In many cultures, performers begin training at a young age to ensure they become proficient as well as confident in their art. While the instructors at Scripps Performing Arts Academy believe in that approach, they put just as much focus on stoking the fires of creativity and ensuring that every student has some fun at the same time. Expert faculty members train students as young as three in myriad performance classes, which are held in professional-grade studios outfitted with floating hardwood floors for safe frolicking. Though the studio specializes in the classical discipline of ballet, it also offers programs in tap, jazz, modern, and musical theatre dance. Private lessons, meanwhile, incorporate instruments such as piano.
A calendar of productions allows students ways to showcase what they've learned, and include musicals and three major ballet shows each year. Performances take place in the studios as well as a dedicated black box theatre outfitted with professional stage lights and sound equipment.
Vindicating the famous acting teacher Constantin Stanislavski's claim that that "there are no small parts, only small actors," Mini Theatre Troupe gives every young student their moment in the spotlight. With over 20 years of experience in unleashing the inner extrovert in ages 2–12, Mini Theatre's instructors coax confidence, creativity, camaraderie, and friendly competition from young thespians through acting exercises, games, and mini performances in mini plays. Elder actors (aged 8–12) can partake in seasonal Broadway mini-musical programs, where stage presence, vocal techniques, and acting skills are acquired through a range of games, culminating in a 20- to 40-minute staged musical performance for faculty and family.
The adage that "there are no small parts, just small actors" rings truest at The Center Stage Studio, where budding thespians of all ages get their share of the spotlight. Under the experienced wand of director Tracey DiMiceli, a seasoned performer and theater instructor who also helmed Malibu's prestigious "Fitness by the Sea" summer camp, young actors develop the skills to sing, dance, and deliver heartfelt Tony Award acceptance speeches in a wealth of classes and camps.
In the family-tailored musical theater camps, which feature themes reflecting popular musicals and children's shows, lil' thespians learn the fundamentals of theater technique—including blocking, projecting, and stage direction—and cultivate skills that boost self-esteem and critical thinking. Camps end with a public performance where every child gets a spot in a major musical number and receives a speaking role, curbing the theatrical tradition of jealous prepubescent understudies.
At the age of 5, Natalie Costa’s daughter was cute, lively, and photogenic—reason enough to give show business a try, she thought. But with no one to guide her and her daughter through the maze of booking auditions and getting representation, she found herself out thousands of dollars on useless portfolio shoots and manager fees. In response, Costa founded The Performers Academy, modeling the friendly, welcoming atmosphere on the dancing school she loved as a child. She made sure to stock it with instructors who had the inside knowledge she could have used at the outset: all professional actors, directors, and producers with lots of experience in film and TV and a special focus on children’s programming.
The academy caters both to kids seriously trying to break into the business and to casual enthusiasts who find performing a liberating way to build self-confidence. Age-appropriate classes deal with such key topics as managing audition stress, honing improvisational comedy skills, and projecting loud enough to be heard over that giant gong that somebody keeps bumping into.
An AT&T ad executive hangs up the phone, grabs his jacket, and heads toward the subway to Hell's Kitchen. It's the late '80s, and at the New York comedy institution The Improv, a slew of up-and-coming talent, including Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock, are testing jokes and honing timing. In the next few years, they'll perform on television for millions. But for now, they're changing the life of one ad executive.
The founder of LA Stand-Ups, Joe Falzarano, quit his promising advertising career because he "hated being a suit" and preferred to nurture promising young comedians. With accomplishments that include producing the CableACE Award–winning Caroline's Comedy Hour for A&E, Falzarano helped launch the performing and writing careers of entertainers including Jon Stewart and Louis C.K. Today, Falzarano imparts his more than 20 years of industry experience to aspiring joke-tellers, teaching them tactics for perfecting a punch line, calming nerves, and subduing hecklers with a marshmallow gun. Falzarano maintains a supportive atmosphere where students learn how to use who they are to connect with an audience, and even lets students try out material at the Hollywood Improv.
Across the sun-soaked floors, toddlers twirl and scuttle, joyful in their imitation of ballet teachers who instill in them discipline and classic technique. Starting with students ages 2.5 and older, highly trained artistic directors Rachel Swinson-Jacinto (formerly of New York's American Ballet Theatre and San Francisco Ballet School as well as a former principal dancer of Inland Dance Theater) and Quincy Jacinto (former principal dancer with Ballet Pacifica and Philippine Ballet Theater) lead dance classes in their homey studio. Ballet instruction is set up for all ages—including one-on-one coaching for professionals—as is contemporary, jazz, tap, and hip-hop dance. The team also runs musical theater and acting classes, as well as yoga and Zumba to create more well-rounded performers.