Austin Children's Theater's executive director, Talena Martinez, knows how to inspire kids: not only do her national credits include youth productions of Jekyll & Hyde and Les Misérables, she has also staged Shakespearean and musical pieces at the Scotland Fringe Festival. Together, Talena and her talented staff of artists nurture the natural talents of kids of all abilities who are eager to explore musical, dramatic, and European theater.
Programs—which range from the intensive Conservatory of Theater to a full roster of summer camps—can help impart a variety of skills, including increased self-esteem, a healthier body image, and stronger performance abilities of future Tony Award winners while ensuring inspirational fodder for acceptance speeches.
With full-scale plays and musical productions, kidsActing turns the spotlight on young thespians. Founder Dede Clark and her troupe of budding actors reprise kidsActing’s popular 1991 musical comedy, in which a young monster from the under-the-bed dimension stumbles into the human world. Original songs by Willie Nelson, the Austin Lounge Lizards, and other Texas performers punctuate the coming-of-age action that, unlike United Nations peace talks between Scotland and Loch Ness, ends in a reconciliation between monsters and humans.
Dubbed a “powerhouse of comedy” by the Austin Chronicle, The New Movement unleashes a dizzying number of comedy shows that belie the institution’s young age. Founded in 2009 by improvisers Chris Trew and Tami Nelson, the theater and conservatory has already established itself in two cities, training fledgling performers in the art of the extemporaneous by inspiring them to take comedic risks on stage, whether it’s connecting emotionally with a character or performing actual surgery. Whether or not the performers are costumed or bearing props, they aim to create a fully realized world on stage through grounded situations and elegant but always creative transitions between scenes.
An Austin staple since 1933, the bright blue exterior and the colorful rainbow letters of ZACH Theatre is visible from blocks away on South Lamar. Unlike other theaters in town, all of ZACH’s productions are developed in-house, from inception to the final curtain, making for delightfully Austin-centric shows. After entering up a staircase full of inspirational quotes, guests can grab a seat inside the Topfer Theatre, a semi-circled and elevated stage that offers room for some 420 audience members. There are two other theaters and rehearsal spaces available for shows, classes and rentals as well. Outside, the People’s Plaza and Bobbi Pavilion provide guests with space for special events; statues stand on the perimeter while an art piece of two large conch shell horns with speakers inside emits toe-tapping jazz music, making ZACH a fun, vibrant artists‘ space – both inside and out.