, is  a book, just published by St. Petersburg Press: ACT ALIVE: The Essential Guide to Igniting and Sustaining Your Working Actor Career.

The California native, who has an extensive resume in television, opened the Andi Matheny Acting Studio in St. Petersburg in 2010. In March of ’21, she and her husband, screenwriter Tom Flynn, decamped for New York City.

Last April, they moved again, to Vancouver, British Columbia.

“We feel it’s really important to not stay in one place, and to get complacent,” Matheny explains. “We really believe that it’s kept us young, and kept us sharp. That we’ve mixed it up.”


“Having said that, I think we’ll stay here for a while. Because moving’s exhausting.”

There’s a lot to be said for in-person acting classes, with their spontaneous, honest feedback and sense of camaraderie. Hard to get those things from a book.

Still, offers Matheny, “I remember when I read the Stanislavski book, An Actor Prepares. That really resonated with me.”

Working things out with other people in the room is important, of course, “but I do think the book, at the very least, creates this template that’s really easy to follow. So that when you do get up on your feet, it’s kind of like a guidepost that tells you ‘If it feels like this, then yes, you’re doing it right.’ And ‘If I doesn’t feel like this, you probably aren’t.”


“I would of course suggest you buy the book and then you take my classes, because that’s the perfect one-two punch.”

The chapter headings are like guideposts along the actor’s journey: The Personal Scene, Hot Buttons, Watch Your Tone, Body Language, Improvisation, Watch Your Tone (The Sequel), Memory, Place, Actions.

“These were things that I hadn’t been privy to when I was an acting student,” Matheny reports. “I was lost as an acting student, and I completely related to that. Then I saw how lost MY students could be at times.

“So I would develop these exercises on the spot and think aha, I think I’ve got something here that nobody else has really said, in this way. And I realized that I wanted to leave a legacy of all of these kind of amazing, magical things that were happening in my studio. I wanted to have a record of it.”

Naturally, she’d never been much of  note-taker. She did not journal. But she had a full decade’s worth of positive experiences, from her little St. Pete studio, and countless students who not only developed and learned, but taught Andi Matheny by developing and learning.

“When I sat down to write,” she says, “all of these incredible things that happened just came back in full recall. Because they were so striking when they happened. I knew the different types of categories I was going to be talking about, and I knew the types of exercises that we had done in class. And I knew the examples that I wanted to talk about – they were stunning, in the difference that they made. These memories were right there in front of me.”

Matheny remains a working actor – there’s plenty of film and TV production in Vancouver – and she’s taking classes in creative writing, to give herself a welcome new challenge.

Since the 2020 start of the pandemic, her acting classes have all been virtual.

Zoom is her friend.

That’s OK, she believes, because “a lot of what we do now is virtual, including callbacks, including auditions, so many things until you actually get onto the set.

“So, really, what I’m doing is preparing all of my actors for those situations. Where you’re doing all your preparation pretty much by yourself, in your own space, and then you show up and you’re on the set with the director and fellow actors. So it actually works very well.”

Soon, she hopes, live-in-person classes will resume. And she wants to travel the country conducting acting workshops.

There’s good news on the horizon: One of her former students just inked an impressive deal with a top streaming service (can’t talk about details yet, all very hush hush). “I’ve had many stories like that, people who were newcomers, they studied with me and they worked hard, and now they’re working.”

As a working actor, she knows only too well how competitive the big bad world is. “And so when I teach my students, I have very high standards.

“Now, some people think I’m tough. And the only reason I’m tough is, I expect high standards from my students. And I want them to understand how hard they have to work. Most people get it, some people don’t, that’s the way it goes.”

Ah, but when it goes right … there’s no better feeling, “especially when I see the ones who really apply themselves, and really work hard. It’s so gratifying when it pays off.”

ACT ALIVE: The Essential Guide to Igniting and Sustaining Your Working Actor Career is available at Tombolo Books, through Amazon, or via St. Petersburg Press.





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