When Muhlenberg made the decision to go online over the summer, Thomas Riley ’22 was one of several Muhlenberg students that chose to take the semester, or potentially the year off. Riley explained that he made the decision largely because he didn’t want to spend his senior year in a virtual setting, and the classes he was slated to take wouldn’t transfer particularly well to the virtual environment. However, Riley had been thinking about his future, particularly in his hopes for a career in acting. In his work experience, he found himself working early morning shifts at Costco during the gap year, but was really unhappy there. Riley was considering his love for acting and fitness, even how he has helped some of his friends start fitness. He described how he really enjoys helping people and how valuable acting training has been to him over the years, and he decided to quit his job and start his own acting studio.
Once Riley decided that he was going to open the studio, he first had to determine what the structure of his studio would look like. He knew he wanted it to be smaller scale so that the services offered could “facilitate the individual.” Then, he would be able to work with each person on their specific skills or needs. Beyond what he would offer in acting and voice, Riley knew he also wanted to somehow incorporate his passion for fitness. All of these ideas culminated into Riley officially establishing the Acting/Voice/Body Studio.
Keeping these aspects in mind, Riley asked himself, “What would 15-year-old Thomas want in a studio?” He explained that this question came to mind because he got into performing in high school and had some extremely influential experiences that led him to conceptualize acting as his dream. Today, however, middle school and high school students aren’t getting the same experiences or opportunities to discover the performing arts that they normally would.
Riley explained that he wanted to “fill the void” and provide those students with the opportunity to further themselves as actors and “receive detailed, personal, and intimate training.” In his desire to have the training his studio offers be so individual, Riley explained that one thing he has learned a lot about in his own acting training.
He said, “Being a good actor is knowing who you are as an individual,” and he wants to help the aspiring young actors figure that out for themselves.
One part of Riley’s studio is workshops, which are designed for a maximum of six students. These are structured with specific lesson plans and goals. Currently, Riley is offering workshops in auditioning and an introduction to acting. However, due to the rigor of the theatrical job market, Riley is considering replacing the introduction to acting workshop with one in theatre marketing, involving networking and branding oneself as an actor. This would allow him to separate into a niche and have his studio stand out more, as this type of workshop is not commonly offered.
In addition to the workshops, Riley’s Acting/Voice/Body studio is offering private coaching. Each of the private coaching sessions will be completely dependent on the individual and what they hope to get out of it.
Riley thinks the areas he could cover would include areas like acting training, audition help, assisting someone in creating a reel, and even editing or creating a resume with the student. Since the private coaching is one on one, it has the flexibility to be tailored to the individual’s needs much more easily than the workshops.
The fitness side of the studio is slightly less emphasized than the acting and voice aspects of it, but it is still something Riley knew he wanted to include. He will be teaching fitness and nutrition for actors, set up as individual private sessions so that the fitness and/or nutrition plans can be based around the individual’s goals.
He wants to make sure he sets his clients up with a healthy relationship with exercise and food, as that often is not the case with fitness and nutrition cases. According to Riley, his intention is about teaching young actors to “take care of your instrument so that you know how to feel your best and perform your best.”
As Riley started to establish his studio, making social media accounts and a website so he could advertise it, he knew he wanted the studio to be able to grow, but he also wanted to make sure that his work with the studio would allow him to pursue his acting career on his own terms, which it already has.
Riley is currently performing in a three-play series called Murder Mystery Studio at Cedar Crest College, in which he is in two out of the three plays. Riley explained that being in a show while his studio is starting up has been a great learning opportunity on how to balance both of his interests, as he doesn’t want his work with the studio to surpass his goals as an actor.
It is a difficult task to get a private studio like Riley’s off the ground. As he explained, “I have to sell myself just as much as my programs.” Fortunately, he has already established an Instagram account, Facebook page, and a website to start to get the word out, and he hopes to only expand from there, establishing a studio with great opportunities for young actors.