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Teenage Drama Showbusiness Weekly


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Teenage Drama Showbusiness Weekly

  1. 1. 10 | March/April 2012 | SHOW BUSINESS heater could very well be one of the most difficult industries to break into. Yet, if you talk to many talented kids who are hoping to get into the business, it’s impossible to ignore how their youth- ful souls still have access to the deep pockets of imagination and human truth that seem to slip away as adulthood takes hold. They will tell you that they can succeed, if you help them. But it takes a very special group of people, maybe teams of them, to equip these kids and teens with the tools they need to develop and survive as theater artists. Meet the Teachers Tim Crouse, an acting teacher at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Insti- tute, has been teaching since 1989. His longish hair, pulled neatly back into a ponytail, adds a finishing touch to his relaxed and observant demeanor. I caught him at the institute’s studio, near Manhattan’s Union Square, just after his class had finished. Although he was short on time, he pulled me into a side office so we could really sit and chat. I had the feeling he could bring out the best in someone and put him or her at ease. Crouse has seen a number of his stu- dents go on to fill the big screen and big arenas: Claire Danes, Rosario Dawson, Eddie Kay Thomas, Lady Gaga (who was known as Stefani at the time), and others. When he began teaching, he had no idea that he would one day help influence the trajectory of so many actors’ lives. He began as a Strasberg student, taking classes, learning his craft, like any other young aspirant. One day he had an idea that maybe he could “help out” at the school. He had been a coach before, and thought he could draw from those skills. We continued talking about a number of things and then landed on the Lee Strasberg Method, the famous technique in which actors use their own experiences to create the emo- tional life of their character. “Lee was the first person to train the actor’s instrument,” Crouse said. “His techniques really help the students connect to their bodies, and their instrument, at a time when they are physically awkward and feeling that awkwardness in their bodies.” At the Strasberg Institute, Crouse says students can explore techniques without worrying about what people think about what they’re doing. High school students live in a world of insular cliques and harsh judgments, which, Crouse adds, is exactly why kids have a hard time being them- selves. It is a scientific fact that teens make choices out of the emotional part of their brain until the age of 19 when their frontal lobe — which manages reason — is fully developed. Take that fact and add awkwardness to a creative sensibility such as acting, and the idea of a safe place to explore your acting talent makes sense. “When they come here, they are outside of school and in a safe zone,” Crouse added. “So no matter what they do here, they are able to be present in their work without dis- tractions.” Nina Trevins, executive and artistic director at TADA! Youth Theater, echoes Crouse’s belief that kids need a safe zone in which too learn their craft. Moreover, she adds that the sooner young performers are given opportu- nity and support, the better their chances at success. “Kids should be able to do the things they are passion- ate about now,” she said. “They should not have to wait until they grow up. When you give them that opportunity, you notice that some kids really thrive on stage.” Trevins gives students more than just a stage on which to perform. “Perform- ing should be a part of a kid’s life,” she says adamantly. “It should go along with education and friendships. All of our teens who are part of the ensemble group have a manager who assists them in finding and applying to a college. Attending college is an impor- tant part of growing up.” Meet the Parents We’ve all heard the tales of rabid showbiz parents pushing their kids into the spotlight at the expense of their emotional growth. While it’s true that parents can sometimes be even more driven about their kids’ careers than the kids themselves, the vast majority of parents simply want their children to have the best opportunities for creative and professional success. I Why starting early is the best way to get young performers to the next stage toward a career in theater BY ELISE McMULLEN-CIOTTI >> T LauraMcBride Broadway Artists Alliance students per- form the song “Children of Eden” after getting feedback from composer Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Children of Eden, Godspell) himself. TEENAGEDRAMA
  2. 2. SHOW BUSINESS | March/April 2012 | 11 However, Trevins is quick to warn that the best thing parents can do for their hopeful children is view their chances objectively. “Parents need to be really honest about their child’s talent,” Trevins says. “This is a very competitive industry, and their kids are going to be judged a lot. They will be judged on their talent as well as their looks. Their kids will experience a lot of rejection, and they’re going to have ask themselves how they will handle it — how they will deal with their child being rejected.” Meet the Administrators The possibility that a child performer could find work on a professional stage — however remote that possibility is — adds an element of significance to their training, requiring administrators to keep students focused on their present needs and not just training for later. Sas Goldberg, a manager at the New York training center Applause, is one of those administrators. Goldberg started as a student with Applause — which offers drama classes for kids age 7 - 18 — while attending the High School of Performing Arts before going on to earn her B.A. in Theater Performance at Michigan State University. When she graduated, she came back to New York City and returned to Applause as an employee, even though she also began work as a professional actress. She’s been featured in national commercials and several voiceover campaigns such as Lady Speed Stick, Orbitz and Olive Garden. Goldberg is young and sharp. Real sharp. When she speaks about the program, there is zero doubt in her face or voice that she believes Applause’s program will do exactly what they claim to do: train the students to be professionals and prepare them for a career in theater. “All of our programs enable kids at any age to walk on to a professional set and work as a performer now,” Gold- berg said. “All of the plays and scripts we use are created for the appropriate age group. The kids are not pretending to be adults like in a lot of school plays. We cast them in a role they could actually perform professionally.” So how do young actors go about >> Continued on Next Page TEENS IN THEATER TRAINING M ATLANTIC FOR KIDS AND TEENS REGISTRATION FOR OUR KIDS & TEENS SUMMER PROGRAMS HAS BEGUN << Exploring Musical Theatre For High School Students For details and online registration, visit July 8–28 Love musical theatre? This intensive, residential program will develop and strengthen the skills needed to propel your creative work to the next level. Program includes: acting technique vocal technique vocal coaching choreography and creating and developing original work Payment plans available Space is limited.
