Testimonials

Working with John couldn't have come at a better time for me because I was feeling so burdened and confused by theory, the technicalities of acting, the heady work. John's work is from the guts, from impulses. It forced me to really see, hear, and respond to my scene partner. I'd never before been able to achieve such a sense of being present and of moment-to-moment responsiveness. I've discovered a trust in myself, a confidence in being in a state of not knowing and just trusting, in surrendering control. John has encouraged me to take risks and given me confidence in facets of my character that I used to be too afraid to go near, and some that I didn't even know existed. The work he teaches evolves and grows with the individual actor, and John is sensitive to each actor's process and respectful of their personal journey. Acting is vulnerable and revealing, and his class offers a safe place to explore what you are capable of, to make mistakes, to be bold, to be afraid, to learn, to feel limitless. I can't say enough about the work. John is so passionate about acting, and his passion is contagious. I feel so lucky to be able to work with him and the inspiring, hungry actors in his classes

Tatiana Maslany

Orphan Black Emmy and Golden Globe winner, critics choice award winner best actress in a drama series 2013, 2010 Sundance award for best breakout performance Grown Up Movie Star, 2009 Gemini award for best actress in a guest role Flashpoint, series regular Heartland and Instant Star

I have been a student of John Riven's Meisner Technique class for several years.  In that time it has become my actors’ home.  A safe place to work on my craft under the guidance of someone who has dedicated so much effort in the quest for truthful behavior.  I don't know a teacher who has ever offered more of his self in the class room.  And by doing so, week after week and year after year he inspires his students to be courageous enough to do the same.  When I first started taking his class I had a bag of tricks that I hoped would somehow help whenever I got lucky enough to get a job.  The technique that John teaches gives me the grounding to enter an audition room or walk on a set or step on a stage confident in my sense of truth, in my abilities as an actor and ready to play.  I am very grateful to John for his skills and care as a teacher and hope to enjoy the actors home he creates for many years to come.

Sergio Di Zio

Gemini Award Winner for Flashpoint, Grand Army, Rogue, Wishfart, Flash of Genius, The Lookout, This is Wonderland, Dora award winner for The MotherF**ker With The Hat and nominee for Leo

This work has been an endless uncovering for me. It is not a class you can be at the top of and not a technique that you can master. I have been able to find my voice in my own work by having an environment that puts the work first. John has invested in my journey as an artist over and over again. This work has enabled me to work on sets and stages with artists of all kinds, while holding me firm in authenticity and truth. This work puts me in my body so that I can trust my preparation going forward. John is a loving teacher and artist. His room is a space for hungry actors to work at any level. He encourages us to be responsible for our work and for one another. He has a sensitive and detailed eye when critiquing the work. Because I have this room to study in each week, to be pushed in each week, to bleed out in each week, I am left being able to go to work with a ferocity and a trust in myself. After studying this work with John for over 13 years, I can safely say that I still feel at the beginning of the study of it. His professionalism and love of artists is invaluable to me and my life as an artist. I am deeply grateful for having found a coach like him.

Dani Kind

CSA and ACTRA Award Nominee for Working Moms, Wynnona Earp, In Contempt, Good Witch, The Divide

In Riven classes, Meisner never feels dogmatic or tedious, actors are constantly being pushed to go further and take risks.  Riven classes have gained a well deserved status in Toronto and are consistently filled with some of the city's strongest and most talented actors. John gives them a comfortable environment to play, along with plenty of personal attention and tough love - allowing his students to feel both free and brave within the Meisner work.  Simply put - since I started taking John Riven's Meisner class, I haven't stopped booking. I owe John my ability to consistently find simple, truthful moments in auditions and the ability to continue that work on even the most frenzied of sets.  To put even more simply - there is no better class in the city for an actor to explore and heighten his craft.  And to put it even MORE simply - the Riven class is some fuckin' good-ass shit.

Aaron Abrams

series regular on Hannibal and Blindspot, The LA Complex, Rookie Blue, Young People Fucking, Slings and Arrows, multi-award Winner and Nominee for Nose To Tail

John is the BEST kind of teacher because he is unabashedly honest. He never lets an inauthentic moment slide. In fact, he’ll call you out on it, and push you until the truth is revealed. I started training with John at a time when I was caught up in technique and over-thinking every moment. John’s classes reminded me that my gut instincts always know the truth first. His repetition exercises are about listening, reacting, and emerging with an open heart and mind. John’s enthusiasm and passion for acting is infectious. He constantly challenges me to dig deeper and work harder; there is always more to the truth, and when you think you already know it, that’s when there is so much more to discover. The technique he teaches allows actors to evolve at their own pace in a supportive and safe environment.

