My 10-year-old won the “Drama Queen” award at her nursery school graduation. Since that fateful day, a theatrical vein has seemed to run through all situations in her life including, but certainly not limited to: singing around the house from sun up to sundown, performing short skits for friends and family and, most recently, making movies on her iPad staring, you guessed it, her.
We recently hit a few road bumps when she auditioned for her first school musical. She was incredibly ambitious, telling us, “I definitely want the lead, but I’m going to memorize all the parts, just in case.” Well, unfortunately, my “Little Bird” was dealt her first industry blow when she was assigned a spot in the chorus.
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We tried our hardest to lift her spirits and cite an array of celebrities who had to try time and time again before they made it. Even with all of our efforts, her confidence never fully recovered and I could see her begin to retreat away from the spotlight; retreat from her dreams.
Searching for answers online, we found The West Chester Studio for the Performing Arts and enrolled our Little Bird in four weeks of their Summer Camp. After the first week of camp, I saw the thespian spark ignite in her once again!
Therese Walden-Murphy, the owner of The West Chester Studio, has an incredible resume, but more importantly, an incredible way with her students. Through her expert direction, and the support of her exceptional team of instructors, Indy was selected as the lead for the studio’s latest performance, “What if all the elves got the flu?” I watched my Little Bird on stage (second from left) and swelled with emotion and pride as she transformed into a confident young actress right before my eyes. Whether or not she decides to pursue an acting career, the lessons she learned at the West Chester Studio for the Performing Arts will serve her well in whatever life path she chooses.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Therese (pictured right) to, first and foremost, emphatically thank her, but also to learn why students from her program make such incredible strides and achieve great success.
At WCS we help students find their voice, then we give them the tools to put their voice out into the world. Your daughter is a perfect example. In her first two weeks with us, she started to understand that her ideas were really cool and appreciated by the other students and instructors. By the third week, she gained the confidence to play a role and freedom do a lot of things within the acting of that role that she would not have been comfortable doing in the weeks prior.
I really believe lack of confidence or outright fear of being in front of people is a learned behavior. If students are prepared with the correct theatrical tools and adequately rehearsed, that nervousness turns into excitement – excitement to share something that has been created with collaboration and hard work. On the other hand, if someone is asked to do something with no support, preparedness or rehearsal, then the nervousness turns into fear and embarrassment.
At WCS, the main acting technique we use is the Meisner Technique. I think the Meisner Technique helps us all, for a lack of better description, be human. It encourages us to listen to who we are talking to as well as how we feel about what is being said and honestly re-act. In this day and age of texting, computers, iPhones etc. we are losing touch with one-on-one communication. With all the bullying in our schools, students are petrified to be themselves. Consequently, students are literally holding themselves ransom, afraid to show any personality for fear of being made fun of or worse. In our acting classes, students quickly recognize they can be who they are and freely express themselves. It is a safe zone to be human.
(That’s our girl on stage after her first performance.)
Now, I know that your Little Bird, as you call her, has aspirations to be in musicals. I’d also like to add that our teaching technique focuses on producing a complete performer – an actor who has mastered three elements. For example, if your daughter was the lead in a musical, she must juggle the technique of singing, understanding the lyrics and what it means to the performer, and let the audience know how she feels about what is being sung. I believe learning to be a performer of song; one must work these three elements together. Voice lessons can be very useful, but there is a lot more to it. At some point, a performer of song must learn to work these elements together. At WCS, this is what we teach singers from the beginning. In this manner, the voice is integrated with the performer.
I work tirelessly to find scripts that give every actor an opportunity to have their time in the spotlight and carry the scene. Knowing how to carry an acting scene teaches our students how to have a conversation in real life. Going back to something I mentioned before, isn’t that what our kids are lacking because of all this technology? The confidence kids can gain from knowing they can hold a conversation, that their ideas are valued and having the technique to put it all out there is just tremendous.
If you would like to learn more about The West Chester Studio for the Performing Arts, CLICK HERE.
Do you have an aspiring thespian in your family? Well, now you can enter to win one, full-priced registration for a Fall or Winter Acting Class of your choosing (includes any class that is not already sold out) as well as a one-hour professional portfolio review and consultation with owner and founder of West Chester Studio for the Performing Arts, Therese Walden-Murphy. A prize valued at $350!