from SFGate - April 18, 2015
Campers build confidence through studying theater
Members of A.C.T.’s Young Conservatory perform in “Time on
Young actors rehearse at the A.C.T. summer camp, which is run by the nonprofit theater company in San Francisco. The program is open to children ages 8-19.
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The American Conservatory Theater, a nonprofit theater company located in San Francisco, offers a unique summer program for children who want to expand their horizons while participating in the arts.
“We have three kinds of students,” said Craig Slaight, director of A.C.T.’s Young Conservatory program, which is open to children ages 8-19. “We have students who have never done this and would like to try it ... the second kind of student is someone who has been involved in maybe another community program or were involved in drama at their school and would like to take it a little further and the third kind of students are really the diehards.”
While the school offers benefits for all attendees, whether they pursue a career in acting or not, A.C.T. has a reputation for turning out stars. Darren Criss, who played Blaine Anderson on “Glee” from 2010-2015, attended the camp from age 8-19. Other notable alumni include Adam Jacobs, who plays Aladdin on Broadway, and Beth Behrs, who is a lead on the CBS’ comedy “2 Broke Girls.”
“Studying theater is not just for young people who want to do this for a living,” Slaight said.
Residual benefits such as building self confidence, teaching students to appreciate others’ ideas, enhancing communication skills and exercising imagination will help children in other aspects of their life including school.
During a time when many schools are cutting back on art and music programs and promoting more academics, A.C.T. is also filling a void.
“We’ve seen a lot of students come to us because they’re not getting what they hoped to get in their schools,” Slaight said.
Chris Mattison, whose daughter Julia enrolled in the program at age 7 (and stayed through age 18 before moving on to college and then Broadway), praised the school for its supportive atmosphere. The part-time A.C.T. choreographer credits the program with preparing her child for a role in the industry and teaching her professionalism and resilience.
“She just had this burning desire, it was kind of crazy,” Chris Mattison said. “She just knew what she wanted to do at a very young age.”
Calling her daughter a “visual learner,” Chris Mattison added that Julia was much more connected to complex literature when she had to learn it for plays.
“A.C.T. helped make up a lot of who I am as a person,” said Julia Mattison, 26, who is living in New York and working in the industry as both an actor and a writer/creator (one of her most recent writing projects is a sitcom for MTV.) “It gave me kind of a sense of power and control in myself.”
In addition to becoming fully immersed in the world of theater, students are introduced to other cultures as A.C.T. draws interest from around the world, welcoming international students to their program.
Students are broken into three groups by age, explained Slaight of the summer format. The youngest group, ages 8-10, participates in either one- or two-week sessions with a set curriculum that explores improv, Story Theater, singing, dancing and more.
Older groups made up of middle school students, ages 11-14, and high school students, ages 15-19, can choose between a four-week program where classes are offered in a format similar to a college calendar or participate in one- to two-week intensives with an emphasis on musical theater or acting.
Anyone who wants to attend A.C.T.’s classes can do so by signing up, but auditions are held for summer productions.
This year, with the addition of a new theater on Market Street, the school will host a three-show festival with 50 open parts for Young Conservatory students. The three shows will include a musical, a community-developed play and a comedy.
“I still tell everybody it’s my favorite place,” Julia Mattison said.
Three productions at three theaters will offer 50 roles for Young Conservatory members.
My Life In The Silents: August 11-23 at A.C.T.’s Costume Shop Theater. A comedy by Timothy Mason, directed by W. D. Keith. Rehearsals begin July 13.
Collaborative Youth Arts Project: August 11-23 at The Rueff at A.C.T.’s Strand Theater and Oakland’s Destiny Arts Theater. A community-developed play directed by Tyrone Davis. Rehearsals begin July 13.
I’m Still Standing: A celebration of the music of Elton John: August 18-30 at A.C.T.’s Strand Theater (new). A musical based on a book by Craig Slaight. Play is directed by Domenique Lozano and Craig Slaight, music direction by Krista Wigle and choreography by Vivian Sam. Rehearsals begin July 6.
More information is available at www.act-sf.org. ... See MoreSee Less
6 Must-Read Books for Teen Actors
By Denise Simon | Posted April 17, 2015, 10 a.m.
6 MUST-READ BOOKS FOR TEEN ACTORS
by Denise Simon from Backstage - April 17, 2015
After a tremendous response to my articles, “6 Books Every Actor Should Have on the Shelf” and its followup “6 (More),” I want to share my teen reading list! As an acting coach specializing in young performers, I am familiar with great literature in the field and know the value of its teachings. There are so many informative books written by industry experts that can help teens solidify concepts learned in acting classes and coaching sessions. These books will help teens grow both as students and young performers.
