Professional actors teach more than theatre at Providence
Together, the friends and actor-educators are partners in DiscoveryOnstage, providing drama classes and directing and producing the school’s fall play, spring musical and Shakespeare competition teams. Through their classes, Providence students have learned to enunciate Shakespearean dialogue, choreograph stage combat, and explore the world by writing plays, yet Jackson and Catrambone believe they have learned much more than their students.
“Teaching expands you as a human being because you are sharing with other people,” Catrambone says.
Having been friends for over ten years, they tend to finish each other’s thoughts. “In acting, you are your product and that makes for a more selfish life.” Jackson says, “Teaching balances that out.”
“This thing that we started is so important,” Catrambone continues, “because it has less to do with us.”
This “thing” is DiscoveryOnstage, begun during a dip in their professional careers to keep money coming in over the summer months. Their company motto is, “From the Imagination Up.”
“That’s how we built the company,” Jackson says. “It’s how we built our program here at Providence and what we hope to teach the students,” Catrambone reinforces. “You can do anything you put your mind to.”
The actor-educators began in the Monrovia School District, where summer acting camps turned into a four-year afterschool enrichment program. In 2009, through positive word of mouth from parents, the program landed at Providence where it has grown from 15 students to over a hundred.
Jackson thanks his junior high English teacher for his career path. “When no other group members showed up for a scene from ‘Julius Caesar,’ she let me do it alone, all the voices.” Then she suggested he try drama, which became his major at the University of Oklahoma where he earned a Bachelor of Fine arts degree before coming to Los Angeles in 2000. While playing Oberon at the Glendale Center Theatre’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” he met Catrambone, playing Francis Flute.
Catrambone had taken a different route to his AA from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He had planned to follow his father into medicine: “It was a path I knew, but I realized I didn’t have the passion to go where I wanted to go in that world.”
One chance experience onstage led to playing Scrooge’s nephew in “A Christmas Carol” and other roles until he told his parents he wanted to change his major. “I guess I didn’t know my parents well enough to know how supportive they were going to be,” Catrambone admits.
That legacy of support is something Jackson and Catrambone extend to their students. “We teach acting in a way that doesn’t only teach children to become actors,” Jackson explains.
“It’s not the outcome that’s important,” adds Catrambone. “It’s the journey.”
Both men feel that theatre is an art form uniquely positioned to teach people to become empathetic, tolerant, open-minded. “Nothing teaches these things as theatre can,” says Jackson.
According to Head of School Joe Sciuto, “Dominic and Jeremy are amazingly dedicated to our community. They are creative, spirited, and passionate teachers, and their fall dramas and spring musicals are always top notch. We are truly blessed to have them teaching our students.”
In many ways their partnership has come full circle as this year’s fall play at PHS will be “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
“Every profound relationship I have in my life, Jackson concludes, “has come from a connection I made in the theatre.” He and Catrambone want the drama students at PHS to have the same experience.