While taking in a snow-rescheduled performance of Quill’s “Stupid Fucking Bird” the other weekend, it occurred to me that being a truly great actor requires skills that can seem counterintuitive. Two of the most accomplished cast members in the show, Jeff Clevenger and David Bridgewater, distinguished themselves by listening. These are two guys who can chew their share of scenery, but when the intensely interpersonal nature of the play called for it, they were often fascinating in their attentiveness.
It’s that kind of skill that two local theater companies, Cadence and Virginia Repertory, are working to build with a new acting program that takes an ambitious approach to training aspiring young thespians. Dubbed TRAIN -- which stands for technique, rigor, audition, immersion and networking -- the yearlong program gives 12- to 18-year-olds an intense course in the craft and the business of acting.
Unlike a strictly academic workshop or class, the program explicitly orients students toward landing roles, working with local casting director Erica Arvold of AMC’s “Turn” to hone auditioning techniques. Last October, 50 students were chosen to participate from 80 who auditioned.
Cadence’s director of education, Laine Satterfield, says the progress she’s seen has been impressive, both artistically and professionally.
“They are making more specific, honest choices and making connections to theater history from where they are now,” she says. “But not only are they improving their technique, they are getting cast (cadencetheatre.org/2015/12/04/train-special-report/) in everything from school shows to film and TV roles.”
The pre-professional training doesn’t come cheap -- tuition for the year is more than $1,400 -- but for a shot at being the next local-kid-gone-Hollywood like Corey Reynolds (va-rep.org/event_anythinggoes_vet.html), that might seem like a small price to pay.
By the way: Virginia Rep also has an extensive internship program with opportunities for young people looking to get involved in all areas of theater. The program is recruiting now (va-rep.org/internships.html). The best part: It’s one of the rare breeds of internship that still offers a stipend and even housing if needed.
Running: “The Little Lion,” (styleweekly.com/richmond/preview-swift-creeks-the-little-lion-follows-the-life-of-a-mechanic-among-nazis/Content?oid=2288733) roars at Swift Creek Mill until March 5 while the 5th Wall and Chamberlayne Actors Theatre production “Unexpected Tenderness” closes Feb. 13. (styleweekly.com/richmond/theater-review-unexpected-tenderness-delivers-unsurprising-messages-about-abuse/Content?oid=2288722)
What’s on deck: Virginia Rep kicks off its main-stage Signature season with the Italian family dramedy, “Saturday, Sunday, Monday,” on Feb. 12. For those doing full immersion into the Acts of Faith Festival (theactsoffaith.org), nonprofessional and fringe productions are starting to open, with “The Sisters Rosensweig” hitting the Weinstein Jewish Community Center stage Feb. 11.