When a professional casting director, Amy Christopher, was invited to teach Dwight actors an on-camera class in our Master Theater Program, she wasn’t quite sure what to expect from high school students.
Ms. Christopher, who had previously taught this class at the college level, was in her own words, “floored and gobsmacked!” She was struck by the impressive talent, confidence, level of preparation, and nuance they brought to the class. “There are some real professionals in the making!”
This comes as no surprise, as many of these theater students have wowed us with their acting chops and dedication to honing their craft after school in productions and in our Master Theater Program, which Mr. Christgau launched seven years ago. Their commitment was evident to Ms. Christopher, who has over 25 years of casting experience across theater, film, and television.
Dwight’s Master Theater Program connects students to experts like Ms. Christopher to learn a variety of techniques from the pros, including physical theater, movement, mask work, decoding commercial copy, cold reading, and auditioning. This year, 20 students in grades 9-12 are participating in our professional-level training program, which mirrors those at the college level.
Ms. Christopher has served as Casting Director for The Roundabout Theater and Williamstown Theater Festival, as well as Vice President of Casting for the entertainment division of Fox before co-founding The Tape Room, an independent audition taping and coaching service. She says, “I have always enjoyed working on showcases with young people, who bring a level of excitement that is often unmatched by acting veterans, and Dwight students exceeded my expectations. In addition to being naturally very gifted, they were so well prepared and had that fire in their bellies, which made teaching them even more gratifying and fun for me.”
During five sessions together, Ms. Christopher led students through exercises with “sides,” which are selected pages from a script, not a full scene, which actors receive to learn for auditions. They began with cold readings. After receiving notes and feedback from Ms. Christopher about how they might approach things differently and methods for getting into a character, students returned for a second reading incorporating the tips and techniques they learned. “We then held auditions for a male and female lead in two different pieces. After callbacks, I ultimately found it difficult to cast the parts because everyone did such a great job,” Ms. Christopher reports. “Once cast, I offered them a ‘contract,’ taking students through the language and elements covered in professional contracts such as transportation and housing, in addition to the actual creative work.”
In addition to applauding the students, Ms. Christopher credits Mr. Christgau for his great work with them in the Master Theater Program. “The whole experience was a delight and I’m ready to sign on again for next year!