American Conservatory Theater offers satellite in Hollister


Professional training available for students interested in
Professional training available for students interested in acting

Young San Benito County actors will have a chance to take classes from the American Conservatory Theater, a San Francisco-based program, right in their own backyard.

Julianne Palma, the satellite campus program director, pitched the idea to some of her colleagues at ACT of offering a few classes in Hollister this spring.

“I’ve taught for the ACT previously for the Young Conservatory,” Palma said. “I was just thinking earlier in the year that it had never really occurred to me that I should even contact ACT to see if they were interested in the idea of having a satellite campus.”

Palma studied at ACT, where she earned a master’s degree in theater. The conservatory offers classes for adults and children. Some of the graduates it boosts include Darren Criss, who is a star on the Fox show “Glee,” as well as Milo Ventimiglia, Winona Ryder and Nicolas Cage.

“They gave me the go-ahead from the very first pitch,” Palma said.

ACT offers classes for kids in grades three through 12, but until this month the classes have only been offered to kids who are willing or able to travel to San Francisco. The satellite classes in Hollister will be open to San Benito County youth, but Palma said that she hopes to draw from other nearby counties such as Monterey, Santa Cruz and south Santa Clara.

For the first session, ACT will offer five classes including an acting workshop, dance and movement for theater, audition workshop, improvisation and musical theater. The classes meet once a week for an hour and half, after school or Saturday morning, with third through eighth grade students meeting together and ninth to 12th grade students meeting together. The program runs Jan. 16 to March 17, and the fee is $180 per class. The classes will be held at 360 Sixth St., in Hollister, where Palma is collaborating with Joe Ostenson, a retired music teacher who soon will be opening Mr. O’s Academy of the Arts.

Palma will teach some of the classes and will have assistance from another teacher for improv as well as musical theater. She said each session needs to have a minimum of six students and will have a maximum of 20 students.

“Hopefully we get enough interest,” Palma said. “Hopefully people are aware of the ACT and its reputation.”

Palma said she selected a roster of basic classes to start out so that she could get a sense of what students are most interested. After the first session, she and her colleagues at ACT will review the offerings and may add more advanced classes.

“This is a completely different program than anything they can be provided with (now,)” Palma said. “There are lots of community theater groups. But our training gives them the opportunity to improve their skills. They will be completely prepared to walk on stage to audition for San Benito Stage Company, or in San Jose. They will be professionals by the time they go through the training.”

In the future there may be a chance for students in the classes to visit the Conservatory in San Francisco or go on auditions in the greater Bay Area.

“They have the same level of talent as we do in San Jose or San Francisco,” Palma said of local students “There is just not as much access to high-level training.”

In addition to teaching classes at ACT, Palma has taught at Gavilan College for 11 years, and at the California Theater Center and the University of Anchorage’s summer youth program. This summer she will be directing a show at the Utah Shakespeare Festival.

“So if things go well with this session, when I come back we will reevaluate where we are and offer another session,” Palma said.

She also acknowledged the collaboration with Ostenson to share space with other teachers.

“We are very excited about Mr. O’s Academy opening,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for the arts in Hollister and I’m personally very happy for the opportunity, not just for ACT, but all these music classes and things that can be provided for youth.”

American Conservatory Theater Young Conservatory satellite classes

The American Conservatory Theater will offer five Young Conservatory classes in Hollister Jan. 16 to March 17. Classes are $180 each and will meet at 360 Sixth St., in Hollister, at Mr. O’s Academy of the Arts.

Acting workshop (Mondays)

3:30 to 5 p.m., third through eighth grade

5:30 to 7 p.m., ninth through 12th grade

Dance and movement for the theater (Tuesdays)

3:30 to 5 p.m., third through eighth grade

5:30 to 7 p.m., ninth through 12th grade

Audition workshop (Wednesdays)

3:30 to 5 p.m., third through eighth grade

5:30 to 7 p.m., ninth through 12th grade

Improv (Thursdays)

3:30 to 5 p.m., third through eighth grade

5:30 to 7 p.m., ninth through 12th grade

Musical theater (Saturdays)

9 to 10:30 a.m., third through eighth grade

10:30 a.m. to noon, ninth through 12th grade

For more information or to register for a session, call Julianne Palma at 245-8491 or email [email protected] For more on the Young Conservatory, visit



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