top of page

Meet the Pillars


With many students of the technique now working in the entertainment industry, Seven Pillars Acting is changing the way actors approach the craft.


Your relationship to the other person, and the quality of your moment-to-moment listening.


The wants and needs of the character.


Anything that happens to the character, from their point of view.


What the character does to get what they want.


The deeper relevance of the character's circumstances.

Physical Life

The use of the body and voice to release tension, evoke imagination, and express character.

Emotional Life

The Pillar of daydreaming and authentic connection to the text.

Meet Sonya

To Act is to Transform with Ease and Authenticity.

"Seven Pillars Acting is comprehensive outline to the craft of acting. Its progression of exercises integrate many different approaches to acting, creating a step-by-step guide from listening and simple presence to camera-ready performance. Sonya Cooke‘s writing is very clear as she describes in detail the many elements an actor can use to make his work both truthful and dependable."


—Stephen Wangh, author of An Acrobat of the Heart and The Heart of Teaching

Seven Pillars Acting

“Acting is Living Truthfully Under Imaginary Circumstances” --- Sanford Meisner


         This is all the actor ever has to do. As long as she is living in the circumstances of the character, acting is easeful and effortless. This is our ideal: to train actors to live and breathe within their own bodies, minds, and spirits but IN the circumstances of the character.


         Seven Pillars Acting is a concise yet flexible formula of acting technique aimed at helping actors to transform into character by living truthfully under imaginary circumstances. They strive to convey a path for the artist, but they do so with the utmost reverence for the pure spark of natural inspiration that occurs in every human being. The Seven Pillars do not replace that spark but coax it into a flame and, from there, into a hearth where the artist can call home. Through the study of acting craft, we are harnessing and rearing that creative spark that ignites in childhood and in early adulthood.


         Transformation, in acting terms, is the unification of the actor with the character, a process which requires rigorous emotional and imaginative work. The result of which is tremendous ease and presence in the actor. The Seven Pillars Acting Technique aims to achieve this precious, alchemical state and physical ease by guiding the actor through seven essential concepts: Contact, Circumstance, Meaning, Emotional Life, Objective, Action, and Physical Life. Although the Pillars are ultimately interchangeable, they are taught sequentially to organize and structure an actor's path to character.


         Contact pertains to the ever-changing relationship an actor/character has to the other person onstage. It is the foremost Pillar, in that all acting is dependent on the other. It is also the actor’s awareness of her own thoughts and feelings in the context of her partner. Circumstances are the past, present, and future facts as the character perceives them, which reveal the confines and contours of a character’s point of view. Meaning is the character's emotional response to her circumstances and the point at which the actor does an honest assessment of her connection, and Emotional Life bridges the gap between the character and the actor through imaginative and emotional exploration. Objectives are the needs and wants of the character, and Actions are the tactics the character uses to achieve her objective. The last Pillar, Physical Life, deals with how the body and voice experience ease in high stakes, activate the actor’s imagination, and contribute to characterization.


         The Pillars are deeply rooted in ideologies and techniques from the great acting teachers and theologians of the past and present, Sanford Meisner being the primary source material. And yet, it is the international community of acting thought makers that contribute to the bedrock and budding flowers of the technique. These truths have passed through the hands and hearts of numberless teachers, actors, and innovators. The Pillars' unique innovation is the primacy of Sequence Circumstances in the actor's approach. How an actor utilizes circumstances leaves an indelible impression on the efficacy of all other tools in her arsenal. In addition, Seven Pillars Acting brings greater precision and detail to otherwise generalized and outmoded acting concepts. By expanding the practical use of each Pillar, students gain a deeper appreciation for all the ways they can interpret a role. The Pillars give the actor a dependable set of steps from which to work. Actors need structure and order; all art forms are founded on this principle. Of course, a rule is as good as its exception, so Seven Pillars Acting is meant to be rigorously learned and then gloriously broken.


          The Pillars have another unique facet: the structure and organization of the technique mirrors the actor’s process in creating a role. In other words, the actor in training learns the Pillars One through Seven, and this same organization and structure works very well when an actor begins to work on a role. However, the actor, having learned the Pillars One through Seven, is free to enter into a role from any angle, as it is the individual’s inspiration that dictates process. This is why they are Pillars, not steps. The Pillars provide her a trusted path to fall back on if and when she prefers a more structured support system.


