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A Class Act: Chicago Actor Coaches Kids, Saves Vintage Theatre

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Joan Brunwasser       (Page 1 of 4 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   2 comments, 6 series

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My guest today is Carole Dibo, Director of the Actors Training Center in Wilmette, Illinois. Welcome to OpEdNews, Carole. 

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JB: How did you come to be doing what you're doing? 

CD: Thanks for having me, Joan.

My path to present is like many actors'. Over time, your journey presents you with opportunities that you may not have even thought of at the start. I began my career in Washington D.C. as an actress, supplementing with work as a petite runway model, commercial print model and hand and foot model!  When I became pregnant with my first daughter, now 28, I taught on camera classes for young actors for an agent of mine in Baltimore. I really enjoyed it; there wasn't anyone focusing on how to train young actors to the industry expectations. The kids were so available and porous. At the time, it was simply a way to keep working while I couldn't.

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 My husband and I moved to Chicago in July of '85. From 1985-1993, I was a mom to two daughters and was fortunate enough to keep working  as an actress, doing commercials, industry training films and some theatre.  In 1994, my third daughter was born, my husband traveled quite a bit, so theatre was off the table.  At school pick up, or serving lunch in the cafeteria, parents were constantly asking me how to get their kid into the business. They really had no idea what "the business" was, who was who, who hired who, what the commitment was, or how to navigate.  I teamed up with Rachael Patterson of Acting Studio Chicago and together we crafted a seminar called BREAKING INTO THE BUSINESS FOR THE YOUNG ACTOR.  It was a huge success and then, of course, they needed training to "break into the business" so we offered classes. It was an untapped market. 

In 2006, along with another family, my husband and I purchased the historic Wilmette Theatre which was on the brink of becoming a furniture store.  In order to support the theatre, I opened up The Actors Training Center on the second floor with a whopping seven students.  Today, The Actors Training Center has over 300 students from K-Adult, some of whom have had much success, a Repertory Company of young actors ages 15-18 who put on seven shows a year,  a strong on-camera division that is now making independent films and Improv Troupe of young improvisers that will knock your socks off.

JB: You've given us a lot to chew on, Carole. I don't know where to begin!  You were an actress first. And then you were a young mother and, if you wanted to stay in the game, you had to switch gears. But, how did you know that you could make that leap to teaching or directing and be good at it? We're not really talking about the same skill set here - for actor, director, teacher -  are we?

CD: The skill set is similar, I think. The shared component is the ability to breakdown and transfer thoughts, concepts and ideas into words that can connect with each individual student-actor. You have to elicit trust with young actors because in order to find that place of truthfulness, you have to be willing to be completely vulnerable. When students, especially teens who hide behind peer expectations, make that connection, it is exhilarating for them and me.  I knew early on that I enjoyed the totality of that and that I was good at it. It hits everything I love about the art and creative process of acting.

JB: Lucky you! How is working with kids different than working with adults, Carole? Or is it?

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CD: My process is the same.  Young actors are fearless, their emotional library isn't buried in the basement.  The adults have a harder time accessing that library.   So, it is different, yet the same.  Both find it so freeing when they finish a scene and realize that they were not acting, but being. It is a great joy for the actor, young or old, me and the entire class who erupt in applause and support every time.

JB: It sounds invigorating and a lot of fun. Is talent enough to ensure a successful acting career? 

CD: Not at all. It takes tenacity, a willingness to work on the loading dock,( and you should love working on the loading dock) an absolute obsession with the industry, the art, and good fortune.  If one even has a thought there might, just might be something else that they might want to do, they should go do that.  This business is the ultimate lesson in Economics 101, the supply way outweighs the demand. There is a line down the street of "talented" folks waiting to audition for any given role. And it helps to know people, but to get to know people, you will probably need to work on the loading dock, and be a really good loading dock worker.  What I mean is, doing understudy work (for free), interning (for free), checking actors in at an auditions (for free), doing student films (for free), and loving every second of it.  

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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