For many years, Actors Playground School of Theatre was a place that only existed in my imagination. A place where young people could come and study the craft of acting in a friendly and creative atmosphere; uncluttered, with no excuses, no red tape, no contracts, and no runarounds. A place where young people could learn the techniques of the theatre’s most renowned teachers and follow a curriculum that mirrors Yale Drama School, The Juilliard School, and my alma mater, Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. A place where dissention, bullying, racism, and sexism simply could not survive. A place where encouragement, commitment, patience, and knowledge rule. This place now exists and that place is Actors Playground School of Theatre.
The entertainment industry is extremely competitive and young actors need every advantage and all the support they can get. In this world today, hopeful young actors and their parents are prey to some of the most ridiculous and utterly outrageous scams ever. These one-horse, so-called acting / modeling / talent agency franchises are for the most part frauds who take advantage of parents who are just trying to support their child's dream. They approach you in the mall, through the mail, over the internet or radio waves and immediately promise you the world. They charge you thousands of dollars for cheap looking headshots or modeling pictures that will be, shortly thereafter, out of date. To make a quick dollar off of you, they will send you out on “extra work” which you don’t need an agent to get in the first place, and which probably will not forward your career in any way. If you’re very lucky you may get a commercial audition, which will probably be a “cattle call” with hundreds of others, and if you happen to win this virtual lottery you will have to pay the so-called agency an outrageous percentage of what you make on that commercial—and that’s not counting what the government takes. You end up spending all this unnecessary money and time, leaving you discouraged and ultimately forcing giving up on a dream that never really had any real opportunity to blossom because you were never properly trained in the craft of acting as an art or educated in the ways of today’s entertainment industry.
Sadly, most of the public and private elementary, middle, and high schools in this country are no better. With few exceptions, what most schools call acting class or drama club is an atrocity. It is very rare to find anyone who is teaching these classes to have had any kind of theatre training in their background. Someone with a degree in music teaches chorus and band. Someone with a degree in art education teaches art. A gym teacher has a degree in physical education, and so on. They will let ANYBODY teach acting, if there is an acting class offered at all. They say we need more music in our classrooms? If the arts are always on the bottom of the food chain then theatre is at the very bottom. It is without question, the most consistently misrepresented, misunderstood, and poorly taught art in most public schools in America.
There is simply no quick fix when it comes to studying acting. It is a process. People out there who offer you a miracle cure for an exorbitant amount of money are simply dishonest thieves who only want to take advantage of you. Young people need guidance, support, and encouragement from someone who really cares, is extremely knowledgeable and fiercely dedicated. Patience is key here. I have taught students who were the most painfully shy and apprehensive I have ever seen turn into some of the most amazing young performers I have ever known.
Actors Playground indeed offers the highest level of professional training in the art of acting anywhere, but it is far more than a school—it’s a community. It’s a place where young people work together and support each other. Support of your classmates is rule number one around here. It is vital to a good acting class. When a young person feels they are supported by their class, that’s when the discoveries begin to happen. When a student looks forward to the class every week and is excited about attending, that’s when real learning can take place. When students feel comfortable in their surroundings, that’s when fear is no longer a factor, when they are not afraid to step up and take a risk and you begin to see that real person inside start to emerge and bloom. The school is a safety net where it’s okay to fall on your face. This is where you can really experiment with the craft and explore the vast intricacies of your talent. Acting is not just an art, it is also a natural science and this school is your laboratory.