         Ultimately, the Pillars engender confidence, ownership, and ease, three crucial elements in a performance. Particularly for the beginning actor, the Pillars carve a clear path that leads to personal and artistic transformation. It is this confidence that empowers the actor to make bolder choices and to plunge greater depths of her humanity to then offer to the character at hand. The easeful actor has tremendous presence; she belongs in the world of the character because she is authentically living within the circumstances.

Meet Sonya

Author and Founder of Seven Pillars Acting®

Sonya Cooke 1.jpg

Sonya Cooke

Sonya Cooke is a film, television, and theatre actor based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A member of SAG-AFTRA and EMC candidate, Sonya’s career includes network television, independent film, regional and NY theatre, musical premieres, commercials, and voice-over credits. Most recently, she acted in Bonneville on AppleTV, Chicago PD on NBC, and played the title role in Gloria by Brendan Jacobs-Jenkins at Equity theatre, Swine Palace. Last summer, she joined the acting company of New Swan Shakespeare Festival and played the title role in Julius Caesar, among others. Other career highlights include Warner Brother’s Godzilla: Fathom, Louie on FX, and playing the title role in feature film, Lily Grace. She is an Assistant Professor of Acting and Head of Undergraduate Performance at Louisiana State University’s School of Theatre. Founder and author of Seven Pillars Acting, Sonya opened and ran Seven Pillars Acting Studio: Los Angeles and has been the owner of Actor’s Studio of Orange County for ten years. Currently, she teaches at the grad and undergrad level, and she leads the Teacher Certification Program for Seven Pillars Acting. Her book, Seven Pillars Acting, is the textbook for students of the technique, as well as at a growing number of universities and institutions across the country. A member of the National Alliance of Acting Teachers, Sonya has worked with many institutions all over the country as a teacher, curriculum writer and program developer, such as Hussian College In Studio in Downtown LA, University of California at Irvine, The Guthrie Theatre, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, Blizzard Entertainment, and more. She trained at UC-Irvine’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts where she achieved an MFA in Acting, and previously she studied at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she received a BFA in Drama. She is passionate about acting technique and loves helping her students discover their talents.




Seven Pillars Acting seeks to dismantle the white supremist paradigm in acting training and in the entertainment industry by aligning with the mission, tools, and practices espoused by the Anti-Racism Movement in the United States.


We are committed to the following:

1. Incorporation of acting techniques and concepts that originate from BIPOC artists, authors, and teachers.

2. Greater inclusion of playwrights of color within all used texts for class purposes.

3. Reinvigorating the role of research and analysis in our training so actors comprehend cultures and communities that do not immediately reflect their personal backgrounds.

4. Empowering Black, Brown, and Indigenous artists through evolved conversations on representation, identity, equity, and inclusion.

5. Enlisting teachers of color to join our Certification Program through our full scholarship incentive.

6. Standing with the Black Lives Matter cause, in order to make the world a safer, most just place for all people.

toppling white supremacy.jpg
Commitmet to Anti-Racism



David Mudge, Actor

The teaching methods, the theory, the pillars of acting, the exercises -- it all just works together beautifully. 

Iris Gonzalez, Producer

Sonya is one of the best teachers I have ever had. Her reading material, her experience as a professional actress, and her mastery are worth your time, energy, and money :)

Ryan Tran, Actor

She has a very specific, tangible method that works a lot like muscle memory in sports, where you can physically and emotionally feel  growth and advancement.


“Taking the certification training has given me a better sense of structure and focus in my teaching.  There were ample opportunities for practical application—experiencing both a student and as a teacher.  Sonya’s certification manual is an incredible resource.  The details were indispensable during the training and now provide me with support as I continue to explore the work on my own and share it with others.”

— Cynthia Bassham, Professor of Teaching, UC-Irvine


"The Seven Pillars Acting Technique has given me a deeper dive into how I approach my character work. The technique is ruthlessly specific, intrinsically layered, and infectiously fun. I find this method to be malleable to suit my needs as an actor vs a step-by-step program. This training has afforded me an arsenal of practical tools that can be used to tell an authentic and believable story."