Ellen Wong

Knives Chau in Scott Pilgrim vs The World, series lead in The Carrie Diaries, series regular in GLOW, Dark Matter

I have been studying the Meisner technique with John Riven for five years and it has helped me immeasurably. As a teacher, John has the unique ability to understand, appreciate and work with an actor’s specific talents, instincts and struggles. He teaches his students as individuals, understanding that each of them will have a different appreciation for the work and learn it at their own pace. John’s passion and understanding of the technique is infectious and inspiring. John uses the Meisner exercises to get things out of his students, myself included, that I have never seen before. He is able to help people access their deepest and most honest emotions while staying connected and grounded. It is hard to explain exactly how John teaches because he is constantly adapting and growing with each student, each exercise and each moment. John is a very wise teacher, as well as a very spontaneous one. Most importantly, John has cultivated an environment in his classes that is unlike any other. Coming to his class you feel the freedom to play and grow and make a mess in a safe environment. He makes acting feel important and special and necessary. He makes you want to take risks and feel things you’re not used to.

 

In the past five years John has challenged me, inspired me, guided me and helped me strengthen my process. He has shown me that it is always possible to go further in my work and he has set up an environment where I can figure out how to do that. 

 

More than anything, John loves to teach. He loves watching his students succeed and he loves figuring out how to help them when they are struggling. He really cares about his students, their work and his growth as a teacher. John expects the same of himself as he does his students…to go further…and take risks!

Joe Dinicol

series lead Betas and The L.A. Complex, Blindspot, Arrow, Saving Hope, Halt and Catch Fire, Grey's Anatomy

I came upon a huge gift when I discovered John Riven’s Meisner class.   I started studying with John at a time when I was really blocked emotionally.   John’s class has taught me to push through my personal barriers by embracing my vulnerability.  He has taught me that my strength is my ability to be real, raw and present at all times.  He has taught me to seek the highest truth and to go after what I want.  He has taught me to listen and to receive.   I have learned that it’s ok to feel uncomfortable, to sit in silence, to be awkward in my own skin.    The environment in class is compassionate and safe and it gives me permission to sit in the most emotionally terrifying, raw places and then keep moving through.   He has taught me that once I hit the barrier the only choice is to face it and push through it.  His process is at once thrilling, scary, hilarious, relentless, joyful and deeply satisfying.  Studying with John has helped me immeasurably in my work.  He is completely committed to the process, really loves what he does and has a huge amount of sensitivity and care for his students.   I am so thankful to have John Riven and his technique in my life.

Rachel Wilson

series regular Republic of Doyle and Show Me YoursGhostwriter, Impulse, Bomb Girls

I will start this testimonial by saying that this class was the hardest and still is the hardest class I’ve ever been a part of. Gotta love a teacher who doesn’t let you get away with ANYTHING. When I first started with John, I had an extremely difficult time being present in my work and trusting my instincts. After working with him for over 3 years, I can confidently say being present is no longer an issue and trusting my instincts is something I actually enjoy. John has such a unique view of the technique and creates a safe environment to explore your vulnerability and push through your emotional blocks. I am challenged, inspired and moved every time I walk into that classroom, and for that I am forever grateful.

Meghan Heffern

Blue Mountain State, Almost Heroes, Backpackers, Chloe, The Fog, Wynnona Earp, How to Buy a Baby

I have season tickets to the best theatre in Toronto. John Riven's Meisner is like a private theatre where the best actors in the city (in my opinion) go to train like athletes, experiment and investigate themselves.  When called for, even John will get on stage and practice with students, respectfully. There's no other arena I know of which is so free of ego and judgement, that even the teacher is willing to get their hands messy in support of an actors' work. I respect that. I often feel lucky to sit in the audience of Meisner classes and watch my peers sincerely volley their impulses and intentions towards each other, because the performances are unpolished, unrehearsed and in that way, so captivating, compelling, honest and inspiring. 

As an actor, practicing John's Meisner, when I've been equal parts brave enough and pushed uniquely by my scene partner to 'go to' difficult, vulnerable places, I've explored and exhibited places within myself that were honest, however messy. Sometimes, I'm really, really shaken afterwards. That is to say, that it doesn't always feel good to put myself in the shoes of what a character feels, but it feels good to be able to play that character with empathy. John's made a room where I can practice being brave and visiting those difficult, vulnerable places. And over years now, (and still many years to go) John has pages and pages of notes, dedicated just to me, steadfastly documenting my work and nudging me closer to my best. 

