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.
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.
Arthur Murray Dance Studio has been a leading name in franchise dance since 1912, when the entrepreneur began selling mail-order dance lessons. Expanding his reach, he enlisted teachers to spread his signature dance lessons on first-class steamships and skyrocketed to fame in the '30s after introducing the public to such dances as the Lambeth Walk and the Big Apple. By the 1950s, Arthur and his wife, Kathryn, were hosting their own highly popular TV show on ABC, the Arthur Murray Dance Party, which ran for 12 years. Today, Arthur Murray's team prepares students for rug cutting at special events and weekend nightclub jaunts. Clients who arrive to lessons partnerless will be paired up with an instructor as the teachers assess their current skill level and make recommendations on the most appropriate program. Throughout lessons, instructors teach the foundations of two to four dances from a long list of styles that range from Latin to country-western, helping students to learn basic step patterns, timing, and the ability to lead or follow.
Aqua Restaurant & Lounge, located within Holiday Inn Irvine Spectrum, serves up classic American cuisine as well as gourmet specialties. In the morning, breakfast platters and cups of RainForest Alliance coffee give diners enough energy to race a taxi on foot on the way to work. Later on, chefs prepare heirloom salads and signature dishes such as the Philly West, a gourmet riff on the philly cheesesteak that pairs shaved filet mignon with housemade Jack Daniels au jus and melted provolone. A full bar, 50-inch plasma TV, and sleek decor round out the hotel-lounge experience.
Executive chef Thomas Crijns of Brussels Bistro teams up with fellow Belgian Philippe De Smedt and French restaurateur Thierry Perreau to give his seasonally inspired menu of Belgian-style cuisine a French twist, earning the restaurant recognition as one of the 2012 Top 10 Orange County Bistro Restaurants in Gayot and named Best French Fries in 2008 in OC Weekly for their signature side with dipping sauces. With live jazz music each Tuesday through Thursday and DJs spinning music under pulsing colored lights Fridays and Saturdays, it is not surprising that OpenTable also took notice of the spot and awarded Brussels Bistro the Diners Choice for Late Night Find.
While known for its late night offerings, Brussels Bistro features a menu of lunch fare including quiche Lorraine packed with gruyere cheese, tomatoes, and bacon and savory ham-and-cheese crepes. Diners may opt to share their bountiful pots of mussels and Belgian-style fries on the sunny outdoor terrace while sipping one of nine Belgian beers on tap or 15 bottled varieties each served with a signature glass etched with its family tree.
Festival of Arts of Laguna Beach has showcased the paintings, sculptures, and creations of local artists in an outdoor gallery alongside hands-on workshops and live music shows for more than 80 years. A carefully curated bumper crop of local artwork from 140 artists brightens gallery walls in a spectrum of styles, from romantic gemstone jewelry and modern abstract painting to sculptures that seem to defy the rules of physics.
Mere blocks from the ocean, the exhibits ring a spacious lawn, which brims with spectators for the festival's many events, including live jazz concerts, eco-friendly fashion shows, and live cooking demonstrations. During workshops, those spectators become artists themselves, stretching fingers into paint, pressing prints, molding clay, and post-modernly trying to eat bottles of glitter.