30th Anniversary Gala, May 27th, 2023

By: May. 23, 2023


Janet Adderley's journey from Houston to Los Angeles and her subsequent founding of The Adderley School is a testament to her passion for nurturing young talent and helping them find their own voice. Her own experiences as a performer and her dedication to her daughters led her to create a space where young people could develop their artistic abilities.

Janet Adderley's artistic inspiration began early in her life, as she found joy in watching shows like the Carol Burnett Hour and going to the movies with her mother. These experiences ignited her love for the performing arts and set the stage for her future career. After attending the prestigious Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, Janet pursued a successful career in stage and television. Her work in the entertainment industry allowed her to express her own creativity and showcase her talents. However, it was her move to Los Angeles that marked a turning point in her life.

“If I were a color, I'd be fire engine red and if my younger daughter Alana were a color, she'd be lavender” starts Janet Adderley with a huge smile. Being a working actor and a single mother, Janet saw an opportunity to make a positive impact on her daughters' lives during her downtime. Her youngest daughter, Alana, faced social challenges and struggled to find her place in a new school. Drawing on her own experiences and her nurturing nature, Janet took it upon herself to create an environment where Alana and other young people could develop their own inner brilliance. In 1993, Janet Adderley founded The Adderley School, a performing arts school that aimed to provide a safe and supportive space for young talents to explore their creativity. With Janet's guidance and mentorship, students at The Adderley School have been able to develop their skills in acting, singing, dancing, and more.

Janet Adderley's story is one of passion, perseverance, and the transformative power of the arts. Through her own journey and the creation of The Adderley School, she has exemplified her belief that giving people a space to nurture their inner brilliance can lead to incredible achievements and personal fulfillment.

Can you share a memory of a lavender girl whom you helped find her inner red voice?

During our production of Annie at the Pacific Palisades studio, a shy and sweet five-year-old girl joined our cast. She didn't seek attention and simply wanted to participate in the show to be with her friends. Throughout the "show and tell" session, where students have the opportunity to showcase their talents, she remained quiet and reserved. Despite her shyness, I saw potential in her and cast her as Tessie. However, when she went home, she had a meltdown. She didn't believe in her singing abilities and wanted to quit. Upon receiving a call from her mother, I encouraged her to trust me and bring her daughter back to the studio. When the little girl returned, I sat her down and had an honest conversation. I told her that she could choose to sit and watch or try to do the part, assuring her that either way, it would be okay, and we would figure it out together. Fortunately, she decided to stay and give it a try.

On the day of the show, our originally cast Pepper fell ill and didn't show up. At that moment, I turned to the little girl and asked, "Baby girl, do you know the Pepper parts?" She nodded and smiled. I then asked her, "Do you want to be Pepper today?" Her face lit up with the brightest smile. That day, she took on the role of Pepper and had the time of her life. It was a transformative experience for her. Now, as a grown-up, she has become a professional singer. This memory serves as a reminder of the importance of meeting children where they are and providing them with opportunities to grow and shine in their own unique ways.

Janet Adderley teaching students (PC: The Adderley School)

 What is the magic behind The Adderley School teaching method?

The Adderley School does not focus on acting but uses acting to nurture young people to find their inner red voice, it gives them a space to be heard and to be seen at their own pace. The secret of our teaching method is to see each child beyond the “now” and help them achieve their full potential.

Ben Platt (Ben Platt, Jack Dylan Grazer, Kathryn Gallagher, are among Janet’s most famous alumni) could have had anybody as his teacher in his first 10 years of development as an actor and he'd grown up to be Ben Platt. However, it is the ones like that little lavender girl that I hang my legacy on. I say this in my curtain speeches all the time “acting, singing, and dancing is just a gimmick”, quoting the words of the musical Gypsy “you gotta have a gimmick”. This is the vehicle we use to help children and adults - because we teach adult classes too - to discover their own unique power, their own unique red voice.

You want somebody that meets you where you are, that embraces who you are and helps you be the best that you can be. Right after the COVID lockdown, we were doing the musical Pippin. I had four very different students cast as Charlemagne. At The Adderley School we quadruple-cast all shows at this point because it's vitally important to me that every single child has a leading role. Nobody enjoys or learns from carrying a flag across the stage and from watching others perform, so we make it possible for every child to have a leading role. I had hired a woman who had covered all 5 leading roles in the Broadway revival of Pippin - she now runs my Advanced Conservatory program. She learned a new lesson coming to work with us straight from Broadway and that lesson is that you must meet the children where they are. We had four very different students in the role of Charlemagne; a rocker-type kid, a big soccer player, a non-binary child that used to come to rehearsal in full Scottish kilt. We couldn’t ask them all to portray the same exact Charlemagne, we had to meet them each where they were and let them bring their own voice to the role. 

When I was cast in the musical Starlight Express on Broadway, I was an unknown girl from Houston, Texas. Andrew Lloyd Webber originally wanted a famous star for the part, but he got me. I will never forget my first day of rehearsal, I did something different and the director Trevor Nunn jumped out of this seat and on to the stage and told me “I want you to remember that lock and load is what I call it now” but “being a director is really easy, my job is to hire the right people and remind them of their own brilliance” He taught me a valuable lesson that day, he made me realize that being me was all I needed to be. 

