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Uptown Acting Studio Wants Training To Be Available To Everyone

By Mina Bloom | June 22, 2015 5:38am
 Owners of Green Shirt Studio, Sommer Austin (l.) and Andrew Gallant.
Owners of Green Shirt Studio, Sommer Austin (l.) and Andrew Gallant.
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

UPTOWN — Beginning in July, an Uptown acting studio will host free programming on Fridays. 

It's the latest move for Green Shirt Studio, 4407 N. Clark St., an acting studio that prides itself on offering high-quality, affordable acting classes to anyone from an 18-year-old to a 75-year-old nun.

"What we've got is a university faculty for cheap as hell," said Andrew Gallant, who founded the studio with his wife, Sommer Austin. 

Gallant, 34, and Austin, 37, met while pursing undergraduate degrees in theater at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Gallant went on to get his master's at DePaul University, and now teaches acting at both DePaul and Triton College in suburban River Grove. Austin teaches at Triton, too. 

Operating on the philosophy that an acting education should be accessible to everyone, the married couple opened Green Shirt Studio at Ravenswood and Wilson avenues six years ago on top of performing in local shows as well as writing and producing works of their own.

One of the areas where actors train at Green Shirt Studio, 4407 N. Clark St. [DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]

In September, they moved into their current Clark Street location, where they feel like they're hitting their stride, Gallant said. 

For one thing, they're both excited about free Friday programming. They envision community yoga classes in the afternoon and repetition classes in the evening where actors can practice Meisner technique, which was developed by legendary actor and teacher Sanford Meisner in the 1930s and has been studied by countless famous actors. That, or a question and answer session with a casting director or getting students together to read a play.

They're also steadily adding more classes to the weekly schedule. Typically, the studio offers 15 classes a week, taught by Gallant and Austin or other working actors and university-level teachers. 

Over the last six years, Gallant estimates the studio has taught upward of 1,500 students, which Austin said is partially due to the quality of the instructors. 

"You can't find these classes outside of an MFA [master of fine arts] program. And certainly not all in the same place," she said.

A 10-week Meisner class will set you back $295, a far cry from a semester's worth of classes at DePaul University or other colleges in the area.

Of course, there are theater companies in the city that offer acting training, Austin said, but most of them require auditions. At Green Shirt Studio, everyone can participate, which makes it unique. 

"We're saying that anyone has something to say as an actor. If they cultivate it in the right way, they'll grow into good performers," Gallant said.

Take the elderly woman, who had been a nun for 35 years before enrolling in classes at the Uptown studio, for example.

"You would never see a 75-year-old in an MFA program," Austin said.

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