Adults learn acting, movement, and more at American Stage’s new adult drama school

American Stage started its first-ever series of acting classes for seasoned and aspiring adult actors. Actress Ivy Sunflower will teach in the program this fall and shared her infectious enthusiasm about the program.

BY J.A. JONES, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – This month, American Stage started its first-ever series of acting classes for seasoned and aspiring adult actors, expanding beyond the youth classes it has offered for several years.

With classes taught by theater and film professional teaching artists, classes will run from eight to 10 weeks. Currently, they are offering five different classes:

  • An Actor Prepares, the fundamentals of acting
  • Comedy Tonight! Improve for beginners
  • Through the Lens, acting for the camera
  • Freeing the Body, exploring movement for the actor
  • Before Broadway, a musical theatre workshop

American Stage drama school is run by José Avilés, the theatre’s director of education. “We want American Stage to be the premiere theatre arts program in the area for kids, teens, and adults,” Avilés shared.

“Whether our community needs an artistic outlet to fulfill dreams or to find a home theater community to be a part of, we want to be that safe space where new, emerging and professionals can come and explore, develop and hone their craft.”

Actress Ivy Sunflower, who performed the role of Ama in American Stage’s recent production of “School Girls or, the African Mean Girls Play,” will be teaching in the program this fall and shared her infectious enthusiasm about the program.

Local filmmaker and actor Cranstan Cumberbatch (right) is one of many American Stage teaching artists, along with Ryan Hill, Donovan Whitney, Davina Reid, John Perez and Marguerite Boissonnault, that will instruct drama classes.

Sunflower shared that after the production, she wanted to stay on and learn more about the theater and community. She accepted when American Stage offered her a teaching position in their summer camp program.

“I taught middle school and high school kids creative writing, playwriting, dance, and movement, as well as poetry,” noted the actress. Sunflower said of the new adult program, “We want to assure everyone in the community that if you have any form of passion for the creative arts, for writing, for acting, for drama — we have a class for you.”

Originally from Miami, Sunflower shared that she was lucky to find her own love of the craft relatively young and, upon graduating high school, learned all aspects of show business in a professional training program in Ft. Lauderdale.

Those years convinced her that learning all aspects of the business is especially beneficial. “I was able to kind of jump right into learning what it is to be hands-on, which is a great thing for people who want to get in the industry.”

The skills and techniques taught at American Stage will give both brand new actors and those wanting to keep their level of performance at its peak new insight and skills into the craft of acting on stage, in film, in drama, comedy and musical theater.

Sunflower added that having the opportunity to train in a professional theater program allows people to learn more about the process and prepare them for the real acting and show business world.

“So, if you have the opportunity to, for instance, be an usher, or just have the opportunity to be in a theater through their casting process and see everything that goes into it, you can learn so much from that as well.”

Making contacts and meeting life-long friends, Sunflower noted, is an added benefit of embarking on a training program.

The actress stressed that while people may wonder if taking classes is right for them, “there is a place for everyone — and it is never too late for you to learn. So even if you feel as though, ‘I’m coming to the middle of my life,’ or ‘I’m in my 60s, 70s, or 80s’ — if you have the ability to still go to a casting call, if you have the ability to send in the self-tape, if you have the ability to sit in a theater — then you have the ability to do this.”

Other American Stage teaching artists include Ryan Hill, Donovan Whitney, Davina Reid, John Perez, Marguerite Boissonnault, Andresia Moseley, Sophia Williar, Cranstan Cumberbatch, José Avilés and Juan Rodriguez.

The theater company will also hold weekend youth classes, which will span now through Dec. 10. For more information on classes, visit

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