What seems like a simple internet search for “Chicago acting classes” can turn into an overwhelming task — especially if you’re not sure what exactly you’re looking for. There are many places where young actors can train in the Chicagoland area, some specializing in just musical theater, some only on performance, and others that merely present a general bird’s eye view. But if you look beyond the search and dig into the studios that truly teach the ins and outs (and sideways) of the business to its students, there is only one result that gives you the warmest return on your investment. They won’t promise stardom and they don’t claim its easy, but the Actors Training Center ’s philosophy remains true to its now well-known hashtag: #train2work.
The Actors Training Center in Wilmette, established 10 years ago this fall, trains young actors with a mind toward “the business,” ignoring the glitz and glam of what acting “should be” and instead focusing its energy on teaching students how to engage with a character, scene, or song in an honest and real way. ATC is not product based, throwing kids up on stage for the sake of a performance, but instead works on the process behind what makes characters and ourselves human. ATC trains actors not to “act,” but just to “be.”
“Everything we do, every teacher we hire, is with the focus of how the industry works,” says Director Becky Blomgren. ATC is conscious in its hiring process, making sure to connect its students with instructors currently working in the industry.
ATC’s influence even extends beyond that of the classroom, demonstrating its impact on its students even years after training at ATC.
“I have learned so much about what casting offices and agents look for from training here in high school, interning here in college, and now working here as an administrator,” says actress and ATC employee Rae Lindenberg.
Four young cast members in Writers Theatre ’s recent smash hit production “Trevor: the musical” would agree. Eloise Lushina, Maya Lou Hlava, Reilly Oh, and Carly Meyer all trained at the Actors Training Center. “Trevor” told the story of a 13-year-old boy in the early 1980s who was undergoing his own turbulent journey of self-discovery. This production was met with enormous critical acclaim and had an exciting, successful run at Writers. In fact, this world premiere at Writers might have even been the springboard to take it beyond the Chicago suburbs. Writers Theatre Artistic Director at Michael Halberstam says, “There are ambitions to take it to Broadway.”
These four talented kids began classes in 2014, cross training in musical theater, on camera, and improv.
“The classes at ATC made the transition into professional life pretty smooth for me. I felt really prepared,” says Oh, who was recently cast in Chicago Shakespeare ‘s production of “Macbeth.”
Lushina has worked at several professional theaters around Chicago and starred in the independent film “Break My Bones,” which premiered last fall.
“Every teacher I have ever had at ATC works in the business, so I know I am getting the most current advice and training.”
ATC continues its commitment to comprehensive performing arts education this fall with classes starting Oct. 7 and workshops springing up throughout the fall. Make sure to check out their website for current class and workshop information: actorstrainingcenter.org .