The theatrical profession isn’t just about “lights, camera, action!” Success is contingent on knowing how to manage the business itself, said Paula Curcuru, founder of Oyster Bay’s LI Actors Resource Room.
She and Irene Neglia, her friend of 35 years, are providing a unique opportunity for young actors to help them prepare for auditions and offer guidance to their parents about the industry. The Resource Room had a soft opening a month and a half ago, and held a ribbon cutting with the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Chamber of Commerce last Saturday.
Curcuru said she had always wanted to open a place like the Resource Room, but got inspired to follow through on the idea after seeing what Long Island was lacking.
“I went to a Long Island acting school and the kids performed for me,” said Curcuru, of Oyster Bay. A talent manager for the past 17 years, she is the owner of Prestige Management Group in Manhattan. “I noticed the kids didn’t know how to audition. They were playing with their hair while talking to me and didn’t know what the term ‘slate’ meant.”
The acting schools on the Island don’t teach their students the business side, she said, which they should know to land jobs.
But the Resource Room isn’t just about business. There are three or four session workshops for acting, commercials, film, television and musical theater. And for the parents, there is a Q&A after the last class of each workshop. According to the brochure, the goal of each workshop is to provide “a well-rounded education on the basic aspects of acting.” But participants, children between ages 4 and 17, don’t have to aspire to become professional actors. They can go to the Resource Room to become more confident, or just to have fun.
Both women, who are 43, are parents. Neglia, of Seaford, has a daughter and Curcuru is the mother of two boys. “I’m a mom first,” she said. “I back and support the choices that the parents are making for their children.”
Neglia has worked with disabled children as a paraprofessional, and is also a real estate agent.
“I feel we have a balance,” Curcuru said. “I have the industry resume and Irene is good with children. We both have a passion and love for kids. ”
Children at the Resource Room engage in improvisation, monologues and scenes. In the last class they audition, and Curcuru critiques their work. Learning improvisation is crucial, she said. “It helps you carry yourself through if you forget a line. They may even end up using that material because it’s coming from a child.”
Slating — when the actor states his or her name at the beginning of an audition — is important too, Curcuru said, especially with children. It allows the auditioner to see the child’s personality, she said, which is important with younger actors.
“This is a place where they can be free,” Neglia said. “We have seen their confidence turn around in three weeks.” And that includes her daughter, Gianna, who is 10.
After taking a workshop in acting, Curcuru said she saw Gianna, who is shy, “come out of her shell.”
Experiencing her first time on stage, Gianna said she knew nothing about acting prior to taking the workshop. “It was fun learning new things and I made a new friend too,” she said. “The most fun was at the end when everyone got up to sing on the stage. I sang ‘Girl on Fire.’”
The workshops always include an opportunity at the end for the children to sing and dance on stage just for fun. That’s because, as Curcuru and Neglia said more than once, the Resource Room is a place for children to enjoy themselves while they are learning.
Different materials are given to parents to help them understand the business side of theater. Curcuru said parents ask her questions, like what’s involved in getting a work permit for their child, how they can get audition opportunities and an agent. She is happy to offer advice.
“I want people to know, for example, that they don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a headshot,” she said. “We are really trying to save people money here. We help them by saying this is what you do need.”
The Resource Room also has birthday party packages where a child is the “star.” And Curcuru and Neglia have had other types of parties too, including a Glow Party, Valentines and Awesome 80’s parties, where parents drop off their children for two hours of fun.
The Resource Room not only has a stage. It also has a sound studio where children can put on headphones and sing or be recorded practicing voiceovers. There is an area with make-up mirrors to practice stage makeup, and during the party’s children can get their hair styled.
Chloe Lang, who portrayed Stephanie on a Nickelodeon children’s show, “Lazytown,” stopped by to sign autographs and dance with children on Saturday at the Resource Room’s opening. Seeing somone up close from a television show must have been thrilling for the children. It might have even given them the inspiration to believe that perhaps one day they could be a star too.
The LI Actors Resource Room is at 19 Townsend Square, Oyster Bay. For further information call (516) 802-5335 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.