It’s not unusual for people interested in pursuing a particular career path to take classes that will get them started on the road to fulfilling their dreams. But in the acting world, it’s rare that a single class can lead directly to performing for huge audiences. For several members of the cast of A Christmas Carol, that’s precisely what happened when they were discovered via an audition workshop with director Rosemary Newcott. We spoke with Chris Moses, the Alliance Theatre’s director of educational programs, to learn more about the connection between the Alliance’s education and performance opportunities.
You took over as the director of educational programs in January. What have been the challenges of your first year?
The fact that arts funding for public schools continues to be cut. We do a lot of work in school systems as well as on our campus here, so we’re forced to find creative ways to partner with other organizations in order to provide access to all of the wonderful stuff we do.
What have been the biggest rewards?
We have a huge educational scope, which I don’t think a lot of people realize. This year we started a new program called Theatre for the Very Young, which is a professional performance program designed for kids as young as 18 months. We have all these creative approaches to storytelling to get the kids involved. On the other end, we’re also committed to working with adults, providing training for adults who want to become actors, or those who just want to use it to help their careers. There’s a wide range of opportunities.
Have you seen more kids taking an interest in acting classes with the influx of new film and TV projects being shot in Georgia in recent years?
Absolutely! We began seeing a surge of kids when Tyler Perry’s studio started cranking things out. We had Tyler Perry’s casting agent come sit in and talk to the kids, and they actually cast a couple of kids from our program, as well. We’ve also seen a bump in adults: When people hear Cameron Diaz is shooting a film here on our campus, it definitely helps our enrollment.
How do these educational programs feed into a production such as A Christmas Carol?
Historically, nearly all of the kids who play the various Cratchit kids came up through our classes. This year, director Rosemary Newcott held an audition workshop to give kids an opportunity to work with her and learn what she’s looking for. It helps her as well, because through that workshop she found two of the kids who wound up being in the show.
How do you keep A Christmas Carol fresh when you do the show year after year?
I think a lot of it has to do with how Rosemary approaches it from such a sincere place. The heart of the story, to me, is still radical — this notion that anyone has the capacity to change at anytime. The show has become such a beloved tradition here, and so many members of the cast has been doing it for so long, it takes on a real family atmosphere that is a gift both to the actors and to the community.
As an actor yourself, what sort of fulfillment do you get from working with these aspiring actors?
It’s incredibly fulfilling to see their imagination being sparked. It’s thrilling to see a child experiencing that first connection to art and see them connecting to each other through their shared experience with this art form. That’s my fuel for doing this.
Bret Love is the founder of ecotourism/conservation site GreenGlobalTravel.com; the national managing editor of INsite magazine; and music editor for Georgia Music Magazine. He freelances for more than a dozen other national and international publications, and performs on numerous improv teams with Jackpie at Relapse Theatre.