This fall, Bridgehampton’s Hampton Ballet Theatre School has added a new program to their roster. In addition to contemporary dance, ballet, tap, hip-hop, and pointe, the school is now offering acting for two different age groups. The eight-week course began during the first week of November. The first course of 2020 begins the week of January 20.
Kate Mueth, co-founder and artistic director of the award-winning theater company The Neo-Political Cowgirls, has teamed up with Hampton Ballet Theatre School owner Sara Jo Strickland to develop this acting course. “Anyone is welcome. Any level of experience is great,” Mueth said. The classes are divided into two different age groups: 9 to 12 and 13 to 18. And while the schedule is currently limited to one class for each age group per week, Mueth has not ruled out expanding the program, should interest require it. “I’m a committed person, so if the numbers are there, and people are asking for it, I will make room and make a class available at any point as long as my schedule allows,” she said.
The idea of marrying dance with theater came about organically. “I get asked quite frequently about classes for young actors,” Mueth said. She and Strickland have known one another and worked together for years. Why not combine the interest for acting with the investment of dance? The goal for dancers embracing acting courses, Mueth said, is to help them “open up the channel to feel emotions while they’re moving. It’s lovely to be able to work with Sara Jo. She has such a great following, and such great students.”
Some of Strickland’s students have enrolled in Mueth’s acting course already, but the hope is to broaden the scope of the program to encourage participation from members outside of the school. “We’re just trying to get the feel for students out there that might want to participate,” she said.
Mueth is used to teaching different levels and different age groups, and views this breadth as part of what makes her craft so wonderful. “You’re all doing the work together,” she said of the mix of different ages. “It’s just a really gorgeous way of figuring out what it means to be human.”
The 8-week semester will include play (“play is at the heart of being an actor”), movement, voice work, and scene work. In the future, Mueth hopes to orchestrate a shared presentation, in which students can casually perform or present their newly honed skills. The course will also place a heavy emphasis on communication skills. “The place that I like to focus on them with this is on confidence building and friendship building. And I don’t necessarily mean that they leave and become best friends,” she said.
Actually, part of the point of the program is to explore how ideas are shared, and to learn how to mine imagination. Adult actors, she said, are constantly trying to get back to the childhood mind, where imagination reigns and responsibility is nonexistent. For her young actors, engaging in the process of imagining is an important step in learning how to exist in the world.
“I just want them to stay tapped into that imagination and have more courage in their playing and discover new things about their abilities,” Mueth said. “It builds respect, hopefully, and a tolerance to open up, to listen. The listening skills [are] really, really important.” The classes, Mueth said, may evolve over time. The initial offering is to gauge interest, with the hopes that the community responds to the class offerings with enthusiasm. “It’s sort of just dipping our toes in,” she said.
The acting class at the Hampton Ballet School is offered on Wednesdays from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. for ages 13 to 18 and on Fridays from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. for ages 9 to 12. Classes cost $194 per week. Registration forms are available online at hamptonballettheatreschool.com. Classes require a minimum of 6 people, but Mueth will accept up to 20 students per class.