Aspiring actors join Area Stage Company for professional experience

Scene from the production of Hair by the Area Stage Company.

The Area Stage Company is an awardwinning professional theater company located in South Miami.

“We do professional theater for young actors,” says founder Maria Rodaz. “We have a conservatory. No matter how young the actors are, these are professional productions.”

Rodaz developed the conservatory with her husband, John. Initially, they catered to students in their late teens to early 20s, but they had so many requests to accept younger students that they opened it up to elementary school kids. Auditions are mandatory for admittance and she says this raises the bar, even for the summer program.

“Our program is more specialized,”

Rodaz says. “Our classes are small and personalized.” Rodaz says the groups are very unconventional. “The groupings have little kids and big kids,” she says.

The company does not have a one-sizefits- all approach.

“I audition the kids and then I will craft an approach, depending on how much the parents want to invest in their children’s progress,” Rodaz says. “If a parent can invest, if a child can come here four or five times a week, they will progress faster than a child who comes one time a week.”

Scholarships are available for financially challenged families.

“I’m always fundraising,” she says.

Area Stage Company has fall, spring and summer sessions. The only difference is that in the summer she has the students coming in for three weeks of intense work, instead of three times a week during the school year.

The company used to have a theater on Lincoln Road, but had to close it in 2000.

“Gentrification pushed all of us off Lincoln Road,” she says. “It was a very cool arts district. Then the rents were hiked. We were homeless for about seven years.”

In 2008, they moved to their present location at 1560 S. Dixie Hwy.

This summer, the company produced two shows, Hair and The Phantom Tollbooth. She cast 23 students in Hair and 28 in Tollbooth.

Even though the children are young, Rodaz says they don’t dumb down the play’s language.

“The same language is the same that is used in the college,” she says. “The approach to the craft is a very mature approach. We prepare our kids professionally. It’s important that we understand that distinction.”

She warns parents that being a part of the conservatory is not easy.

“It’s a disciplined approach,” she says.

“You are not going to be sitting down, except for the half hour for lunch. The kids love it.”

Not only do the kids love the program, so do the parents.

“As a parent, it has been so gratifying to see how Makhi has embraced Area Stage as a second home with the support and nurturing of Maria and John and their wonderful staff,” says Delle Joseph, whose son attends Coral Reef Elementary. “His interest in theater has turned into a true passion.”

Makhi Joseph was in both plays over the summer and will be in the production of Dear Edwina, Jr. Nov. 2-4.

The program has had several students who have gone on to fame, including Oscar Isaac, who played King John in the Russell Crowe adaptation of Robin Hood and will star in the next Coen Brothers Film. For more information, call 305-666- 2078.

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