Testimonials

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains.
The superior teacher demonstrates.
The great teacher Inspires”
W.  A.  Ward

There are those who can do, those who can teach, and those that can do both. And among those few, there are a handful of special people that inspire you to become a better human being. Marjo-Riikka is one of those people. Her infectious joy and endless goodwill will make you aware of the limitations you’ve set for yourself and give you the courage to break through to a future of possibilities. I heartily recommend her classes. The Michael Chekhov technique gmv5bmtc4otgxnze5ml5bml5banbnxkftztcwndk1njaxmw-_v1_ux99_cr009999_al_ave me essential tools I use everyday, on the set, in the studio, and in life. When you learn to get an objective living in your body, when you feel the atmosphere of a scene infect your being against your will, when you experience firsthand how an imaginary dagger can hurt more than a real one, you will not only be a skilled actor. You will have super powers.
– Micah Sloat, Actor, Paranormal Activity

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Marjo-Riikka’s deep understanding of the actor’s craft, and her compassion as an artist, create an environment where you can be totally free and creative.  She is one of my favorite acting coaches to work with.  We worked extensively during my audition process for my role on True Blood and she has been an integral force in booking the part. I’m proud to call her my teacher.  In a town that keeps forgetting that actors are artists, Marjo-Riikka reminds you with the most magical way. Thank you for the inspiration!
– Theo Alexander, Actor, True Blood, Pushing Daisies

 

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“It was  a treat to watch you work with each actor.  I saw you meet each one where s/he was in process.  Some are at higher levels than others; some came with greater preparation than others.  You met each one with exactly what would be helpful.  No judgement. No expectation.  Present in the now.  I believe that’s what separates master teachers from the rest.
~ Mark Sande

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I first begun working with Marjo-Riikka as my director, in a production of The Seagull by Anton Chekhov.  I was cast as one of the lead roles – Konstantin.  I began taking her classes and learning about the Michael Chekhov technique, so that I could understand her language of acting immediately in rehearsals. What I got from her was so much more! Not only are her classes a fun and pure exploration of what it is to feel and experience deeply with your whole instrument as a human being, but she also teaches you how to take those feelings and channel them in a practical way to your work as an actor. Atmosphere, Qualities of Movement, Expansion and Contraction, Psychological Gestures, Imagination… these all create a level of detail and specificity that can totally alter ones performance and how one approaches ones work. I use the tools I have learnt from her, all the time. What helps me the most, and absolutely takes my breath away, is that I am now able to connect so fast and so naturally in a scene with a scene partner I have just met!
What a powerful and amazing technique this is!
– Matthew Kevin Anderson, Actor

Tristan AronovichWe have had the great privilege of having Marjo-Riikka as a guest artist/teacher at the Stanislavsky Institute for two consecutive years, and her work was so rich, intense and unique that we have already formally invited her to come back not only as a teacher, but also as an actress to perform the leading role in our next feature film production.
Both our students and our faculty were equally amazed at Marjo-Riikka’s work and presence. Her knowledge, her skills, her passion, her intensity and her profound and captivating  love for the craft of acting and directing can be easily noticed during her classes and performances alike. Her artistic and professional contributions to the Theatre and Film community in Brazil are priceless.
As a director, actor and teacher myself, I have worked over the past 20 years with thousands of artists around the world. Marjo-Riikka is without a doubt one of the most outstanding and fascinating artists I have ever met and worked with. She seems to flow organically and magically from one technique to the other, and upon watching her teach, one quickly becomes aware of the fact that Marjo-Riikka Makela is one of the greatest teachers of our time.
-Tristan Aronovich, President and Founder, The Stanislavsky Institute School of Cinema

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I have had the pleasure of working alongside Marjo-Riikka for many years. In 2005 I directed her as Medea in Medea at the California Repertory Theatre, and since then I have followed her progress as a performer and acting teacher closely. Most recently, Marjo-Riikka and I were colleagues at the International Drama Festival at the Stanislavsky Institute in São Paulo, Brazil.
Marjo-Riikka is a highly skilled, dynamic, and compassionate theatre artist with an enviable array of talents. She is an internationally regarded exponent of the Michael Chekhov Technique of acting, with her own studio ‘devoted to the investigation and practice of this most fascinating physical and imaginative approach to performance. I have witnessed her teaching on many different occasions. In the classroom, she offers the Chekhov technique to her students with great clarity, backed up by perceptive analysis of individual and group weaknesses, and empathetic yet challenging feedback. Under her tutelage, students are able not only to learn the many-faceted approaches of the Chekhov technique, but also to self-identify problems, blocks and obstacles, and move through them.
Marjo-Riikka pursues the demands of the craft of acting with admirable humility and precision, bringing small details and a larger vision into focus at one and the same time. She is rigorous, astute, and effective in all of her interactions with actors; she understands the importance of dynamism and risk in the theatrical process; she manages time and personnel with equal efficiency; and she discerns the distinction and necessary compromises between . process and product. She truly knows the field.
Finally, as a collaborator in any and all ventures, Marjo-Riikka is a delight: approachable, thoughtful, and wise. Vitally, she has a wonderful sense of humor, and she weighs her own needs as an artist and creator against the needs of her fellows with tact and integrity. I recommend her without reservation.
– David Bridel, Dean of USC, MFA in Acting, University of Southern California

