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Encore! Academy of the Arts musical theater masterclass returns in August

Registration & scholarship application open now

Back by student demand, Academy of the Arts will offer an encore session of its Impact musical theatre program Aug. 8-12, at CityGate Centre in Naperville, IL. The program is accepting students ages 10-18, and the upcoming classes will be led by an all-new cast of established Broadway performers and theater business leaders.

In addition to six masterclasses in dance, acting and voice, and mock audition sessions with a Broadway casting director, the immersive weeklong program includes a field trip to see the pre-Broadway world premiere of The Devil Wears Prada, featuring music by Sir Elton John. The week will culminate with a showcase performance and reception for family and friends of the student performers.

“Impact is designed to provide students with high-intensity experiences aimed at connecting them with the professional arts world,” said Academy Co-Founder & Executive Director Dylan Ladd.

Academy of the Arts is in its first year of programing. It held its first program, a dance intensive, in December last year and is currently hiring teaching artists for its fall programming.

“Ultimately our goal is to build an academic and arts academy in the western suburbs, providing all core courses required by the state in an arts-focused environment,” Ladd said. “As we continue to work toward that goal, we know there are students longing for this level of instruction now.”

Case in point is Kendal Graham, an 18-year-old performer from Somonauk, IL, near DeKalb who is entering Columbia College this fall to study musical theater and voice-over acting.

“I graduated from the Chicago Academy of the Arts but if this school was up and running when I was younger I would have come here instead,” said Graham who commuted several hours per day for the opportunity to attend an arts school. “I thought I’d try out (the Impact program) and I like it a lot.

“It’s cool getting to meet people in the industry and remember they are actors just like me,” Graham said.

Instructors for the upcoming Impact program are Tony Nominee for Best Actress (Mean Girls) Taylor Louderman, JJ Niemann who performed in Book of Mormon on Broadway and is a TikTok star with 1 million+ followers, Judith Franklin from TINA—The Tina Turner Musical, Broadway Casting Director Peter Van Dam who cast SIX and Phantom of the Opera, and local director and Northwestern University theater professor Amanda Denhert.

“With technique classes, career sessions and Q&As, and opportunities to learn collaborate with professionals as well as with peers who share the same dream, we designed Impact to create lifelong lessons and memories,” Ladd said. “And while our programming and level of instruction can impact serious arts students with a lot of experience like Kendal, it also is welcoming for students newer to the arts and is a great way to start on the right foot.

“This camp is my first big, legitimate thing in theater,” said 10-year-old Layla Cummings who participated in the June program. “I was really nervous at the start, I was shaking, but I am so excited to be talking with a professional Broadway star.

“Up until now I’ve also tried different things but now this is my thing,” Cummings added.

The first Impact program, held in June, drew an at-capacity class of 30, about 15 of whom received scholarship assistance. Scholarships for the $1295 weeklong program are again available and students may apply online.

Impact will be held at CityGate Centre at the corner of Rte. 59 and Ferry Rd. in Naperville, immediately off the Rte. 59 exit of I-88. Lunch will be provided daily.

Registration and scholarship applications are available at

Students and families traveling to Naperville for the Impact Series are eligible for a special rate at Hotel Arista at CityGate Centre, the only Forbes-rated, AAA Four Diamond hotel in Illinois outside of Chicago. The Academy of the Arts discount is 10 percent off the best available rate, and can be secured only by calling the Hotel Arista reservations department at 630-579-4100.


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