— Adam Thatcher, Assistant Professor of Voice for the Actor, Ball State University

Sonya Nasi moving.JPG


The training for Seven Pillars Acting is intense, challenging, empowering, and synchronizes many of the acting techniques I've been taught in the past.

Screen Shot 2020-12-30 at 4.20.48 PM.png


Seven Pillars is an environment that is free of judgment and wonderful for any actor to learn the specific tools that will help them grow.

Meet the Team

Meet Seven Pillars Acting Instructors

Reiko Aylesworth_edited.jpg

Reiko Aylesworth

Certified Instructor

Professor of Practice at SMU Meadows School of the Arts

Kristin Leadbetter_edited.jpg

Kristin Leadbetter

Certified Instructor

Associate Instructor/PhD Candidate, UC San Diego

Adam Seeholzer_edited.jpg

Adam Seeholzer

Certified Instructor

Actor's Studio of Orange County

Nasi Nassiri.jpg

Nasi Nassiri

Certified Instructor

Actor's Studio of Orange County

Connor Graham Headshot 1.jpeg


Certified Instructor

Theatre Teacher

Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts 

Siobhan Doherty Headshot 2024.png

Siobhan Buffett

Certified Instructor

Head of Voice & Speech

 Art of Acting Studio

Los Angeles

Carolina Queiroz Couto_HS (2)_edited.jpg

Carolina Queiroz-Couto

Certified Instructor

Actor's Studio of Orange County

Douglas Streater.JPG

Douglas Streater

Certified Instructor

Assistant Professor

Southern University

David Sasik.jpg

David Sasik

Certified Instructor

Actor's Studio of Orange County

Kaitlin Kerr.jpg


Certified Instructor

Philadelphia, PA

Manny David.jpg

Manny David

Certified Instructor

Moment Work Instructor

Tectonic Theatre Group 

Alana Johnson_edited.jpg

Alana Johnson

Certified Instructor

Liz Golden.jpg

Liz Golden

Certified Instructor

Lecturer of Performance

Utah Valley University

Cole Cook Headshot.jpg

Cole Cook

Certified Instructor

Graduate Instructor

Loyola Marymount University

Christopher Flieller.jpg

Christopher Flieller

Certified Instructor

Certified Teacher

Fitzmaurice Voicework®

LaDonna Oedraogo_edited.jpg

LaDonna Oedraogo

Certified Instructor

Actor's Studio of Orange County

Shavonne Grandison.JPG

Shavonne Grandison

Certified Instructor

Graduate Teacher

University of California at Irvine

Jay Whitehead


Certified Instructor

Associate Professor of Drama

University of Lethbridge

Cynthia Bassham.jpg

Cynthia Bassham

Certified Instructor

Professor of Teaching


Brett's legit shot.jpg

Brett Duggan

Master Certified Instructor

Louisiana State University

Actor's Studio of Orange County

Seven Pillars Acting Studio

Baton Rouge Acting Studio


Amber Friendly

Certified Instructor

Actor's Studio of Orange County




Certified Instructor

Guest Lecturer

Western Kentucky University

Bowling Green, KY

Miko Khan.jpg


Aaron Khan

Certified Instructor

Actor's Studio of Orange County

Screen Shot 2020-01-28 at 4.18.17 PM.png

Michael Matthys

Certified Instructor

Assistant Professor of Acting

University of South Dakota




Certified Instructor

Actor's Studio of Orange County




Certified Instructor

Actor's Studio of Orange County

Screen Shot 2020-01-28 at 4.13.45 PM.png

Danielle Reynolds

Certified Instructor

Actor's Studio of Orange County

Henry Final (9 of 20).jpg

Henry Southwick

Certified Instructor

Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN




Certified Instructor

Assistant Professor of Voice for the Actor

Ball State University



Certified Instructor

Actor's Studio of Orange County

Cypress College




Certified Instructor

Assistant Professor of

Acting & Directing

Western Kentucky University

bottom of page