Life on Two Stages

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EDDIE RIVERA, Editor, Living Section

12:48 pm | February 5, 2014

Living in Southern California, it’s not unusual that any given child seriously considers an acting career. Not just playing a tree in the spring production of “Johnny Appleseed,†but acting as a professional career, as a business. They don’t call it “The Industry†for nothing.

Like a child science whiz or musical prodigy, young acting students need an environment that recognizes their special skills.

Actors Youth Academy in Pasadena goes this idea one better, as it not only prepares students for the professional acting life, it does it in English and Spanish. One would think this obvious, but Actors Youth Academy is one of the few that emphasizes this type of teaching for young actors.

“It’s an acting forum for youth ages 5 to 18 and young adults 19 to 25,†explains Yvette-Janine Pardo, founder and owner, “in both English and Spanish. So youth are able to learn scripts and monologues either in English, Spanish or Spanglish.â€

As Pardo explains the genesis of the school, “I am a mother of a child actor, and he was first picked up not only because he’s a good actor, but also because of his bilingual skills.

“I didn’t understand the importance of that at that time,†she continued, “and then all of a sudden about 9 months later, auditions started coming through that required my child to be able to switch back and forth between those languages. The problem was that he had only been taught in schools that are monolingual English only. There are specific cultural things in the language that are lost when you’re not being trained by a person who speaks and acts in the language.

“So we looked for acting schools, and I was feeling a little pressure from his agent to get him training in this area, and I could not find it. So I kept looking and looking and looking. Maegan (McConnell) and I had been working together as she is my son’s  acting coach.

So I went to Maegan and said, “We need to have a school for this.â€

As Pardo explained, even The Wall Street Journal had published an article on how Hollywood was “taking Spanish lessons.â€

It was the perfect idea at the perfect time.

“Part of what sets the school apart is the idea that a mother started it rather than an actor so the curriculum encompasses other components besides acting, says McConnell.

“We have first and foremost incorporated the development of  a student’s  key self as a part of schooling. We want them to be grounded in who they are, understand their strengths and learn how they can bring that to their life and their acting career.”

Certainly the bilingual component of the school sets them apart from the average acting academy.

“Although there are a few of bilingual acting schools for theater, this is the first bilingual acting forum for film and television for youth,†added McConnell. “Understanding the business is an entirely different piece of the curriculum. We want the youth and their parents to be well-rounded and prepared for the business. We include parent classes.”

“Also,†said McConnell, “At many schools, young actors may only get to work with other kids their same age. But in film and television, youth do work with different ages. So at Actors Youth Academy, when students are ready we bring in additional professional actors of different ages to do scene work with our studentsâ€

“And though the bilingual component of the academy is key, students are not required to take bilingual portion of the class,” says Pardo.

“This is just a safe place for students to hone that skill. So they have that choice. Most of our students now are taking the Spanish portion whether they speak it or not, because they like to work on that ability, she said.

So whether it’s learning to ace that audition in both languages, or learning how to express one’s self, confidently, Actors Youth Academy is a place where both skills and more, are taught and learned.

More information is available at (626) 817-3050.