American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.)
My daughter has been very pleased with Berkeley Playhouse and with ACT San Francisco's Teen Conservatory. She's experienced good camaraderie and training in both. Both have classes as well as performance opportunities. We like how Berkeley Playhouse double-casts their productions so that more kids get experience with leading roles as well as ensemble work. ACT has a more diverse group of participants, but not by much. ACT also has more intellectually interesting material, if your son is interested in non-musical theater. Both are easy to reach via public transit. I've heard good things about (but don't have first-hand experience with) Youth Musical Theater Company in Berkeley, by Aquatic Park. It is for youth from 7th grade through university who are serious about theater. I recommend your son attend performances produced the various organizations, to give him an idea of the caliber and material of the productions as well as caliber of fellow actors. That's what solidified my daughter's choices. Lastly, Berkeley Rep has youth education programs. My daughter hasn't taken classes there since 1st grade, but the teen options look great for youth in high school. Have fun on this journey!
ACT in San Francisco (near BART) and Berkeley Rep in downtown Berkeley both offer acting classes, not just musical theater classes. I think both are good. I’ve found that studying acting separately, without the singing and dancing, has helped my daughter in the long run. A lot of kids only do performance-based musical theater classes and the acting often gets short shrift, because they are racing to pull the songs and choreography together. Consequently, some of kids don’t learn much about acting, so having done so can be an advantage. Plus, it’s fun, and there are never enough boys.
Archived Q&A and Reviews
Re: Your experience with Academy of Art Pre-College Program?
I am not familiar with the Academy of Art Pre-College Program, but can highly recommend the acting classes through A.C.T.' Young Conservatory. They have a summer program with more intensive classes, as well as classes throughout the year. Top notch teachers. Very easy to get to via BART. My son took acting classes with them for about 5 years and never had a bad experience. deb
Re: Drama Opportunities for 15 year old?
Our daughter had a good experience, from 6th grade to 11th grade, a few years ago, attending after-school acting classes at ACT in San Francisco. Their classes meet in an ACT building less than 2 blocks from the Powell St. BART station.
Since your student is of high-school age, I would strongly recommend you reconsider ACT. Many East-Bay teenagers attend; they offer financial aid; the classes are located VERY close (3 minute walk) to the BART stop (I forget which one, but I think it is Powell); their class list, schedule, etc. is on internet -- the Young Conservatory section of the ACT web site. The program is nationally acclaimed and has been in business a long time. There are numerous classes, teaching a wide variety of acting skills at increasing levels of difficulty. The class schedule is quite flexible -- after school; Saturdays; or summer. A student can take as few as one class at a time or several. In my mind the classes are not too expensive given the quality of the program and the opportunities that this program presents. I'd encourage you to reconsider ACT and talk with them about financial aid rather than skip this program due to cost. Good luck!