BWW Feature: MASTER CLASS WITH RORY O'MALLEY at Young Actors' Theatre Camp

BWW Feature: MASTER CLASS WITH RORY O'MALLEY at Young Actors' Theatre Camp

Last weekend, in the intimate San Francisco Playhouse, about 100 students had the privilege of attending a Master Class put on by the Young Actors' Theatre Camp (YATC). The featured artist was Rory O'Malley, who is currently in San Francisco playing King George III in the national tour of Hamilton.

Leading the workshop was Shawn Ryan, who, with his husband John Ainsworth, started the Young Actors' Theatre Camp 16 years ago. Funny, engaging, self-deprecating and handsome, Ryan held kids and adults alike rapt with his stories of being a working actor since his teenage years and his current work on the show "Famous in Love." He started the camp based on what he would have liked to experience when he was growing up, and throughout the year strives to bring weekend workshops to the Bay Area so that the kids can work with industry professionals.

This particular workshop piqued my interest and was my first introduction to YATC. I was intrigued because, well, it's Rory O'Malley. Before King George, he was best known as Elder McKinley in the original Broadway cast of Book of Mormon. O'Malley took to the stage to thunderous applause and a room full of wide-eyed adoration, kept in check only by Ryan's warning that they were all peers and to keep the fangirl swooning to 10 minutes.

As much as I was disappointed that O'Malley didn't break into "You'll Be Back," the Q&A session made up for it. Kids were allowed to ask questions, again with Ryan's warning to not ask about puppies and favorite colors, and they were all well-thought out and surprisingly mature for an age group of 8-18 year olds. One teenage girl asked how he dealt with typecasting and he responded that he embraced it because it meant that he was getting auditions. Another asked about handling rejection at auditions and the room hung on his every word as he said to leave an audition and forget about it. "It's not your job to judge it. Move on. The faster you leave it behind, the happier, healthier, and more prepared for the next one you will be. If you worry about it, it makes it about you not getting something and not about telling a story. I get to pretend to be this person for a day. Don't look at it as a failure; look at it as a way to practice."

He also spoke about his Living the Dream podcast. He started it after listening to others and seeing a void that could be filled. In it, he speaks with actors that interest him and that he looks up to. He wanted to show others how to build a career and keep going, and says that it turned into cheap therapy for him along the way.

After the Q&A, 8 pre-selected students were allowed to come up and sing an audition piece. O'Malley then gave them suggestions on how to improve their audition. One girl was told to keep her hands at her sides and let her voice tell her story. Another student was told to say the song as a monologue first to really learn what he was singing about and to get into the character. All of this was invaluable to kids whose biggest dream is to perform. A final performer was so overcome with emotion that she asked if she could hug him, which he happily obliged.

At the end of his time, the ever-patient O'Malley posed for pictures with all of the workshop participants and graciously thanked them individually for coming. The kids were then taken to the second half of the workshop, which consisted of reading monologues and casting their peers in a play. This session was run by Ryan, Ainsworth, and other camp counselors. The entire YATC staff was knowledgeable and passionate about their craft. They interacted with the kids as peers and everyone left the workshop happier and invigorated in the art.

It is easy to see why the YATC camps were voted a Bay Area Parent Family Favorite and Best of the East Bay several years in a row. This summer there will be four overnight camping sessions in the Santa Cruz area, with instructors such as Laura Bell Bundy (Broadway's "Legally Blonde"), Megan Hilty ("Smash", "Wicked"), and Jonathan Groff ("Hamilton", "Frozen"). More information can be found at

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