Tag Archives: acting studios

Get out, get art!

After hitting just a single night of this year’s “Phoenix Film Festival,” I’m giving serious thought to running away from home. Not forever. Just through next Thursday when the festival comes to a close. With so many amazing offerings, it seems silly to drive back and forth from theater to laundry room and such.

All sorts of things caught my eye on this weekend’s festival schedule — including a free “Kids’ Day” for families presented by IFP Phoenix from 9am-2pm on Sat, March 31 (where you can also see three family films for just $5 each — including “Chimpanzee” from Disney at 1:05pm).

Also high school shorts, college shorts, animated shorts, a silent auction, a preview of Phoenix Comicon 2012 and plenty of live performance art by folks from Scorpius Dance Theatre to Carol Pacey & the Honey Shakers. Even workshops on topics like “Casting Indies” and “Life as an Indie Actor.”

A film titled “Kerry and Angie” that’s part of a Saturday morning “Arizona Showcase” is directed by Amanda Melby, head coach and owner at Verve Studios in Scottsdale — one of many performing arts groups to participate in this year’s RAK Camp Fair. Folks who attend the Actors Theatre production of “Body Awareness” at the Herberger Theater Center will get to see Melby in action.

Those seeking more family-friendly fare have another great option in the “Children’s Day & Kite Festival” taking place Sat, March 31 from 10am-3pm at the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix — which features martial arts, games, food, face painting and other activities. Families are invited to wear kimonos and bring a kite along (or make kites during the festival). Best they not offer kimono-making. I would only embarrass myself.

Fans of Rodgers & Hammerstein can enjoy a double dose of musical theater this weekend as Greasepaint Youtheatre performs “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” and The Phoenix Symphony performs “An Evening with Rodgers & Hammerstein” (don’t let the name “fool” you — Sunday’s show is actually a matinee). The latter is a collaboration with Phoenix Theatre featuring direction by Michael Barnard and a collection of vocalists that bears a startling resemblance to my list of favorite people.

Your last chance to see the Scottsdale Community College production of “The Miracle Worker” by William Gibson is Sat, March 31 at 2pm and 7:30pm — and I happen to know first hand that at least one of the show’s young actors is cuter than the dickens. If acting is hereditary, she’s also rocking her role.

— Lynn

Note: Family-friendly activities are always available in print and online calendars from Raising Arizona Kids magazine.

Coming up: Two of the most imporant hours of my life

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Got auditions?

Today I received an e-mail about an audition taking place tomorrow, leaving me little time to inform “Stage Mom” readers.

I’m always pleased to learn of Valley auditions, but I’ve started referring folks to the calendar editor for Raising Arizona Kids magazine, who can add local auditions for youth to her listings when given enough notice. (How to submit a calendar notice.)

My own daughter Lizabeth, soon to start BFA in acting studies at Pace University in New York City, has long subscribed to weekly audition notices published by longtime Valley theater professional Laura Durant.

Her notices, also available on the Durant Communications website at www.durantcom.com, detail which roles are open, what’s expected for particular auditions and such. And they’re broken down into several categories making it possible to search for child and teen opportunities.

It’s best to check the websites of various acting companies as well, even those that normally produce only adult fare. Sometimes they present works for which younger actors are needed. Subscribing to e-newsletters sent by theater companies generally gets their audition info to you more quickly.

Most companies audition for youth productions individually, but sometimes auditions for a whole season’s worth of shows take place together. It’s not unusual for the Valley’s professional theater companies to partner for season auditions, but they’re generally looking for adult actors.

Some companies, including Greasepaint Youtheatre and Desert Stages Theatre in Scottsdale, offer workshops that help children and teens prepare for particular auditions. There’s usually a small charge to participate. Some, like Valley Youth Theatre, offer details about their audition process online.

Sometimes Valley venues share audition opportunities through their e-newsletters or social networking vehicles like Facebook and Twitter. Folks who follow ASU Gammage were among the first to learn about last Saturday’s dance auditions for a Camp Broadway number being performed at this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC.

Many Valley music, dance and peforming arts studios send audition notices to subscribers and/or post them on websites and social media. Be sure you’re signed up at the studios where your child studies, and follow the sites of other Valley studios too. You’ll want to check for audition news at least once a week.

Watch for audition notices in unexpected places too — including your local community college theater departments, which sometimes need young actors for works like “The Music Man” when it’s hard to put a young adult actor in a child’s role.

Youth who take theater or other performing arts classes in school settings will discover that savvy teachers are often familiar with audition opportunities in surrounding communities.

Audition slots are sometimes limited, so call right away if appointments are required and your child has his or her heart set on auditioning. Then follow directions, bringing requested items like headshots and resumes, and making sure sheet music and such is ready to go.

