Walden Theater Conservatory

The world-class Conservatory Program engages young people and our community through extracurricular classes in acting, directing, playwriting, stagecraft, stage combat, dance, movement and voice and with our highly regarded season of plays. Our Shakespeare education program is among the most comprehensive in the nation and culminates each year in the Young American Shakespeare Festival.

Conservatory alumni are regularly accepted to and have studied at the country’s finest university theatre training programs. Seven of our graduates have attended The Juilliard School, with others going on to Carnegie Mellon, NYU, Cornish, Minnesota/Guthrie, dePaul, Yale, and a host of other prestigious programs. Former students have had unmatched success professionally in regional theatre, television and motion pictures, both as actors and as production directors & designers. 

Clearly the Walden program is ambitious and sets a high bar for its students. At the same time, they are viewed not just as performers, but as developing human beings as well.

Theatre Dept. Chair, Cornish College of the Arts

Look behind the curtain…

Welcome new and prospective students and parents!

Each term we invite new and prospective families to look behind the curtain of one of the top theatre training programs in the nation and see firsthand the excellence of our programs for young people ages 5-18 — from beginners to pre-professionals.

Before each new semester, we host a welcome/info session for new parents and students. Watch this space for news on the next one!

There’s no fee or obligation to enroll, and it’s a chance to learn more about the programs for all ages and meet instructors. We also provide some entertaining moments and refreshments. 

Classes are offered at our main facility on Payne Street.

During the semester, we welcome shadow visits to see what we get into – just contact us! There’s no obligation to enroll.

Adult Acting Classes

Students 18+ can enroll in 8-week sessions. All levels of experience are welcome!


Class Levels


IMAGINATION – ages 5-8


Days/Times/locations for Spring 2020:

  • Saturday Mornings at CTC: 9:30 – 11:30am
    Starts Jan. 11 • Ends Apr. 18 (final day time may vary)
  • Monday Afternoons at CTC: 4:30 – 6:30pm
    Starts Jan. 13 • Ends Apr. 13 (final day time may vary)


PLAY (ages 5-6): Our youngest students enjoy this class filled with creative opportunities to explore many aspects of theatre education. Every session focuses on play through a drama class and arts enrichment opportunities. During drama time, students learn the actors tools and practice creative expression through role-play, acting out stories together while following the guidance of our Instructors (early rehearsal of the actor-director dynamic). During enrichment time, students are provided a selection of activities to dive deeper into the skill-building from all aspects of theatre design.  (i.e. storytelling, visual arts,  imaginative play with loose parts, small world play, costume corner for dramatic play, etc) 

STORYCRAFT (ages 7-8):  Students ages 6-8 work with each other and their instructors to conceive and perform an original play. A different theme is chosen each semester – recent themes include Adventure Under the Sea, Things That Go Bump In The Night, and The Enchanted Garden. Students are introduced to character creation, story structure, and playing in front of an audience. They also design and build the set, props, and costumes for a performance that they’ll share with friends and family at the end of the semester. 

IMPROV – ages 9-12


Days/Times/locations for Spring 2020:

  • Saturday Mornings at CTC: 10:00am – noon
    Starts Jan. 11 • Ends Apr. 18 (final day time may vary)
  • Monday Afternoons at CTC: 4:30-6:30pm (first day Jan 13)
    Starts Jan. 13 • Ends Apr. 18 (Showcase is on a Saturday)


The actor’s toolkit – voice, body, imagination, courage – is explored through fun games and exercises that strengthen active listening, teamwork, and concentration skills. Students are placed into groups by age & experience with instructors who encourage creative choices, sharing the stage cooperatively with others, and playing outside of comfort zones. An end of semester showcase gives students an opportunity to improvise on stage in front of a live audience.  


STUDIO – ages 10-14


Days/Times: Wednesdays & Fridays at CTC: 4:30 – 6:30pm
Starts Jan. 8 • Showcases April 15/17 (evenings)


Intermediate students discover 20th century classics and the magic of Shakespeare while studying how to bring a playwright’s words to life. Students learn how to perform scripted material, memorize lines, and work with a director by rehearsing a scene with a partner. Fall semester showcases feature scenes by influential 20th c. playwrights. Spring semester showcases feature a full production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest, or Macbeth. At this level students are eligible to audition for MainStage Conservatory productions.

