Traditionally, university theater programs have been just that — a way to train performers for a career on the stage. But one university decided that the old model was no longer working. “We have an obligation to train performers for the entire industry,” says Jorge Cacheiro, the executive director of Pace School of Performing Arts at Pace University. “Previously, students were being trained to go into the theater industry exclusively.” So earlier this month, Pace decided to go Hollywood — literally. The school launched a new Los Angeles-based acting and dance-intensive program for seniors getting ready to graduate this spring. For the last three weeks, in addition to taking classes geared toward performing on film, the selected students have been meeting with casting directors and producers. “We want to be the forerunner in bicoastal training,” says Cacheiro.
Adjustingto the camera:A major focus of the intensive class was to teach the students how to adapt to performing on film.
Cacheiro explains that the type of dance needed for film is something “that’s not really taught” in a traditional choreography class. Among the professionals the students are working with is “So You Think You Can Dance” choreographer Mandy Moore. Cacheiro says the dancers are learning to perform a full range of styles. “One day they were given choreography for a Pitbull music video,” he recalls. “Then the very next day those same students were told to create something for Disney.”
A changing industry: “The emphasis on young performers is so hot right now that we have to raise the bar,” says Cacheiro. To that end, students also spent time preparing for a showcase for directors and other industry professionals. “The actors are performing two pieces that are suited to their personalities,” Cacheiro explains. The dancers also select two pieces that display their range.
One student’s journey: Emmanuel Polycarpe is currently a senior in Pace’s acting program. Originally from Long Island, NY he says he’d never been to Los Angeles before being selected for the class. “What’s really awesome is that we get to talk to a lot of professionals about things like how to audition and how to prepare material,” he says. “A huge part of it is building these relationships.” Polycarpe says he is working on a scene from HBO’s “The Wire” to perform at the showcase, but recalls that one good bit of advice the students received came from an actor who came in as a guest speaker. “He said, you may not always book the job, but you should always book the room.”
Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.