Whether it is an adult or a child with a passion for acting or any other pursuit, people should find someone like Trevor Nunn, someone who can remind them of their own brilliance. This is the magic of The Adderley School—providing a place where students are reminded of their unique talents and given the opportunity to discover their own red voice and become their authentic selves at their own pace.

Janet and Student (PC: The Adderley School)

What are the different programs that you offer at The Adderley School?

Bertha, Pippin's grandmother and one of my favorite characters in Pippin, sings “You are my time, so I'll throw off my shawl. And watching your flings be flung all over, makes me feel young all over”. This encapsulates where I am at this point in my life. I’m determined to find a way to provide access and training to all children. I want to spread some good old Janet fairy dust to those that could use that kind of magic. If I am going to be remembered, I hope it is not for my years as an actress in regional theater and Broadway, or my years in film and television, but the thing that I want to be remembered for is my legacy, this school, and the kids that I mentored throughout my life. I hope to live on when their flings are flung all over.

The Adderley School is a private – for profit – performing arts conservatory. Children that can afford taking performance classes pay tuition. We have always found ways to give opportunities to students that can’t pay tuition, and it has been like that for many years. However, we knew we needed to do more so we started a non-profit foundation to work with children from underserved communities. 

Thanks to the creation of the foundation, I can spread my fairy dust further and affect the lives of under-resourced children in a profound way. For example, in Texas, the foundation is working with Blackshear Elementary to provide free acting classes to students as part of their after-school program. We are also focusing on bringing a similar partnership in every city where we have a studio. These are free classes taught by professional performers and teachers, mostly minority teachers. Anne Richards, who is a humongous hero in my life, once said “if you can't see it, you can't dream it”, and this is very true but specially for young children of color. Seeing the impact that my daughter Alana has on the kids at Blackshear is amazing. You see how their faces light up when she walks in the room. She is like their fairy godmother that came to make all their dreams come true. 

The private foundation received a generous donation from Stephen Sherryl, former president of Second Stage Theatre in New York City, who is matching up to $100,000 in donations in honor of the school’s 30th anniversary. Outgoing Austin Mayor Adler and his wife are also supporters of our school and hosted a private fundraiser early in May. With supporters like TV host and actor James Corden, actor-musician Ben Platt, and producer Debra Martin Chase we have captured the attention of celebrities Nationwide. However, we count on the love of The Adderley School’s families and friends who provide ongoing support in our fundraising efforts. Anyone can support the foundation by attending the various shows throughout the year, participating in any of the public fundraisers, or simply donating through our website. The big 3-0 party is The Adderley School’s biggest fundraiser to-date, and it will take place in Santa Barbara on May 27th.

James Corden and Ben Platt Hosts of The Adderley School 30th Anniversary Gala (PC: The Adderley School)

What is next for Janet and The Adderley School?

We have five schools. Pacific Palisades is our flagship studio and it is 30 years old. I opened a school in Santa Barbara 20 years ago and then we came to Austin. We had an amazing COVID accident and now we've got 200 kids in Connecticut, and we recently opened a school in New Orleans. Each one of these schools is connected to a community of under-resourced children and our goal with the foundation is to partner with those communities and provide free training and classes. 

Right now, we have a few events going on leading to this weekend’s anniversary gala in California. We also have end of the year shows planned in many cities. I’m excited to have James Corden as one of our hosts and EMCEE this weekend before he moves his family back to England. His son Max is one of our students in California.

We just completed a round of cabaret shows in LA with more to come in May in Santa Barbara. We have The Music Man at the Austin Dell Fine Arts Center coming up on June 4th and 5th.  In this show, we have an extraordinary 9-year-old girl playing the leading role, which is a tremendous experience for someone so young, especially as we also have a live orchestra performing the score. You can find our calendar here

What is special about Austin for you and The Adderley School? 

The tremendous support that I received from the Austin community has been the driving force behind the success of my foundation. Both the private sector and families from The Adderley School have been amazing. Nowhere else in the country have I found an artistic community so willing to step in and help one another. I want the readers to know that the theater community in Austin, the musical theater community, is unlike any place I've ever seen. I mean, there is a Broadway producing community here in town that funds some of the most brilliant shows on Broadway (Hadestown, The Prom, Company, The Inheritance, Tootsie, New York New York are some of the many productions with investors or producers from Austin, TX). Another great example of local talent is the Heller Awards for Young Artists, which just happened in April and it celebrates local high schools and their talented performers and even selects two students to go to the Jimmy Awards in New York City to compete at the National level. The talent in Austin, TX is incredible. 

What is beyond the 30th anniversary? 

30 more years! 

I just want to know that The Adderley School is going to be OK and that it will live on beyond me. That is what is next.

Janet Adderley is one of the most nurturing individuals I have ever had the privilege of knowing. Her remarkable ability to recognize the brilliance within every child and guide them to discover their own red voice with love, encouragement, patience, and passion is truly inspiring. Regardless of whether someone identifies as lavender or magenta red, finding a mentor or teacher like Janet Adderley can have a profound and life-changing impact. Her unique approach to empowering young talent and helping individuals unlock their own brilliance has touched the lives of many, leaving an indelible mark on their journeys of self-discovery and growth.

As we celebrate the successes of Janet and The Adderley School, I wholeheartedly extend my best wishes for their continued triumphs for the next 30 years and beyond. The world needs more of Janet’s fairy dust. 

For more on The Adderley School and the Foundation visit



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