OPRAH: Where Are They Now?
Featuring Antonio Sabato Jr. & The Acting Academy
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Sabato Jr. passes on his passion for acting to youths by opening acting academy
Antonio Sabato Jr. opens acting academy
By Donna Griffin
PHOTO BY TROY HARVEY, VENTURA COUNTY STAR
Young people with a passion for acting have met their match in mentor Antonio Sabato Jr., who is passing on his love for the craft at his recently opened Antonio Sabato Jr. Acting Academy for Children in Westlake Village.
With more than 20 years of industry experience, Sabato knows that it takes time spent in continued training to maintain an edge as a successful working actor. Each year he hones his skills by taking an intensive acting workshop, and he wondered how he could create a similar learning environment for the children he has grown to care for through his years of volunteer work in area schools.
A 6-year resident of Westlake, Sabato, father of three, led several acting seminars at area high schools, where he found the students’ ardor for acting to be amazing, he said.
“I really saw some good kids, some talented kids.” And in a few cases some “huge talent,” Sabato said. He became determined to give local children access to the level of instruction he had attained at an early stage in his career, studying under acting luminaries Nina Foch, Stella Adler and Howard Fine, to name only a few, he said.
“I get really involved and really care, and there was nothing like that around here,” he said. “I really love kids. I really want to do something where I live because there’s nothing to help these kids understand, like a true workshop, to help the parents find out what do I do? Where do I take them? How do I get representation?” Sabato said.
Sabato, an acting veteran best known for his past roles in “General Hospital,” “Melrose Place” and “The Bold and the Beautiful,” can be seen in the upcoming romantic comedy, “Balls to the Wall.”
Antonio Sabato Jr. opens acting academy
The academy, which opened its doors in July, offers a foundation class covering acting fundamentals and technical aspects of the craft as well as a smaller masters class. Private lessons are also available for students whose hectic schedules don’t mesh with regular class times. Students range in age from young adult to 7 years old.
The masters class was where Nick Norjean, 17, of Westlake and 14-year-old Kyra Levenson of Thousand Oaks ran through a scene from Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge” five times under the kind, but eagle eye of Sabato. At one point, while in character, she cried.
“Why did you cry? Sabato asked.
Kyra unsuccessfully searched for words to explain.
“You do know; you cried,” Sabato said. “You were crying for a reason. Something affected you as an individual; he affected you. Don’t be afraid to express what goes on inside you.”
Kyra then communicated her character’s emotional response simply, “I wanted … I felt …”
Sabato agreed. “I want you to express that … Whatever comes out, and don’t let it be, ‘If I’m going to do this I’m going to be judged.’ Speak from the heart. Speak truth …”
After the intensity of the class, Kyra was ready to share why she puts herself through such hard work.
“I love performing, releasing everything — it’s a lot of energy. It’s like a natural high for me to be able to be …,” she said.
“Be! That’s good enough, just be there,” Sabato said. “Be real.”
Although Kyra has been involved in acting since age 5, her mother, Wendy Levenson, has noticed a change in her daughter’s skill level since she began attending Sabato’s classes in July.
“She was always focused, but definitely her skills have really improved,” Wendy said. “She’s taken acting classes other places, but it hasn’t been the same quality. It makes a difference when it’s a working actor who’s all about getting into the character. He pushes them; and he’s like, ‘The more you act, the better you get at it.’”
For Sabato, instilling the lesson that acting is about preparation and professionalism is of primary importance. It’s understanding that it is a job as well as a craft.
“It’s the longevity of a career,” he said.
He coaches the students and parents on the business side of the industry; getting the right photo head shots, how to audition for agents and casting directors and how to handle rejection.
Masters class student Norjean has been on a few auditions. “It’s pretty tough,” he said. “They don’t tell me no to my face; they just don’t call.”
Norjean will keep auditioning because “I love playing different characters,” he said. Not being selected for a part doesn’t get him down, he said. “Well that’s the business; you get used to it.”
These students are self-motivated. It’s not their parents pushing them into the business, Sabato said.
“I see they really want to do it. They just don’t have the tools,” he said. “I tell them start here, and you keep going (auditioning), and you become really good at what you do and they’re not going to say no. Maybe once or twice — but the third, fourth time you walk in, and are prepared, they’re going to say yes.”