 

Marjo-Riikka Makela is a very talented innovative teacher, director and actor. I have shared teaching with her and performing/training with her on a number of occasions and have not only learned much from her techniques but have incorporated and utilized some of her pedagogy into my own. I am also impressed with her directoral and performing abilities and her positive tenacity and will when creating her theatre program, The Chekov Studio International. I look forward, with much anticipation, to working with her in the near future.”
-John Kellam, Director, Teacher, Actor, Zoo District, the Actors’ Gang

Nothing has ever worked for me and been more inspiring than Michael Chekhov’s work.  I was so excited when I heard about Marjo-Riikka and went to see her production of “The Seagull” ….it was BEAUTIFUL!  I now get coaching with Marjo-Riikka for my auditions and feel so fortunate to have her talent, gifts, knowledge of Chekhov, inspiration, open heart and encouragement!  What a find!!
-Michelle Cuneo, Actor

Since I began working with Marjo-Riikka, I have noticed a remarkable change in myself as an actress and a human being. She is raw, inventive and committed as a director, and encouraging, passionate and loving as a teacher. She brings 110% of herself to the work at all times, and by demanding the same from me, I have leaped ahead in the practice of my craft. Always fully present and alive with every inch of her being, she has helped me find ways to mesh my dance background into my physicality as an actress so that I can more fully embody characters. She also helped me discover how to use movement as a gateway to my deepest emotional core. She is a testament to the power of the theater to enrapture us, as performers and audience members. As she would say, in every moment we are creating our own little piece of art.
– Natalia Duncan, Actor

Marjo-Riikka is the kind of artist that makes you realize the vital and epic spiritual core to the work. Her methods to elicit magic transformation through imagination in her actors are breathtaking, and life-affirming. I think that this is the thing that sets her so much apart. There is an almost cosmic sense of goodness in the discoveries in that room. It is the spiritual realization of your own artistic mutant energy. Her work is to place your soul, in all its potential, in your hands.
– John Beane, Actor, Artistic Director of the Insurgo Theater Movement

Marjo-Riikka’s particular quality and magic was evident to me from her very first audition. She is an intense and passionate actress and expresses her conviction and energy with a visceral intensity. She is one of the most exciting physical actresses with whom I have ever worked. Marjo-Riikka has been trained in both the Chekov technique and in the more rigorous physical acting approach of Eastern European theatre. This has given her work a distinction and clearly distinguishes her from most American actresses. The power of her work is undeniable and as a director I found it both exciting and inspirational. Marjo-Riikka now wants to share her knowledge and experience. Her unique approach to the work will make her an invaluable asset to an American training institution.
– Joanne Gordon, Chair, Department of Theatre Arts CSULB

Most loveable actor and acting coach of all times!
– Salla Kozma, European theatre collective, Russian Academy of Dramatic Arts

I have experienced Marjo as an acting coach and found her professionally first class. She always brings passion to her work and has the ability to lift her student’s level beyond their normal level. She is exceptional and I’d recommend her to anyone seeking a professional coach in acting.
– Richard Milton. DGA-PGA-WGA-SAG

I found Marjo- Riika and her teaching very inspiring. You can’t help to be enlivened . She encourages`you to be bold and dangerous.
– Daniel O’Meara, Actor, Filmaker, Billy big time productions

 will speak primarily to Marjo-Riikka’s skills as an actors which is easy. She is a consumate artist. We were in the show, CANNIBALS, and I watched her night after night. While other actors were in the chaos of pre-show I would observe her working her ritual of preparation with a steady hand. In a show where I was in the audience and she was on stage she was the wife of Hotspur. In the few minutes of the scene she radiated sensuality and playfullness. When she graduated from grad school there were 2 people who had jobs waiting. One went on to teach the other to do a play in New York. Marjo-Riikka went to NYC. She digs deep into her craft and comes up amazing, refreshing choices. I only know Marjo-Riikka’s teaching skills by reputation. She has devoted students and keeps a thriving studio. I recommend Marjo-Riikka without hesitation.
– Dom Magwili, Actor, Teacher, Director, Cal State Fullerton

Marjo-Riikka is an amazing actor and coach. Her class is an incredibly safe environment to truly experiment, push yourself, and grow as an actor. She is truly a pleasure to work with!
– Samantha Hale, Actor, Writer, Producer

Marjo-Riikka is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. She is a great coach who knows her craft and cares about the needs of every student. I would recommend her to any person who wants to grow as an actor.
Top qualities: Personable , Expert , Creative
– Yelena Protsenko, Actor

