Every summer, Suzi Smith and Anneliese Chapman help young actors improve talents and learn the industry's ins and outs

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: CAITLIN FELDMAN - 13-year-old Justin Nelson performs his monologue while coach Anneliese Chapman stands by. Nelson has participated in the Camera Acting 4 All camp for four years.As 15-year-old Maggie Beutler performed a monologue from “The Fault in Our Stars,” it was as though she really felt it, like she was talking about her own life, not a fictional one far removed from her reality. But, it made sense. She’s an actor after all, and isn’t that what actors are supposed to do? Make you feel things and believe in a reality that isn’t there?

Beutler was signed by an agent just a few weeks ago, and already she seems like a seasoned pro. In part, this was helped along by her participation in last week’s Camera Acting 4 All camp, held by Suzi Smith and Anneliese Chapman at Horizon Christian High School in Tualatin.

“I think, just with this, it shows just how much hard work acting really is and a different side that no one ever sees. They don’t see the actors going to classes and listening to people explain the work. They don’t see any of the actors training and learning and doing this process,” Beutler said. “I think within this camp, you just see how much work goes into it, how much everyone is doing. I think if you want to act, you have to be willing to work for it, and I think doing this camp really shows that everyone is trying.”

Though Beutler performed with ease and confidence, she wasn’t the only one of her peers to do so. Of the seven “studio actors” to perform in the camp’s Industry Showcase rehearsal, not one seemed to fall short. For some, this was due to years of practice and honing in on the craft. But for others, their confidence came from participating in the camp and getting feedback while learning to let go of hurdles like stage fright and fearing the camera.

“These are pretty much new actors. I mean some people have agents, but this isn’t perfection,” said Smith. “They can always take more acting classes — they can always add on. But this is about life skills. This is not just about getting an agent and being on TV. This is about performing. This is being who we are and being comfortable with who we are and feeling accepted for who we are. There’s a lot of personal growth that goes on in this camp way beyond the professional side.” Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: CAITLIN FELDMAN - Acting coaches Anneliese Chapman and Suzi Smith share feedback with the campers and studio actors about their performances in their first industry showcase rehearsal.

The studio actors, ranging in age from 13 to 18, might have come from different levels of experience and backgrounds, but they all agreed the input they received from their peers and coaches was instrumental in propelling them forward with their talents.

“They really improved. They were good, but then they got great and even better than great. It was really cool to see how we all improved in our own ways,” said 13-year-old Rylie Mix. “Their feedback really helped me because you can take it into your mind, ‘Oh, that might be a better way.’”

During the camp, studio actors and the “campers” (ages 4 to 11 this year), were visited by guest speakers such as casting directors and agents who shared with them some lesser-known information about the industry. This gave the actors a better idea of if acting is something they truly want to pursue, or perhaps just keep around as a hobby.

“It definitely makes the industry seem more, I guess, accessible. When you’re younger, you’re always told that to be an actress, you’ve got to be someone who’s big in Hollywood or someone who’s big on Broadway. You can’t do small-time stuff and be successful,” said 16-year-old Katherine Blank. “Through this, I’ve learned a lot more. You can have it where you’re only acting in Portland, and you’re just doing local stuff. It’s definitely not as scary of an industry as it’s portrayed.”

While the actors have different goals with their careers, they believe the skills they learned at camp will carry over into various aspects of their lives, and ultimately help them find success in whatever they do next.

“I really want to continue pursuing acting,” said Mix. “Even if it doesn’t work, I still want to keep trying. I’ll keep auditioning for the school plays, and just keep going. Because if it’s your dream, you want to live it.”

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