AVHS alum fulfills his dream with theater camp | July 19, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |


Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - July 19, 2013

AVHS alum fulfills his dream with theater camp

Camp connects young actors to the greater world of theater

by Isabella Ohlmeyer

Shawn Ryan felt like a big fish in a small pond at Amador Valley High School, where he longed to escape to a performing arts camp. He envisioned an open door filled with opportunities in the theater industry.

Ryan graduated from Amador in 1996 and went on to study theater arts at Las Positas College, the Second City Conservatory and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. His acting career in Hollywood has taken off, and he's involved in all aspects of the arts.

In 2002, he followed through with his high school dream and created an award-winning theater camp that has now been expanded to multiple sessions during the summer.

"Our inspiration to start the Young Actors' Theatre Camp was so that we could give back to kids what we wished we had when we were their age," Ryan said. "When I graduated AVHS, all my parents knew how to say was, 'It's a really tough industry.' But there was so much that I didn't know when entering this professional world."

He founded the camp with his husband, John Ainsworth, who is also a professional actor. Ryan has been working professionally since the age of 14 and started the camp after he finished his first professional theatre gig.

Unlike Ryan, Ainsworth did not start his acting career until he was in his 20s, due to a lack of any sort of theater program at his high school in Nevada.

"I grew up in Reno and I was not able to do plays at my high school because our school did not perform musicals or plays," Ainsworth said. "I wanted to give high school kids a chance to be part of a camp that helps them grow, be who they are, and not feel judged or judge others."

The Young Actors' Theatre Camp is now in its 12th season. Winter camp sessions are seven days and six nights, while the summer camps have expanded to three different sessions and are 10-11 days long. There are 110 kids per season.

Kayla Manzo, a sophmore at Amador, has attended Young Actors' Theatre Camp for three years and finds it an amazing experience.

"The reason I keep coming back is mostly to better myself as an actor, but also to learn about singing and dancing, and through that, it has bettered me as a person," Manzo said.

Professional courses at the camp include on-camera technique, vocal technique, monologue workshops, comedy and improvisation, hip-hop/jazz dance and much more.

These fun, yet prestigious courses are taught by professional actors, including Tony Award Winner Sutton Foster from "Thoroughly Modern Millie" and "Bunheads," and funny-man Jim O'Heir from "Parks & Recreation."

O'Heir taught a master class at the camp during its first summer session, from June 24-July 3.

"The kids wanted to suck up all the information they can about the professional world," O'Heir said. "I told them that every audition is important, and you never know who it is or what it will lead to on the road."

Adam Siegel, a veteran camper, camp counselor and another Amador alum, has found his career path by attending and participating in the camp.

"I began attending YATC as a freshman in high school, and it really opened my eyes to the possibilities in the entertainment industry," Siegel said. "Like most campers, I went to YATC with hopes of becoming an on-screen actor, but soon realized my talents lay more with those of a talent agent. Not only did I meet some of my closest friends at this camp, but it also gave me the skills and connections to succeed at my internship for the past two years at a professional Los Angeles talent agency."

Ryan has been proud of the camp since day one and shares the same outlook on his camp now as he did when it first began.

"It's such an inspiring, creatively recharging place for campers, counselors and teachers alike," Ryan said. "Camp is an amazing place to spend my summer; I'm the luckiest man in the world."

The second summer camp session ended yesterday, and the third session is July 20-30. It will feature a master class from Broadway star Sutton Foster.

For more information on the camps and weekend workshops, visit www.campyatc.com.


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