Marjo-Rikka is an amazing acting teacher. I’ve studied for years, and the things I have learned from Marjo-Rikka are completely new and invaluable. Thanks to her teachings of the Chekhov technique and Clown I have become much more creative, present and emotionally available in my acting. Her class has also brought the fun back for me! I recommend her wholeheartedly to anyone who’s passionate about the art of acting.
Top qualities: Personable , Expert , Creative
– Johanna Torell, Actor

Marjo is a terrific, passionate and completely dedicated director and human. Her insight and leadership is outstanding, I can’t wait to work with her again.
– Melanie Keller, University of Washington

Marjo-Riikka is a compassionate and inspiring acting teacher. In her classes she creates a safe and focused space for growth and experimentation while still offering solid criticism. She has an amazing ability to take away the mystery of acting without removing any of the magic. In her class I’ve learned valuable tools that I’ve used both on stage and on set.
– Julie Lockhart, Actor, Dancer, Teacher

Marjo-Riikka is a master in the technique of Michael Chekhov. She is a dynamic and supportive teacher and director who inspires creative and riveting performances from actors.
– Beth Persky, Actor

Marjo-Riikka is an extremely talented artist who has an impeccable instincts for releasing her acting students true artistic freedom and range. I highly recommend her class as a rare gem.
– Giselle Jones, Company Member, The Actors’ Gang

Marjo-Riikka is an actor’s actor: she has an incredibly sensitive eye and a intensely receptive and generous presence. A gift to work with. I dearly hope to have the chance to work with her again some day!
– Sara Barker, Actor

Marjo-Riikka is an amazingly available actress who as soon as she picks up a character is simply dynamic. She grasps you by the heart and reveals a soul that leaves an impression. Such a generous fellow actor and compassionate artist.
– Aaron Conte , Company Member at The Actor’s Gang

Marjo-Riikka, Is a dream to work with and a true team player. Very responsible, puntual, creative, and always the first one to step up first.
– Rick Gifford, Actor

Marjo-Riikka is the lead actress in the short “Forget Me Not” which I produced a few months ago along with the director Abel Gonzalez. After having seen many actresses we settled on Marjo-Riikka for the emotional investment she brought to the role as well as being the most natural and subtle of actresses in the group. She was a joy to work with all around and a total professional.
– Pedro Pano, Owner, Equus

I was dramaturg on the CalRep production of ‘The Cannibals’ and worked closely with Marjo-Rikka. Her talent, technique and professionalism made this very difficult work rich with character nuance and interaction, not only for her character, but also for the total success of all the performances of the play. Marjo-Rikka was so easy-going and bright in the rehearsals that I can definitely say her contribution greatly helped to earn the play a ‘best ensemble performance’ nomination with the LADCC.
– Teresa Troutman, California State University-LB

Marjo-Riikka is a consummate professional and a dedicated artist and teacher.
– Donald Formaneck, California State University-LB

Marjo-Riikka has an astounding ability to get people to connect and communicate with–and command attention from–each other and audiences in a captivating way almost immediately. It’s virtually impossible not to get results when working with her. Her expertise is completely unmatched by anyone I know of, and she delivers–and helps her students to deliver–concrete results. If you want to be able to guide people through a story or to a new way of looking at things, she is the first and clearest choice, bar none.
– Michael Barrett, Actor

I produced my play, “Pedestrian” in Hollywood.  I was fortunate to have at the helm directing, Marjo-Riikka Makela.  In our first meeting to discuss the production Marjo-Riikka asked question after question about the play, the characters, and their relationships.  She wanted a clear idea of what interpretation I wanted, where I wanted the focus to be, and what I wanted people to walk away with after the show.  As we entered into rehearsals (I was also performing the lead), again Marjo-Riikka challenged me as a writer and actor.  What does this line mean?  Why does this character exist?  What is propelling the story forward?  We had a strong ensemble cast and through discussions, improvisational work and acting exercises Marjo-Riikka lead; we were able to create a more complete, compelling piece of stage work. “Pedestrian” is a better play because of the insight and intelligent mind of Marjo-Riikka Makela.  She has a keen eye to take an ordinary line and with a twist here, a nuance there, make it funnier or more dramatic.  I’ve seen a number of productions Marjo-Riikka has directed and would trust her fully with any piece of dialogue.
~ Rita O’Farrell, Playwright/Producer

I had the pleasure and good fortune to work with Marjo‐Riikka Makela in the fall of 2010.  She directed a short play of mine that was produced by Fierce Backbone (my writers’ and actors’ script development group) at the El Centro Theatre. We had never met before and sometimes instances like that are the very definition of awkward and strained.  Not in this case.  From our first meeting, Marjo‐Riikka was enthusiastic, brimming with creative ideas, and very open to collaboration.  When we began rehearsals, she deftly worked with the actors assisting them in developing their characters and finding rich moments in the play.  I could see her years of teaching at work – and not in a pedantic, heavy handed way.  I’ve been in theatre (and television) for over 25 years and I can say this was one of the most joyful and fruitful collaborations I’ve experienced.  Marjo‐Riikka would be a fine asset to any theatre department, bringing a solid background of professional skills and a winning personality to the group. 
– Nancy Beverly, Playwright