Musical Theater Los Angeles

“Musical Theater Los Angeles Turns Kids into Pros,” says Backstage

News • Nov 7th, 2017

As seen in Backstage:

“There’s a magic in children’s theater,” reads the website for Musical Theater Los Angeles. “Shy children blossom. Eager performers find their natural element. Hard work and discipline, as well as fun, are what make the magic happen.” It’s a fitting description for a thriving performing arts training ground for L.A. youngsters.

Amanda Baird, founder and director of MTLA, says she first experienced that magic as a child herself. Born in London but transplanted to L.A. at age 7, she was picked on by schoolmates for her accent. “I went to these private hoity-toity schools and the kids are brutal!” she remembers. “And of course my mom dressed me in little bows and ribbons and flowers in my hair so I was targeted to begin with.” Intensely shy and yearning to assimilate properly, Baird found her voice acting in mini-plays written and staged by her mother in their backyard.

It all came full circle in 1997 when Baird, an Oberlin Conservatory of Music–trained triple threat, was encouraged to transition from teaching kindergarten at Brentwood School to starting an after-school musical theater program. “I was, like, ‘I don’t know how to teach musical theater!’ But I think there’s nothing better than watching a child come out of their shell, and watching them learn the discipline.”

Originally titled Stage Kids Theater Company—“I [later] changed it to Musical Theater Los Angeles because kids these days don’t like to be called kids; they think they’re grown-ups,” Baird explains—the company has expanded into after-school classes, summer camps, workshops for adults, and curricular partnerships with over 15 L.A. schools. Children of all ages learn everything from dance and vocal technique to stage combat and improv comedy.

“To learn how to do all of that well, that discipline and that sense of fun, passion, and play—I think it’s like gold for any child,” says Baird. “No matter what they end up doing as human beings when they grow up, the skills they’ll learn while they’re learning this will serve them in their lives forever.”

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