PLAYMAKING 1 – ages 14-16

Days/Times: Tuesdays & Thursdays at CTC: 4:00 – 6:00pm 
Starts Jan. 7 • Assessment meetings April 7/9 (time slots available in Mar.)


Foundational theatre classes give students an appreciation for all aspects of the art form while preparing them for success at the advanced level and beyond. Audition skills, character creation, improvisation, playwriting & devising, scene study, and stage movement & dance are offered alongside opportunities to perform, write for, and work behind the scenes in our season of plays. Students must take at least one year of classes at this level before being promoted to more specialized, advanced classes. 

APPRENTICE – ages 12-14

Days/Times: Wednesdays & Fridays at CTC: 4:30 – 6:30pm
Starts Jan. 8 • Showcases April 14/16 (evenings)


The imaginative techniques of America’s greatest acting teachers are studied alongside 10-minute plays from previous Young Playwrights Festivals in the fall. Students tackle multiple roles in an ensemble performance of a popular Shakespearean tragedy (Romeo & Juliet or Hamlet), comedy (Twelfth Night or Much Ado About Nothing), or history (Richard III or Henry V) in the spring. Apprentice students are encouraged to value their contribution to the creative process within a supportive, collaborative environment. Showcases at this level are the last guaranteed performance opportunity within the Conservatory program. 

PLAYWRITING – ages 13-18

***Fall Semester Only*** 

Days/Times: Mondays at CTC: 4:30 – 6:30 (Not offered during Spring term.)

Cost:$350* a-la-carte (or free to join for students already enrolled)

Specialized classes in script development invite an uncensored creative outlet for the hopes, fears, and dreams of young writers. Offered for students interested in submitting plays for the annual Young Playwrights Festival. 


PLAYMAKING 2 – ages 15-18

Days/Times: Tuesdays & Thursdays at CTC: 4:00 – 6:00pm 
Starts Jan. 7 • Assessment meetings April 7/9 (time slots available in Mar.)


Students with a love of creating plays sharpen their storytelling skills through advanced classes in improvisation, physical theatre, playwriting & devising, special projects, and scene study, where students can choose to work on their directing or acting skills. This class is perfect for students who want to do more than just act – future directors, writers, and theatre mavericks cultivate skills that foster their creative spirits. 

PERFORMANCE 1 & 2 – ages 15-18

Days/Times: Tuesdays & Thursdays at CTC: 4:00 – 6:00pm 
Starts Jan. 7 • Assessment meetings April 7/9 (time slots available in Mar.)


Advanced students engage in rigorous training to further develop their stage presence. Rotations in voice, movement, improvisation, and singing for the actor compliment scene study classes that survey a variety of theatrical styles. Performance Class students are the primary casting pool for Conservatory productions. Seniors in good standing who attend Master Skills are invited on our annual Chicago trip to audition for colleges. 

MASTER SKILLS – ages 17-18

***Fall Semester Only***

Days/Times: Saturdays at CTC: 10:00 – noon

Cost: (available to advanced students in good standing at no additional fee)

Juniors & Seniors from advanced classes who are preparing for post-secondary auditions become familiar with college level theatre programs across the U.S. and prepare a professional audition package that best represents their talents. 

*Payment plans are available. See the third page of the enrollment form for details.

Financial Aid

Each semester, Commonwealth Theatre Center awards thousands of dollars in need-based tuition assistance. Financial Aid forms (click to request) are due approximately three weeks prior to the beginning of each semester. The scholarship committee, composed of board members and staff, reviews requests and makes awards. All financial information remains strictly confidential, and is not shared with parties other than the evaluation committee and recipient. Because of the high demand for assistance, more partial scholarships than full scholarships are awarded.

Benefits of Participation

The Conservatory challenges and inspires young people to be their most creative selves. Instructors and directors instill in students a love of literature, writing, and theater in a challenging, yet nurturing environment where students learn life skills and make lasting friendships – while learning to act. The skills developed in the Conservatory are ones that are necessary for every child to possess: listening, memorization, physical awareness, focus and concentration, cooperation, communicating verbally and physically and storytelling. Numerous studies have shown that participation in the arts…

  • Improves academic performance and test scores
  • Improves reading and math skills and the capacity for creative thinking
  • Improves attitudes and skills that promote the learning process
  • Builds social bonds, improves self-image, self-regulation and tolerance

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