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Interview with Betsy Capes
By Charles Battersby

Betsy Capes
Capes Coaching and Super Capes Casting might sound like something from the Justice League comic books, but they're actually a couple of the resources available to actors from Casting Director/ Career Coach Betsy Capes.

Ms. Capes and her partner Danni Super have been steering the careers of artists for three years using their Actor's Path program, as well as the "Super 8" seminars and their private coaching sessions.

Ms. Capes recently took some time to discuss her work with Talkin Broadway's Charles Battersby.

Charles Battersby: So, what does Capes Coaching offer?

Betsy Capes:  The private coaching and the Actor's Path class are the foundation of what we do. It's what we've been doing since we started three years ago.

CB:  Tell me about the Actor's Path.

BC:  Six actors for six weeks. The whole plan is that you spend six weeks setting up the business plan for the next year.

I see so many actors doing so many different things. Wanting everything to happen right now. Which makes a lot of sense, but I've seen that paralyze a lot of actors. They're frustrated and they're left feeling stuck.

What we do is take six weeks - a lot more time than they're used to - to set up a plan that feels right, that they believe in, and create all of the actions for them to do, so that, by the time they're done with the class, they have everything in place, and it's just a matter of doing it.

It's all about "planning," and less "doing" in the class. There's a lot of resistance to that. [Actors] want to do everything; they're in New York, they want to get things quickly. I'm asking them to step back and take more time to set it up so that you can get it.

It's also about what you want. How I think it's different is that we get a group of six actors together and facilitate and lead them through the process of setting those goals.

CB:  What do you do that's different from other coaches, or managers?

BC:  I have a nice balance of an industry background and working in casting. I can provide [my clients] with that perspective - knowing the business from my angle - and also listening to what they want and need, then help them figure out how to get it.

We pride ourselves on being honest and real, and taking each actor at face value. We listen really well here, and we value each client that comes through the door.

CB:  Has it been the same program consistently?

BC:  No. When we started out, it was just me, private coaching, and we used to have what we called the Actors Path Workshop, which was a one day workshop. We did this thing that we do now in six weeks, in one day.

It was very ambitious, but a little overwhelming for the actors to take on planning the next year of their career in just one day. This really works; doing it in six weeks, so that they can take a week, do homework, come back and take the necessary time. But it's not too much time. We really found a balance.

CB:  What point in their careers are people in when they decide to come to you?

BC:  All levels. I just finished coaching someone who's been going at it for fifteen, twenty years, and I also had someone today who's just starting. We take every actor, wherever they are.

CB:  What's the difference between an actor who is fresh out of an MFA program and a grizzled vet who's thinking of quitting the industry?

BC:  If they're giving it their last shot, a lot of times there's a sense of "If this doesn't work ...," that time is running out. So we spend time looking at what else they want to do. If you're not done, let's figure out what else you're going to do for as long as you're committed to being here. I challenge them to look at what they want, whatever that is.

They come from all different places, and if they just got their MFA, their craft may be really strong, but their business skills and their business savvy ...

CB:  What goals do people usually set when planning a year?

BC:  A lot of them think they need an agent to have a career. I'll ask them, "When you get that agent, how will that help you?" They'll say "I'll have more visibility. I'll have access to certain auditions that I wouldn't normally have." Great so, how can we focus on getting that. There's 15-20 different ways for them to get that.

If you put it all in the hands of an agent, then you're all of a sudden dependant on an outside person. You don't feel in control of your career. And everything we do here is about what's in your control. If you don't feel in control of it, then you're like a chicken with your head cut off, and that's not attractive.

You need to treat this like it's your business. It's not just a luxury, it's a commitment to a career. We take it seriously, because I see actors who do get what they want.

CB:  Aside from an agent, what do actors think they want?

BC:  They all want to work. That's a great start, but that's not nearly as specific as they need to be in order to get what they want. I'll say "If I give you a spear and put you in the back of some Shakespeare play in Ohio, are you happy? Because you're working." And they'll say "No, I need to be paid for my work."

It takes time to get as specific as possible, and no one really teaches that. I didn't learn that in college and I got my BFA in acting. It's not rocket science, but to sit down and spend two hours a week for six weeks, getting really clear and articulating this stuff, makes a huge difference, in terms of feeling empowered and capable of doing it.

CB:  What sort of progress do you see over six weeks?

BC:  It's amazing. By class three, they've got their entire year planned out. Their entire path in place. Then we help them focus in on the six steps to how they're going to get to each goal that leads them up to their one year.

Once they have their path, in class six it's about making sure that everything you do, all the actions you take, all the decisions you make for your career are lined up with what you want. If they're not, you take the time to adjust your path, so that what you're doing matches what you want.

That's the multi-goal syndrome: we want so many things, but you've got to pick a focus. It's as if I'm staring at ten different targets - what's my likelihood of actually hitting the bull's eye in one of them? If you have one and you're focused on it, and you aim. You're gonna get it.

CB:  Surely there are a lot of actors who want it all right now. How do you deal with that?

BC:  We do a really exciting exercise in the first class that helps clear that for them, and helps them discover that they'll get all of that - in time. But, if you only got one of them, what would feel like you were really moving your career forward in the next year?

A lot of times, actors need someone there to cheer lead, in a tough way. I'm their cheerleader, and their coach. And I'm also gonna kick ‘em in the ass and make sure they do what they say they want to do. And take responsibility for it.

That's another big piece that I think actors can do more of. The Path class is all about "You've set up this goal, you've got the whole game plan, now what's standing in your way?" There's always this look of, "Oh my God, I actually have to do it now."

CB:  What are the benefits of private coaching? Or of taking the group class?

BC:  I used to do this Path work privately and it took much more time. The Path is actually a class, and we have a set curriculum. They get personal attention but it's not one on one coaching. Private coaching is an hour all about you, and whatever you come into that room with is what we work on. So, if you just had a shitty audition, then we're going to deal with that, if that's what you want to address.

CB:  Are there big mistakes that are commonly made in the industry?

BC:  There's a lot of fear about networking, saying the wrong thing. Especially, when you're in a meeting with an agent or a casting director, and they say, "So what have you been up to lately?" How do you answer that with confidence, and honesty? Part of that is being comfortable with what you have been up to lately.

CB:  And if you haven't been up to anything?

BC:  Part of it is owning up to, "Hey, I've been traveling for the last year." Whatever it may be, and not apologizing.

I'm not saying to get an ego, but I am saying, "Don't give [casting directors] so much power". We need [actors] to do our jobs. I think actors forget that. There are a lot of people in this business who are tough and don't have time. It's very fast paced. You gotta come in, do it and leave. And you have to be comfortable with yourself. You have to know who you are.

CB:  Why should an actor choose Capes Coaching for guidance, instead of the other guys?

BC:  I don't care how it sounds - I care.

It's such a pleasure to work with actors and let go of any judgment of who they are and what they want, and just support them. That's the part of me that I get to access. I love casting, but what we do in casting is judge. We pick, we have to make choices.

I have the best of both worlds. I get to cast, but I get to use those skills to help actors further their careers. That's what brings actors back to us. Is that we genuinely care, and I think that's rare.

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