As an acting coach and teacher, I believe all young actors should train to enhance their skills and build self-esteem. And despite L.A. and New York seeming like the center of the acting universe, you don’t have to live in either place to get great training.
As an actor, I got my start in Florida, and it’s a state that continues to be full of wonderful regional theaters and training programs for young actors. Work is plentiful with theater productions throughout the state, as well as film, TV, and commercial opportunities. If you’re looking for training for your young performer, here are five programs to check out:
The Maltz Jupiter Theatre’s Goldner Conservatory of Performing Arts
A professional school of arts education that offers year-round classes in acting, dance, playwriting, and vocal techniques, all taught by Broadway instructors and industry experts.
The Theatre’s Youth Artists’ Chair is a rigorous, three-month long theatrical mentorship of 18-20 high school students. Through this program, students receive graduate-level training at no cost to them in order to produce a full-scale production from start to finish. The Youth Touring Company, also offered at no charge, is comprised of 30 students who perform at over 85 events in the community. They showcase their talents and give back by volunteering their time at a wide range of venues.
Finally, the Maltz Jupiter Theatre Professional Training Program is the only two-year training program in the state affiliated with a professional regional theater. Students train 35 hours per week in classes that include acting, voice and speech, musical theater styles, all forms of dance, music theory, Shakespeare, stage combat, career prep, and more. This competitive, audition-only program enrolls 10-16 students per class, enabling participating students to grow at an accelerated pace with extremely high classroom expectations.
Miami Children’s Theater
Established in 1996, Miami Children’s Theater (MCT) is one of the most prolific and experienced training grounds for young actors in South Florida. MCT believes that time on stage is the most valuable training tool—grads are well-known for their experience and professionalism as they enter the collegiate and professional theater world. Learning proper technique in all areas of musical theater is paramount to their philosophy, and with five alumni in featured roles on Broadway and dozens of MCT veterans attending the nation’s finest performing arts colleges, it shows.
StarCatcher Acting Studio
Focused on acting for film and TV through scene study, program director Kia Riddick-Taylor says, “Any time you’re given a script, you’re getting prepared to go on a journey. A mysterious journey that starts with your willingness to explore with empathy, without judgment and, without attachment to the end result.
“Often students can lose focus because their desire to ‘book’ is greater than their desire to tell the truth. It’s understandable, we all want to succeed. That’s when I remind my students that writers go to great lengths to give characters truth. The words they write and the stories they create are the foundation of that truth. Your job as an actor is to breathe life into the words. To bring them to life with your imagination, experiences, perspective, and vulnerability.”
Orlando Repertory Theatre
Offering Youth Academy classes, camps, and productions year-round for students pre-K through 12th grade, the goal of Orlando REP’s programming is to develop life skills in young people through the performing arts. Youth Academy classes and camps offer students a fun place to explore their actor’s toolbox of the body, voice, and imagination through age-appropriate theater games, scene work, songs, and even technical theater.
Productions are fully produced shows with professional directors, designers, and crew. All camps conclude with a presentation for family and friends. Camps and productions are designed to foster self-confidence, creative thinking, analytical skills, team building, trust, and discipline through performing arts. These skills enable youth to grow into engaging individuals who build stronger communities through the arts.
Kim Houston’s The Casting Gym
A casting and recording studio for talent of all ages to practice auditions before going to them or preparing for an upcoming one. Staying sharp and fit in a competitive business is challenging—the Casting Gym provides results by “working out” in a real casting studio with mock casting sessions in commercials, TV, film, dance, music, vocals, improv, and voiceover. Membership is annual and affordable at $99.00 for the year. All on camera classes come with material to prepare for the casting session as well as a video to use for future training and marketing purposes.
Bonus Program: Since I don’t like cold weather, I’m excited to announce that I’ll be teaching acting foundation skills in the Orlando area for the month of February 2018. Stay tuned for more details!
Denise Simon is a New York-based acting coach and career consultant who has been involved in the entertainment industry for more than 30 years as an actor, teacher, director, casting director and personal talent manager. For 10 years, she was an associate with Fox Albert Management, one of the leading talent management companies in New York, where she managed such clients as Scarlett Johansson, Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino, Lacey Chabert (“Party of Five”), and Judy Reyes (NBC’s “Scrubs”). Simon has coached hundreds of children and young adults appearing regularly on Broadway, television, and in films, as well as educating parents on the business of show business. She is the author of “Parenting in the Spotlight: How to raise a child star without screwing them up,” available on Amazon.com and at the Drama Book Shop in NYC