One of Lizabeth’s voice teachers, now working on her own theater career in NYC, suggested some time ago that Lizabeth subscribe to a publication called Back Stage — which you can also explore online. It lists auditions in LA, NY and other regions — and breaks notices into various categories like film/television, theater, singers/dancers, commercials/models, comedians and entertainers. Even reality TV.

It never hurts to follow news noted on websites like www.broadwayworld.com, www.broadway.com and www.playbill.com. Some of the audition notices they post include options for auditioning by video for actors who can’t make the open call in person.

If your child or teen has Disney dreams, you can search for theater, television and other auditions on the Disney website at www.disney.go.com.

As kids get more experienced with auditioning and performing, they’ll begin to hear of auditions by word of mouth — sometimes getting called in to audition for roles because someone in the theater community has suggested they might be a good fit.

It’s one of many reasons it rarely pays to make a big fuss when your child or teen is passed over for something else. I doubt anyone wants to hire a young actor whose stage mom or diva dad has a reputation for ranting and raving within a camp, community theater or other setting.

As kids get older, they can do their own digging for auditions and other opportunities. If you’re pushing them to audition, it’s unlikely they really have the desire to do it — and no one wants to see a child struggle tearfully through an audition they’ve only attempted for the sake of pleasing a stage parent.

— Lynn

Note: If you’re a performing arts professional or young performer with audition tips to share, please comment below to let our readers know.

Coming up: Art meets the Americas, Moms who “Munch”


Acting pros share audition tips for kids.

Acting studio options

Someone suggested to me recently that I might have what it takes to work the art of acting. A lovely compliment and something I might consider were one of my children not committed to the craft.

As every parents knows, the everyday brings plenty of its own tragedy and comedy — with more of the latter on a good day. Still, if I ever decided to give acting a try I’d have plenty of Valley options for classes and private coaching.

One of many classes at Dearing Studio (Photo by Chadwick Fowler)

Dearing Acting Studio, which recently moved to a new Phoenix location, offers classes for adults and teens — and workshops too. Aug/Sept offerings include comedic monologue, scene-based improv and marketing for actors.

If you like to watch rather than read when it comes to gathering info, explore their “acting tips” videos — which cover topics like cold reading, diction and avoiding acting scams.

Waymire Studio for the Performing Arts in Glendale (also coming to Mesa) offers classes for kids and teens on topics like commercial work, audition techniques and improvisation. Adult options include Meisner, gut reacting and the Elayne Stein method — as well as scene study, improv and vocal performance for singers.

One of many classes offered at Verve Studios

Verve Studios, which describes itself as “a boutique music and acting studio,” has locations in Scottsdale and Phoenix. It offers classes and coaching for “serious actors and musicians” — whether child, teen or adult. Offerings include Shakespeare “boot camp,” accents and dialects training, a commercials intensive and more.

The above photo (taken by Jennifer Pfalzgraff of Verve Studios) features Amanda Melby and tween acting students, including Maggie Thurston (seen on the monitor), watching their taped auditions as part of Verve Studios’ 2011 “Film Acting for Tweens” camp.

The Phoenix Film Institute offers on-camera acting classes for adults as well as kids and teens. There’s also private coaching, plus classes in voiceover work, audition techniques and performance skills.

Several Valley theater companies, including Phoenix Theatre and Childsplay in Tempe, offer camps and classes for children and teens — as do many of the Valley’s youth theaters, such as East Valley Children’s Theatre, Theater Works’ Youth Works and Valley Youth Theatre.

A young student enjoying a class at Childsplay Academy

Performing arts venues like Mesa Arts Center offer a rich assortment of arts-related classes not only in acting, but in dance, music and various visual arts as well. City parks and recreation departments are another option, especially for families on a tight budget.

People have different philosophies about what makes for a well-trained actor. Looking at the backgrounds of today’s best known stage and screen professionals, you might suppose that just about any sort of life experience can bring something to the needed mix of instinct and talent.

My daughter Lizabeth is just beginning her journey as an actor, but already I can see that several things have influenced her work. Training with experienced, working theater professionals. Experiencing the live works of other actors and performers. Even people watching and reading galore.

Her education in the performance arts has been broad rather than narrow. She didn’t spend every waking hour in an acting class. Instead, she spent nearly a decade in dance and music training, primarily ballet and violin — something noted by an actor and director who wrote one of her recommendation letters for college.

Many of the skills she developed in acting classes were first honed in music lessons or dance classes. Movement. Pacing. Focus. Discipline. Taking direction. Working as a group.

So while I’m all for acting classes, I’m a big believer in creating a wider world for aspiring and developing actors to explore.