Raymond Ablack

Ginny & Georgia, Burden of Truth, Shadowhunters, Teenagers, Narcos, Orphan Black, Defiance, Degrassi: The Next Generation

Let me say straight up that John's class is no piece of cake. It is challenging, terrifying and revealing in ways that I have never seen in an acting class. After three years i still shit my pants before getting up to work. Having said that, it is the only, ONLY place that I feel free and safe enough to really look at myself as an individual and an actor. Without the hindrance of lines, props, scenes, you come to this class to explore and experience the whole gamut of emotions and behaviours that define you as a person. Being able to tap into your own truth, that truth that sets you apart from anyone else, is something that eludes many actors, myself included, and john's technique has been remarkable for getting me present and connected to my own authenticity. In john's class I am allowed to really be myself. Not just allowed, but encouraged and expected to embrace everything that is uniquely me, good and bad, weird, quirky, ugly. This is not always easy. I have never confronted myself the way I do in this class and despite having made discoveries that make me cringe (that's me?! I’m that person???) the experience is always exhilarating and fun as hell. I leave john's class feeling fulfilled and inspired and reminded of why it is that i love acting so much. I also find myself less encumbered by nervousness when I work in class, the voices in my head don't dominate so much and my self consciousness is not so stifling. This has helped immensely with auditions and work on set. The technique allows you to fully engage and work in spite of all that background noise. As for john himself, I don't know a better teacher. He has so much passion and investment and he brings to his class a discipline and respect that as a student you can't help but want to reciprocate. He guides his students on an individual level, attending to the specific needs of each student. He always knows what to say to push you through your defences and what not to say so as not to impede you in any way. To do this work you have to have complete trust in your teacher and john earns that trust through his hard work and commitment. The class is a blessing, the people in it are supportive and it is something that I will always come back to whenever I need a reminder of what it is to be honest and present.

Mayko Ngyuen

series regular Hudson & Rex, Titans, Killjoys, Slasher, Cracked, Rookie Blue, ACTRA Award Nominee for ReGenesis, Rent-a-Goalie

I've been taking John Riven's class for five years. Since then, I've changed from a kid with nothing but enthusiasm and ignorance, to a working (knock wood) actor with the opportunity to apply Riven and Meisner's principles on-set. It's been the footprints beside me many times, even when I've failed in my own preparation or focus. It still, after five years, tests my commitment and hunger and drives me deeper. It's my playground and my workshop. John is a brilliant teacher and I hope I can fulfill the potential of the work.

Sebastian Pigott

Murdoch Mysteries, Wynonna Earp, Slasher, Channel Zero, series regular Being Erica, The Bridge, The Border, Deadliest Sea, top ten finalist on Canadian Idol

I liken John’s class to a gym, where he encourages us to push ourselves artistically and safely. I can think of many experiences over the years which either viscerally lead to personal breakthroughs for me or required meditation before I could discover shifts in my performances. John along with David Tompa and David Reale have helped in an invaluable way to inform my craft and have my sincere gratitude and respect. 

 

Whenever I participate in, or even witness an exercise in class that “goes well”, it ceases to feel or appear like work. The scene becomes closer to a story with intimate stakes unfolding in front of me. I have felt in countless ways over the course of simple repetition exercises that parallel moments in my life, both the highest and low. For that reason, I love and dread the sense of immediacy present in this work which is profound yet can sometimes seem so simple at face value. 

 

Working with John has greatly benefited my own artistic agency. I’ve learned to challenge my exploration of characters more critically on an empathetic level. John is a deeply empathetic, passionate and honest teacher. He communicates with humility, humour, and compelling thoughtfulness.

Dalmar Abuzeid

CSA Winner for Anne with an E, Pure, Condor, Shoot the Messenger, Majority Rules, Degrassi: The Next Generation

To start, John's style of Meisner acted like a detox for me after several confusing years auditioning!  I was brought face to face with the things I did to escape true connection and vulnerability with my acting partners. 

 

This is what I have noticed:  John, himself, and any individual that continues working with him form a necessary community of spontaneous, truth junkies!  It feels incredible to have a place to come home to--  where I know I can both chip away at my defenses and improve what's already working!