“Tips: Ideas for Actors,” by Jon Jory. Jory, a veteran acting teacher and producer of over 1300 plays, has brought his expertise in the form of tips for actors. Clear, concise, and direct, his advice to actors nails the aspects of performance on the head. Divided into different categories such as textual study, character development, technique, and strategy, Jory covers a wide range of necessary skills that young actors sometimes forget and need to master. I highly recommend this book for young performers, as they can learn valuable lessons without getting lost in an author’s words.
“The 7 Simple Truths of Acting for the Teen Actor,” by Larry Silverberg. Silverberg is one of the most renowned authorities on the Sanford Meisner technique. His internationally acclaimed series, “The Sanford Meisner Approach,” provides actors with indispensable instruction and deep understanding of the Meisner technique. In this book, Silverberg speaks directly to young performers by stripping away the fluff surrounding acting and focusing on the acting at the most human level. In seven chapters, Silverberg takes readers on a journey of self-discovery. He encourages readers to act from a personal place; he creates confidence in performers and enables them to embark on a path of true acting.
“Meisner for Teens: A Life of True Acting,” by Larry Silverberg. Silverberg brings another indispensable resource to young actors with his workbook instruction guide on the Meisner technique. Silverberg speaks directly to teenagers and challenges them to think critically about their purpose in becoming a character and living truthfully on stage. What I love about this book is its interactive nature. Acting is doing, and here Silverberg engages teens in his writing so they don’t get lost in his instruction. In “Meisner for Teens,” performers define their desires, outline their technique, and refine their skills of listening and observation. For young performers eager for all-encompassing training, “Meisner for Teens” is a must-have.
“Actions: The Actors’ Thesaurus,” by Marina Calderone and Maggie Lloyd-Williams. Acting means to do. Thousands of action words are alphabetized and categorized to help you find what you are doing in every beat. This book will help you play specific actions and get away from making general choices. “Actions: The Actors’ Thesaurus” is a no-nonsense book that every actor must also have in rehearsals. So many acting technique books get lost in the wordiness of describing acting; I love that this book is direct. When you’re in need of a quick word in order to make sense of a scene, this book is a lifesaver.
“The Actor’s Art and Craft: William Esper Teaches the Meisner Technique,” by William Esper and Damon DiMarco. I discuss this book in my article for must-have books for adult actors, and I believe this book transcends all ages. Esper trained with the legendary Meisner as an actor and teacher for many years. What makes this book superb is co-writer DiMarco’s addition to Esper’s work. A former student of Esper’s, DiMarco spent over a year observing his mentor teaching first-year acting students. In this book, he recreates that experience for us, allowing readers to experience the progression of performance exercises in practices. This is perfect for teen actors who need to have a strong foundation of the basics in order to progress into deeper, more mature study.
“Audition,” by Michael Shurtleff. No list is complete without a book on audition technique, since that’s what actors do most of the time. A legendary casting director, Shurtleff’s book provides readers with a comprehensive guide to getting started in the auditioning world and getting the part. There are skills unique to auditioning Shurtleff nails it. His infamous 12 guideposts have influenced my own work in developing my simple technique to help actors learn how to direct themselves. From developing relationships to finding the humor in a scene, Shurtleff’s book will help you ace any audition.
I’ve been working with kids and teens for almost 30 years as an acting coach and manager. My years of expertise, coupled with my desire to help actors grow as natural performers, has led me on a path to share my technique. I am excited to announce that I am working on a book for kids and teens navigating their way through the wonderful world of acting. Be on the lookout for my book this fall! It’s a journey you don’t want to miss.
Master your craft, empower yourself, enjoy the journey.
Like this advice? Check out more from our Backstage Experts!
Denise Simon is a New York-based acting coach and Backstage Expert. For more information, check out Simon’s full bio! ... See MoreSee Less
Congratulations to Smith and Kraus author, rMicha Espinosa. Her book "Monologues for Latino/a Actors" is a Finalist in the 17th Annual InternationalLatino Book Awards, the largest awards in the USA celebrating achievements in Latino literature and culture.
The awards are presented by Latino Literacy Now in partnership with Las Comadres Para Las Americas and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and is an affiliate of the American Library Association. Award sponsors include Libros Publishing at the Silver level and Scholastic at the Bronze. ... See MoreSee Less