By Marissa Willman
Coachella Valley youth will have an opportunity to study theatre with experienced instructors during Palm Desert Theatre Academy’s five-week summer program that begins on June 11th.
The Palm Desert Theatre Academy was founded in 2010 by expert theatre educator David Catanzarite and National Board Certified teacher Karen Lin. The two met in Los Angeles where Lin was a 3rd grade teacher and Catanzarite was a traveling theatre instructor.
“We met teaching theatre to kids together,” Lin said. Today, the husband-and-wife team continues their work as co-owners of Palm Desert Theatre Academy, where students in grades 3-12 can enjoy extensive acting and stage training in a small group setting. The academy employs trained teachers and hosts its workshops at the California State University San Bernardino, Palm Desert campus.
The program is open to any student who is open to learning about theatre, regardless of experience. The program is divided into two groups: grades 3-6 and grades 7-12.
“There are a lot of different levels and we want to welcome all of them,” Lin said.
The academy takes a multipronged approach that teaches all aspects of theatre, from acting and stage voice to stagecraft and theory. Palm Desert Theatre Academy strives to create an environment that produces top-quality talent.
“We try to keep it rigorous,” Lin said. “I don’t just say we’re going to do a play. We try to teach different standards in theater. We want the kids to come out learning different aspects of theatre such as history or aesthetics. We want them to appreciate theater for what it is.”
Lin noted that some children are apt to try anything the instructors throw at them while others are very shy, but the program is designed to give every student an opportunity to act.
“We try to give everybody their spotlight on stage so that everyone has their time to shine,” Lin said. “We want to make sure everyone comes out with some acting experience.”
To ensure students are getting quality training, the academy tries to keep its teacher-to-student ratio at 1:8. Lin said the ratio is crucial for students to get proper feedback and instruction.
“With acting, there are so many things that you have to watch in a scene,” Lin said. “Especially with little ones, you can’t really tell them to go in a corner and do their thing. You have to watch every line they say.”
Indio High School senior Stephanie Jauregui, a Palm Desert Theatre Academy alumnus, will return to the academy this summer as a teaching intern thanks to a scholarship provided jointly by the Palm Desert Theatre Academy and Palm Springs Women in Television and Film. Jauregui, who is in the top five of her graduating class, has been actively involved in the theater arts since middle school and will study theater and English this fall at UCLA.
“I learned a lot about technique, tricks and warm-ups at the academy,” Jauregui said. “One of the things they taught me was about professional auditions. In school, we’re usually so busy with projects that we don’t have time to get into that.”
When she joined the academy, Jauregui was amazed by the professionalism of the younger children at the camp. Although Jauregui did not start acting at such a young age, she was motivated by their talent.
“I thought, I want to be just as good as if I had that training when I was younger,” Jauregui said.
This summer, she will help teach younger children what she learned at the academy over the years. As her former instructors, Lin and Catanzarite could not be happier for her.
“She already knows the format of the class,” Lin said. “She knows a lot of the inner workings of how we teach the trust and the respect that is so important for actors to have. This experience just seems perfect for her.”
Jauregui will work alongside a credentialed teacher as the academy’s policy is for each class to have at least one credentialed instructor. The five-week program will culminate in a public showcase on July 12th, where students will demonstrate what they learned through their performance.
Lin said the academy is slowly growing because they are focused on quality rather than quantity.
“We’re growing and expanding at a very slow rate because we’re watching the quality of the people that we hire,” Lin said. “But it’s our dream to have our own space and do professional children’s shows.”
For more information on Palm Desert Theatre Academy, visit PalmDesertTheatreAcademy.com.