by KATHY LOY | photos by Zeena Gregg Photography 

Parents are always looking for programs that will teach their children new skills, develop their talents, build character, instill responsibility – and entertain. If that sounds like a tall order for one program, then you haven’t experienced Actors’ Conservatory Theatre (ACT – San Diego).

ACT San Diego was founded in 2008 as a non-profit youth theatre company whose mission is to provide educational and artistic opportunities for young artists to perform, act and learn the art of stagecraft. Some things that set ACT – San Diego apart from other youth theatre programs are their casting, directors and music. “Most of our shows are staged with a live orchestra as well with incredibly talented young musicians and musical directors,” explained Barbara Maisel, CFO of the organization. “Something new is learned from every experience, and each director brings a new philosophy or vision to the table, added board member, Staci Wax-Vanderwiel. “It was important to me that the kids learn how to adapt to different directors at a young age because that is what it will be like when they go into the real world.” They also double cast parts so that more actors get opportunities and the actors can learn from one another.

IMG_8448ACT San Diego offers opportunities for entire families to get involved. They’ve conducted shows with cast members as young as five through adults, with many of their volunteers being family members of kids in the cast. “I started volunteering which grew into more involvement with each show and, ultimately, was asked to contribute on a more formal basis in 2010. I love youth theatre so much, it was just a natural step,” said Heidi Skuba Maretz, a member of the advisory board.

Putting on a stage production requires hard work and dedication. In addition to performers, positions such as musicians, stage hands, carpenters, costume designers and sewers are in need of being filled. Money is raised through sponsorships, program advertising, concessions and participant production fees. President of ACT – San Diego, Mark Maisel, joined the company to ensure these efforts would lead to success. “I offered to join the Board when ACT was coming into existence in order to assist my wife and the other board members,” said Mark. “I knew how much time and effort everyone was putting in and I wanted to help them succeed in their endeavor.”

“Something new is learned from every experience, and each director brings a new philosophy or a new vision to the table.” –Staci Wax-Vanderwiel, Member, Board of Directors

The company’s next production is Shrek, which runs July 19 through 28 at the Carlsbad Cultural Arts Center. ACT – San Diego will be the first organization in the San Diego community to stage this show. A workshop is also planned with Badiene Magaziner, a world famous vocal coach whose clients include many Broadway performers.