  3. 3. 12 | March/April 2012 | SHOW BUSINESS getting involved with Applause? “They must really impress us,” Goldberg said. “They must first audition. Then, they have to spend their weekends or evenings here. Some commute a good distance. They have a full schedule at their own school, but they keep us a priority as well. They also sign up for additional coaching to help them prepare for performing arts college auditions.” David Shane, an Applause teacher, also spoke highly of the students’ abili- ties. “I am continually amazed at what the kids can do,” he said. Shane’s baby- face and boy-next-door-innocence could cause you to mistake him for one of the teens in the program. But he’s a profes- sional working director and actor with a great deal of experience in plays and musicals. If you ever meet Victoria Krane, the president of the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, you will never forget her energy and her passion for the school she runs — not to mention its teachers and students. When I asked her to talk a little bit about Young Actors at Strasberg, a program designed just for kids, she began with her insis- tence that proper training for young students begins with not insulting their intelligence. “We don’t dumb down Lee’s program, and our teachers don’t treat kids like idiots — because they’re not,” Krane said. “Being an actor is a career, and we believe kids should approach it in a serious way.” As president of the school, Krane could have gone on about anything regarding the program, but what she chose to speak about most was her teachers. She spends a great deal of energy supporting and monitoring them. In fact, a stack of evaluations was even sitting on her desk, waiting for her attention, while we spoke. “These young actors need teachers who get what they’re trying to do,” Krane said. “We are very particular about the teachers we choose. Our stu- dents can feel that. They know our teachers understand them.” Meet the Students After listening to the administrators, educators and parents, it’s hard not to think that the support they offer can serve as lifelong inspiration for the young artists in their charge. Without such support, aspiring theater profes- sionals could languish in uneasiness and fear, but instead the theater train- ing builds their confidence. Not in a boastful and pretentious way, but in a way where students gain the confi- For more information: 212.807.0202 ext.21 CAP21.ORG Take Your Training to the Next Level in Acting, Singing, and Dancing Perfect your performance techniques Receive expert guidance from Master Teachers Develop a personal marketing plan Earn transferable college credits Musical Theatre Training Programs NOW ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS! ainrour TTrake YYour TTTake Y Acting, Sin erfect your performancP eceive expert guidanceR Musical Theat ning to the Next Leve nging, and Dancing hniquese tec shereacom Master TTeace fr oraining Pre TTrtr el in g amsgr e informationFor mor ext.21202.0072.821 g.orvgoodman@cap21 sonal markDevelop a per able collegeansferEarn tr TPCCEAWNO n: .1P2AC keting plan editse cr IONSTAATICLPPANGIT GR.O !ONS TEENS IN THEATER TRAINING M Students perform Frankenstein at Theatre Arts Center << Continued from previous page “Our teachers don’t treat kids like idiots. Being an actor is a ca- reer, and we be- lieve kids should approach it in a serious way.” >>
  4. 4. dence to overcome their fears. Some of the students I spoke with recognized the type of courage they would need in their journey, and how they would have to accept that there would contin- ually be criticism and critique in their lives. Angela Ortiz, whose bubbly 10-year- old daughter, Maya Brecher, is a student at the Strasberg Institute, said that the Young Actors at Strasberg program was good for Maya’s self- esteem, regardless if she eventually pursues it as a profession. Standing nearby, Maya interjected her own idea about her future prospects, saying assertively, “I will pursue it.” I asked Maya if she had any advice she’d like to pass on to other kids like her. “Don’t take correction as criti- cism,” she said. “A correction means that the person cares for you. You have to be committed, like you’re never going to give up.” So which actor does Maya most look up to? If you’re expecting a modern- day celebrity like Selena Gomez, think again. “It’s Shirley Temple,” said Maya. “Because she always kept making dif- ferent choices. If you watch her in one movie, you see her making these choices, and then you watch her in another, and she’s making a whole dif- ferent kind of choice. She’s really good.” All of this from the mouth of a 10-year-old. It’s easy to be a little envious of these kids, particularly if one’s youth did not include the support and encouragement that these students receive. However, students like Maya only reinforce how teachers and administrators need to really love what they do and be committed to it above all things. And when creative kids have to risk all, placing themselves as instruments in front of audiences to be judged, it takes a very special teacher or administrator to understand that. Tim Crouse, the first teacher I had interviewed, seemed to sum it up best. “When you teach, you must get your ego out of the way,” he said. “You have to realize that the work you do with kids is something that goes on into the future. They carry it on.” I SHOW BUSINESS | March/April 2012 | 13 TEENS IN THEATER TRAINING M << Committed to the Next Generation of Theater Arts Professionals OUR MISSION Theater Arts Education Alliance (TAEA) provides real-world information, guidance, and education to New York City public high school students who wish to embark on a career in the theater industry. “Our students are intrigued and excited, and we are so thankful for this fantastic resource. —Kelly Gilles, Theater Director, High School of Leadership and Public Service Support Our Future @ theaterarts EDUCATION ALLIANCE A Nonprofit Charitable Organization Students perform a scene in the Young Actors at Strasberg program