Aaron Poole

Most Dangerous Game, Salvation, series regular and CSA Nominee for Strange Empire, Copper, King, Cra$h & Burn, ACTRA Award for This Beautiful City

I've been working with John for about 10 years now, and I can honestly say that every time class is new/exciting/scary/unexpected. The work is always fresh and unpredictable and 10 years on there is still so much learning, it just gets deeper and deeper. This class has helped me to trust my instincts and give them voice and to see how much space exists in the tiniest of moments.

Jenny Raven

series regular Kim's Convenience, Designated Survivor, Black Mirror, The Girlfriend Experience, V Morgan is Dead, Majority Rules!

I adore John's class. I adore John.  He is so beautifully and brutally compassionate in his commitment to people; uncompromising and completely transparent in his pursuit of deep contact, which remains the ultimate and bottomless pursuit of the class itself. 

 

I do not know what acting is to me or what anything is, and this was something that always haunted me. John takes the great fear of unknowing and instead of treating it as a problem, employs it as the beating heart at the centre of the work, validating this internal struggle within everyone and therefore making the work universally approachable. By acknowledging doubt and fear rather than reproaching it, he initiates a step in the direction to include the entirety of yourself in the work and in turn, the ability to be receptive to the entirety of others. 
 

You are seen, really seen, in every corner. And with that comes an environment of utter security, trust and the beginnings of an inner freedom that accepts who you are with the same fullness and clarity you feel from his eyes, always. 
 

The class took all the weird and abstract anxieties I had about acting and refocused my attention to something far more personal, inclusive and humane. In his words, you begin to realize that whatever is going on with another person is far more interesting than your opinion of yourself. More than anything else, I feel grateful to have had this class affect my life. At the very least, it gives one the chance to develop a faith and trust that you are, without modification or exception, enough. If I were to quit acting today, I'd still go to class.

Eric Osborne

series regular and ACTRA Award nominee for Degrassi: Next Class and Degrassi: Next Generation, Random Acts of Violence

Many of us struggle with how we internally interpret a performance, balanced against, how our portrayal is ultimately perceived externally. John Riven, has made that struggle a central focus of my work. Albeit, without ever having said  as much. I look back over my time at Riven and see the quiet courage I now possess, allowing me to take on a role, from a place of strength. And trusting that this strength, will easily reconcile those two quandaries which previously haunted me. And now, all that energy which was once sucked up in the internal-external battle, overflows towards being present to the moment.

 

I have found that although the skills, which are called upon on a daily basis, represent significant cross-over benefits into daily life, my work with John has allowed for those benefits to also be transformational. The work I have done, in challenging myself to fully let go of preconceived notions, or not to fall prey to my fears around the talent v. success scrutiny has changed the way I relate to people throughout my life. And the timing of this work, could not have come at a better time. John has found a way to be the lighthouse in the fog, without ever being a lifejacket. The work has allowed me to no longer look for moments of greatness, but rather, just be in each moment,,,and the next one and so on.  

And the boldness gained has given rise to owning a sense of confidence, to leap into the unknown, where before, I found myself merely projecting it.

Tamara Duarte

Departure, Longmire, Degrassi: The Next Generation, Hard Rock Medical, Wynnona Earp, The F Word

For the longest time I have been searching for an acting class/coach in Toronto that not only challenges me as an actor but also truly allows me to develop my skills and talents as an actor. 

 

I have been studying with John Riven for the past three years. He not only challenges you but at the same time creates a safe environment in his class. Not only do you trust the teacher but you also trust your fellow classmates. You want to explore, you want to push boundaries and you want to take things to the next level. 

 

Our industry is such a competitive environment. This tends to bleed into the classes and into the students and at times into the teachers. Classes become about who is the next superstar, about wanting to impress the teacher or about wanting to be better than the next person. This is something you will not find in John's classes. The classes are about the process and about the journey.

 

Over the last two years my work has taken me to London, England and Mumbai, India. I always find myself running back to Toronto whenever I can to do classes with him. I have taken Meisner Classes in London and I am yet to find anything that comes close to John's talent and passion. 

 

Having recently completed filming the lead role in the Canadian Feature Film AMAL John was my acting coach. For my first big role I could think of no one else that I wanted on my side to help bring the character of Amal to life. One thing that comes to mind about this time is how much I enjoyed the process of creating and discovering nuances of the character. Also, he gave me the confidence to explore areas that my character needed to travel through. Areas that I never thought I could reach as an actor-he helped me get there. John was always there to talk and listen if I had doubts about something. The great thing is that I was able to do my work on set and then go back home and feel truly fulfilled and relaxed. John is truly my angel of acting and I look forward to working with him closely again on my next project.

