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West Orange Times & Observer Monday, Nov. 28, 2016 3 years ago

Students from the American Actors Factory take their show on the road

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Students share their love of the stage at local assisted-living facilities
by: Brittany Gaines Reporter

OCOEE Until 11 months ago, Misaela “Sally” Riggs had never acted a day in her life.

Now, she’s written five skits and performed in two shows at assisted-living facilities.

“It started out with just fooling around,” Riggs said about her newly discovered talents in playwriting. “As soon as I get on the computer, it doesn’t take very long.”

Riggs discovered acting after joining the American Actors Factory, a performing arts group in Ocoee. And after only a few months of classes, she suggested taking the show on the road. As a retired nurse, she knew assisted-living facilities would welcome the quirky bunch of actors.

And they did.

On June 11, the group performed Riggs’ skit “Super Coco Mart, LLC” at the Ocoee Health Care Center. The comedy was about a supermarket that provided every product and service imaginable.

“They never have a chance to see a live show,” Riggs said of the residents at the Ocoee Health Care Center. “We had fun, and the ones who were more alert and the staff enjoyed it.”

As a new actor, Riggs said she was all nerves during this first performance for a live audience. 

“I just concentrated on the scene and ignored the crowd,” she said. “I made sure I completed the scene because I had never performed before.”

The skit was a three-man show performed by Riggs, Alex Uzonyi and Tyler Reefer, all three of who are students at the American Actors Factory.

“Not only will it benefit folks living (at the assisted-living facility), but also (it) benefits students by performing in front of a live audience,” said Disco San Andreas, owner of the American Actors Factory. “They had a great time. We said we had such a great time that we should do it again.”

On Oct. 22, the trio took their skits - this time a “Phantom of the Opera” comedy - to the Brookdale Senior Living Facility in Ocoee.

“The show gave us a platform to practice on,” said Reefer, who had been with the factory for more than 2 years. “I’m not as nervous when I’m on stage in front f people. I’m trying to give something to them.”

The American Actors Factory, formerly known as the LA Acting Workshop, was passed on to San Andreas’ leadership nearly two years ago when the previous owner retired.

“I liked the teaching part, but I didn’t know if I liked the business part,” San Andreas said. “But it was an opportunity I didn’t expect to happen, so I said, ‘Sure, I’ll take it.’”

He renamed it the American Actors Factory and teaches teenagers and adults the fundamentals of acting. It was during this transition that his students began writing their own plays.

“One of my students asked if we could perform something he wrote,” San Andreas said. “Then Sally saw what he was doing. She said she had written something and asked if we could do the show at an assisted-living facility.”

And it’s Riggs’ witty writing combined with zany ideas from Uzonyi that has produced this new stream of hilarious skits, San Andreas said.

“There’s no pressure,” San Andreas said about why the skits have been so successful so far. “It’s a just a sheer joy (for them) to perform for other people.”
But Riggs said that much of their success comes from San Andreas’ guidance.

“Disco was very good at directing it,” she said. “It just got better and better.”

Now, requests for more skits are starting to come in from assisted-living facilities.

“This all happened very organically,” San Andreas said. “These students were novices when they started. They went from knowing nothing … to going on auditions and performing.”

 

Contact Brittany Gaines at [email protected].

 

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