— Lynn

Note: Stay tuned for the September “performing arts” issue of Raising Arizona Kids magazine featuring performing arts-related stories and resources.

Coming up: Playing “I Spy” sculpture style, Remembering 9/11, Fun with film festivals, Resume tips for young actors, Teen tips on choosing a theater camp

My favorite F-words

When our three children were younger, we used to play a lot of word games… 

We’d play “hangman” on restaurant napkins while waiting for our food, look for objects beginning with certain letters as we drove to and from school, or see who could find the most words to rhyme when we found a fun word in a book we were reading together. 

Nowadays we enjoy crossword puzzles and Scrabble games on those lovely little hand-held electronic devices. (I figure there’s little point in learning their names since a new gizmo will debut about the time I master the lingo.) 

We never had much fun with math games. Fractions can be so frustrating for us ‘counting on fingers and toes’ folk. 

The “find a word that begins with…” game is easy and fun for all ages—and it never hurts to practice since you may encounter it in later life if your doctor decides a memory test might be in order. 

Here’s a little practice round: See how many F-words you can come up with during the next 60 seconds… 

The words you choose can be quite telling. For me, there’s “fudge” (an homage to my mom’s homemade goodies), “fridge” (a nod to my son’s voracious appetite) and “feline” (a shout out to our furriest pet). 

There’s “Fame” because that’s the title of the DVD I rented with Lizabeth for “girls night in” yesterday—and, of course, there’s “friends” and “family.” 

Did you come up with “free?” Or “fun?” If so, this is your kind of weekend. (And yes, you can add “Friday” to the favorites list.)

Tonight from 6-10pm you can enjoy “Free First Friday Night” with your family at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. Notice how these overachievers got the three fabulous F-words in a single event title? Festivities (for the 10 & under set, accompanied by adults) include hands-on, interactive exhibits.

Saturday’s freebies include a 10am “Music Together” preview class presented by Music Together of Phoenix. It’s for kids (with parents) ages infant to four, and features songs, chants and music from around the world as well as instrument play. 

I can’t attend because it’d be hard to pass my 6’5 + son off as a preschooler, but I am going to spend part of my weekend listening to a free “Music Together” CD I picked up at the ASA Showcase silent auction the other night. Though Christopher is nearly 21 now, music continues to be one of our favorite things to enjoy together. 

Consider a trip to the Musical Instrument Museum of Phoenix if you’re a music lover with older kids eager to find a cool (temperature-wise and otherwise) place to explore. It isn’t free, but it’s fabulous–and you can up the fun factor by seeing who can find the most instruments with names that start with the letter “F” (like the Flugelhorn from Germany).

Families with younger children can enjoy the “Sounds Like Art” exhibit at the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa with paid museum admission. The exhibit features both visual arts and hands-on music-making activities. I’m told there’s even a collective music-making experience featuring laser beams. 

Another Saturday freebie for families comes to you from the ASU Art Museum at the university’s Tempe campus. Guests ages 4-12 and their families can enjoy “First Saturday for Families” featuring hands-on activities and take-home art projects.

Music lovers can round out the weekend with the free “Sunday Night Concert Series” at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. Bring blankets and lawn chairs to enjoy the music of “favorite local bands” (and don’t forget a wee bit of cash for train and carousel rides or trips to the concessions area). 

Finally, I leave you with the finest word of all for freelancers…

 “Finished.” 

–Lynn 

Note: Take special care when doing the rhyming thing with teens. You’re in trouble if you launch this game with words such as “luck,” “slam” or “ditch.”  And don’t even think suggesting words that rhyme with “flood.”

Coming up: Private studios offering classes in acting, voice and more; “Camp Broadway” at ASU Gammage

"Farfalle" coming soon to Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts

Update: Since writing this post, I’ve been alerted (via virtual and actual mailbox) to two freebies offered by the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts…

The first is a “Choose 3 or more performances and get one FREE” offer I discovered on their groovy new 2010-2011 season brochure (LOVE the cover art on this baby!). The offer applies to select performances (including L.A. Theatre Works, ScrapArtsMusic and more).

The second, also from the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, is a free open house previewing their upcoming season (which features more than 75 performances) with multi-media presentations and more. The June 11 (Fri) open house is scheduled for 5pm at the Virginia G. Piper Theater, with a 6pm reception to follow at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA).

I’m hoping to attend if not on Friday night teen taxi duty, so look for me in my unofficial red “Stage Mom” jacket (see photo above–of me, not Lord Farquaad) if you want to say hi, share blog ideas or tell me about family-friendly arts adventures in your neck of the woods.

Learn more at www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org or 480-994-ARTS (2787), ext. 2.