By Artistic Director- Jane Kelly.
2017 will mark the 16th year, since I started “The Actors Workshop of South Florida” . So at a time when artistic schools and organizations were struggling, we continued to have one of our largest class enrollments and ‘Ongoing’ workshop membership, with many students working professionally in theatre and film.
As I began working professionally at the age of nine, in theatre, film, television and as a professional singer, when starting my company, I decided to teach what I had used in an over twenty year career, and not what I did not need, thus not leaving my students to complete a ‘school program’ and now have to venture out alone into the industry needing more time to figure out what worked and what didn’t work. The industry is not patient. I determined to use the most consistent techniques for voice, body and emotional choice, and not the many others I had also learned early on, which I discovered to be less effective.
As I say to my student’s “I do not want you practicing on the industry, I want them to ask, ‘where have you been?”
I have found that ‘acting schools’ in South Florida, for the most part, are run by professional teachers and not professional actors. The point of The Actors Workshop of South Florida is to work in the closest possible environment in which a professional works and not a classroom, the results of which have made a fundamental difference in the training of my students.
‘Acting schools’ separate the mediums into classes such as ‘on-camera or scene-study or theatre or improvisation’ and such, as a means to imply they offer more classes or opportunities, when in fact I have found that being inclusive of the understanding of the different mediums with one solid, technique gives the student a consistency from audition through performance in theatre, film and television, as attested to by my own career, that of my peers and now that of my working students, who feel confident to pursue a professional career after attending our classes, many who had previously never acted in their lives.
The Actors Workshop of South Florida runs the only ‘Ongoing’ workshop in South Florida, although many other schools have now chosen to coin that phrase but do not represent my point in it’s translation.
When you work in Los Angeles or New York, it is rare to not be a member of an ‘Ongoing’ workshop, a place that offers ‘a roof over your head’, whether working or not, to continue to keep your ‘tools sharp’, without the financial commitment of a ‘school term’, so that my students are not penalized for getting work, and can return at their will but more than that be surrounded by like minded people, respecting and supporting them, even when they need to prep for an upcoming audition or work on their scene or cold-reading skills, and of course network with the industry.
For that reason we hold industry showcases which offers agents and artistic directors the opportunity to see our talent in action.
Many students have said they do not know how they could have built a career without the support of the ‘Ongoing’ workshop, how would you know the right people to see, who could you talk to about it?
It has frustrated me over the years, as it has agents I have spoken to, to talk to some other student’s who have attended an ‘acting school’, and then contact me, and upon speaking with them, as I would my own students about their career plan and resume, they don’t have a clue what I am referring to or what to do.
How can you spend six months in an ‘acting school’ and not know what to do when you get out?
After fourteen years of running The Actors Workshop of South Florida we have done little to raise our ‘Introductory, 8 week’ workshop fee of $180, for 24 hours of class time, not to mention my personal time. Our ‘Ongoing’ workshop dues are still half of what they could be, and our students are defying all pre-conceptions of what they ever thought they would be both personally and professionally.
When I decided to start The Actors Workshop of South Florida, and spoke to apparently savvy business people about how I planned to run my company they said, ‘you can’t run a company like that, that’s not how it’s done‘. My response was ‘if I don’t do it, who will?’
The Actors Workshop of South Florida is still what I envisioned it to be, a place where the creative mind, whether new or experienced, could find a safe, consistent workshop that brought them as close to being a working actor as possible, so that by the time they walked on that stage or set, they had the confidence to know what they were doing there and do the job they were hired to do, even in one take!
Very often our students will be on a set working professionally for their first time, and in conversation are told ‘what do you mean this is your first job, where did you learn that'?
Not all of our students seek a career, there are many reasons they join our Introductory 8-week workshop, to gain confidence, overcome shyness or re-visit the person they left behind but time and again they take the next step into the ‘Ongoing’ workshop because they like the person they are becoming.
Many of our students are now able to call their profession ‘actor’, and as I see them make plans to move on to Los Angeles or New York, I have no doubt that their training has prepared them to pursue this amazing profession, and the privilege of being a part of this ’craft of acting’.