 

We are very lucky to have someone like him teaching in our backyard in Toronto. My recommendation to any actor who wants to do the work that they crave and also reach the levels that they feel they should be at is to take his classes.

 

John has a passion for his work, for his students and for the process.

Rupinder Nagra

best actor Whistler Film Festival for Amal, Omerta

In five short years John has become one of the foremost acting teachers in the country and has become equally in demand as an on-set acting coach.  I can personally attest that clients of mine who have taken his classes show a marked improvement in their competitiveness in the marketplace. There are many who credit John for their meteoric rise in the industry. John Riven is a gifted teacher.  He challenges and inspires those who have the privilege to work with him and fulfills a very necessary function in the industry at large. I never hesitate to recommend him.

Pam Winter

President, Gary Goddard Agency,Toronto, Canada

My clients love John's Meisner class.  Unqualified praise.

Paul Hemrend

talent agent at ETM Ltd

John Riven has an incredible respect for the truth. There is no other class I’ve been to that gives the actors such freedom to explore, the ability to play and the expertise to master their craft. John’s class takes acting to a whole new level, a level where the work is truly organic, uninhibited and, what we all want, real.

Kate Todd

My Babysitter's a Vampire, The LA Complex, Radio Free Roscoe, Life with Derek

I don't think I'll ever have acting "figured out" but at least I have a tool that I can rely on and continue to sharpen over the years. Through my own self exploration in class, you are not only allowed to, but strongly encouraged to act on your first impulse no matter what it might be. I feel more and more confident playing roles I normally wouldn't, because I have been able to begin exploring the other sides of myself, including the darker sides which I wasn't really even sure how to tap into without flat out "faking". I have never had more respect for a teacher, especially for one who will patiently watch and encourage you to make mistakes and take risks as I have for john. His passion for teaching is unrivalled as is his dedication to his students. It's gotten to the point for me where when I book jobs I sadly think to myself "That means I'll have to miss class".

Alex House

series lead Todd and The Book of Pure Evil, Total Drama All-stars, Beyblade

The work: We were newborns. We were daredevils. We were stripped bare. That is what caught me in the end, and that is what I dig. John Riven is a most deserving ring master of rare moments.

Claudia Dey

playwrite and author, TROUT STANLEY, THE GWENDOLYN POEMS and BEAVER have been produced internationally and nominated for the Governor General’s, the Dora, and Trillium Book Awards.

For me, Meisner is deceptive.  There are no intellectual, unintelligible terms to describe what the actor "should" be feeling or thinking, nor is there some mysterious, alchemical magic we are meant to seek.   There is only being, listening and doing.   So it, flat out, rocks my world that I have seen and experienced more truth in acting in John's classes than in any other class.  Such beautiful, open-hearted spontaneity emerges as well as these incredible, sudden and irreversible breakthroughs as old habits are shed and a commitment to be fully present is made.   The work is raw, challenging and always exciting and John has created such an atmosphere of support, compassion and insight that I am continuously inspired to take bigger risks.   I look forward to more.

Rosa Laborde

Saving Hope, The Dating Guy, The Line, ReGenesis

Every week on my way to class I feel anxious, horrified, turbulent and then for the next three hours I’m flying high, sharing my innermost joys, fears and panics with a group of brave actors.  John Riven is a master, a testing exemplar with the most perceptive eye for truth in performance that I have ever seen. Over and over again I have watched him unleash raw talent and focus it into the kind of work that blows people’s minds and gets you hired. If you want to create work that comes from a rooted, fiercely honest and truthful place – this is the class for you.  Definitely not for wimps, wannabes or poseurs – you will be tested with a compassion and perceptiveness that has to be amongst the best in New York, London, LA – I don’t care where.  There’s no-one better. Take his class when you’re ready to be pushed to be all that you can be.  Take his class when you realize that playing small does not serve the world.  Take his class when you are ready to shine.

Ian Carpenter

the first winner of the Global Television Emerging Writer Award, Executive Producer, Showrunner of season three of Netflix’s SLASHER, CBC’s FRANKIE DRAKE, two seasons of BEING ERICA

I loved John Riven's class. I'm more of a writer than an actor, but the class was useful to me because I learned about authenticity onstage, and about how conflict and sympathy between two people can arise in simple moments.

Hannah Moscovitch

Dora Mavor Moore Awards for In This World and Infinity, Trillium Book and Toronto Critic's Awards for This Is War, SummerWorks Prize for The Russian Play. She has been nominated for the Siminovitch Prize, the Governor General's Award, the Carol Bolt Award, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize