Arts Center of St. Charles

Sponsored by Self-Esteem for Life Foundation: A 501 C 3 Non-Profit Charitable Organization
Acting-Modeling-Singing-Music-Theatre-Portraiture-Classes-Private Lessons-Internships


It’s a small space. It’s not a big, fancy stage with 300 seats in the house. We don’t have a ticket booth. We don’t have a balcony. But I love the intimacy of it. Does performing on a big stage make you a better actor? A better performer? I think you can hide a lot on a big stage—facial expressions, details, mistakes. So actually, performing on a small stage will make you a better actor.

I’m not trying to make every student into a professional actor. My goal is to help kids become more comfortable in their own skin. I want them to grow up with the ability to make presentations in front of a class at school, pitch an idea to investors, make a sales presentation to a client, conduct a training seminar, talk to a group, give a lecture.

Most of these things happen in offices or conference rooms. They are up close and personal gatherings. We need to learn to make eye contact and engage the audience. How can you learn that on a large stage where the lights are blinding and you can’t see who is sitting right in front of you?

Some students will go on to become professional actors. But they probably won’t start on Broadway. I have seen countless shows off-Broadway in spaces about the size of the Arts Center. Most of our Chicago theatres seat under 100. And as a guest, why would I want to sit far away from the stage? There is a reason the seats closest to the stage have the highest prices.

So when kids and parents ask if we will be performing elsewhere, I can’t image why we would want to do that.


They learn hard work pays off.  They learn to work as a team.  They learn empathy.  They learn communication skills. They belong.  Performing provides an emotional outlet for children.  It allows them to explore feelings in a safe environment.  And performers are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement.

Arts Center of St. Charles
offers acting, singing, and modeling classes for theatre, on-camera, and to build self-esteem and teach life skills.  We are all about building self-esteem and core values through the performing arts. While a few participants may go on to become professional actors, ALL students will learn teamwork, improve reading skills, build confidence, and make friends!  We practice non-traditional casting.

All programs are taught by theatre professionals, and meet the Illinois State Board of Education Teaching Standards for Drama/Theatre Arts. Our open enrollment policy allows anyone to enter our programs regardless of previous experience.

Arts Center also offers private lessons in acting, singing, modeling, and music.  Email for more information.

Interested in exploring careers?   Part of our mission is to teach your to be a leader, not a follower.  Arts Center of St. Charles offers you a chance to build your college and work resumes. You can also earn community service hours.  The goal is to develop leadership skills in our community youth.  Responsibility results in confidence.  We offer volunteer INTERNSHIPS in many areas.  Contact us for details.


Tracy Whiteside
2422 W. Main St. (just west of Randall Road)
St. Charles


Arts Center of St. Charles is sponsored by Self-Esteem for Life Foundation (SELF).  SELF is 501 C 3 non-profit, charitable organization dedicated to building self-esteem and leadership among young people through the performing arts at Arts Center of St. Charles. Youth grades 2-college have the opportunity to take a class or create a theater production, and can audition for singing, acting and/or dancing roles. Those not interested in performing can work backstage, on sets, costumes, lighting, sound, and more.  We offer volunteer internships for those interested in directing, music direction, teaching, photography, hair, costumes, props, set, makeup, marketing, fundraising, stage management, and production management.




Are you interested in performing arts? Not just as a performer, but as an administrator, teacher, or teaching artist?  Not sure but want to find out?

Providing an opportunity for young people to learn real-life skills is a very rewarding experience for me. I have had interns of all ages—as young as 9 for preschool classes, and as old as 55 for a full show production. The age isn’t as important as dedication and desire. I have had so many wonderful experiences, and a few that were not so wonderful.

The amount of responsibility assigned to the intern is based on age, experience, and the individual’s preferences. Internships are available in -Directing-Music Direction-Choreography-Stage Management-Costume/Wardrobe-Hair and Makeup-Set-Props-Sound-Lighting-Theater Education-Marketing-Photography-Fundraising--Grant Writing. You actually get to do these things, not just watch. In the real world, interns get coffee, file, watch and listen.

So what do I want from an intern?
I want you to learn to be a leader, not a follower. My goal is to teach what isn’t taught in school.

Not many mentors will allow you the leadership opportunities that I do. Because I know it’s OK to make mistakes, and I am there the whole way if you need help. In return, I expect you to be on time, be there when you are scheduled, and do what YOU asked to do. This is not fun and games. This is a business with people depending on you. Not just me, but the students/cast members. You don’t get to skip out because you have a birthday party. I plan around the conflicts you give me, so changes are a problem. I expect you to treat this like a real job. You are just as important as I am. What if I didn’t come in to work?

Along with the fun stuff like choreography, directing, photography, etc. you also have to do not so fun stuff like cleaning mirrors, vacuuming, dusting, etc. This is the reality of owning a non-profit business. I do all this stuff, too. I would be a lousy teacher if you left an internship with me expecting to walk into a job starting at the top.

What’s in it for the intern?
Well, obviously, the learning experience. You can build your work resume. You can build your college resume. You can accrue community service hours. If you try your hardest, I will write you a letter of recommendation. I’m not expecting perfection, but I am expecting effort. Hard work is how we succeed in life.

It is also an amazing experience for performers to be on the other side of the table to see the casting process and just how difficult it is.  I find that once someone interns for me they are far less nervous at future auditions.  Because you know me better, become comfortable, and because you know I really have your best interests at heart.

So if you’re up for the challenge as well as the fun, apply for an internship. I will make it worth your while.

Why it’s so important to bring a photo to auditions:

First and most simply, it shows me you can follow directions and that you have respect for the process.

Why do I want a photo?

All theaters, agents, and casting directors ask for a headshot. These are 8” x 10” professional photos with a border and your name. That would be the ideal. However, any picture is better than no picture. And it should be recent. Bringing a school photo from last September to an August audition the following year usually isn’t the best unless you look exactly like you did last fall.

I usually have interns that help me during casting. They may not know you. They may have you mixed up with someone else, and could be lobbying for the wrong kid to get the wrong part. I really do listen to my interns because once I know you, I am emotionally involved with you so the interns keep me impartial. We try to keep good notes, but a picture is worth a thousand words.

If I have known you a long time, you seem younger in my mind’s eye than you really are. I’m a very visual person. Kids grow and change. You want to be cast for who you are now, not opposite someone who looks significantly younger. Although that does happen for various reasons even when I have a photo.

I want to place everyone in the best possible role. So please bring a photo.


The hardest part of my job, without question, is casting. I know everyone that auditions puts their heart and soul on the line. I feel the nerves and excitement and desires almost as intensely as you feel it. As a parent of a former theatre kid, I know how a parent wants the best for their child and that sharp sting when they come out of an audition unhappy with themselves. Even worse, the feeling when they don’t get the part they had their heart set on.

So here is what I consider when casting:

-Did you follow the directions? If I asked for a monologue and a song, did you prepare that? Are you memorized?

-Are you on pitch with the song and can you stay with the music?

-Are you acting the song? Showing facial expressions and emotion in your voice? Are you using your hands, arms, body in appropriate movements? Is it memorized?

-Did you memorize the monologue? Do you know what a monologue is? Is it blocked, are you expressive with your voice (usually easy) and face (not usually easy)?

-Can I hear you? Do you know how to project your voice?

-Did you ACT during your cold read?  Or did you just read?  Again, looking for emotion in the voice and facial expressions.

Just a few other things:

-We can tell if you have a cold. You don’t need to explain or make excuses.

-Not everyone is right for every role. This is really the most difficult concept for kids to understand. Even if you had a lead in the last show, it doesn’t mean you are right for a lead in the current show. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like you or that you didn’t do a good job. But honestly, no one wants to be part of a theatre company where the same people always get the leads. It’s not good for anyone.  I want the kids to grow up with a healthy, realistic mental attitude and to be able to deal with disappointment.  Although I sure don't like being the cause of disappointment.

-I may cast you in a role that will challenge you to develop your skills. If you always play the nice kid, I may cast you as the bully. This is an educational program, after all.

-I don’t have a fondness for kids the go from theatre company to theatre company expecting leads at all of them.  I probably know if you just dropped out of a show at another theatre because you didn't get the role you wanted.  It's a small community.  Now you are here telling me this show is your second choice.  Or third or fourth.

-If you drop from the cast because you didn’t get a lead or the role you wanted, I am disappointed in you (or maybe your parents). I have been doing this a really long time and want you to trust me. Maybe I gave you the role because I wanted you to learn to sing harmony better.  Or maybe I want to see you develop your dance ability.  There is great learning to be had in playing different size roles. There is also great learning in being humble, gracious, and a team player. Quitting a show because of the role seems like poor sportsmanship.  But I will always give you a second chance.

-I am more apt to give you a good role if I know you. Because I am loyal. And because I know what you are capable of even if you don’t have the best audition. Take classes at the Arts Center. Audition for the shows.

-Intern for me.  I find that once someone interns they are far less nervous at the next auditions.  Because you know me better, become comfortable, and because you have been on my side of the table.

Just a few more really, really important things:

-Don’t play with your clothes.

-Don’t rock back and forth or step around randomly.

-I always keep everyone on stage as much as possible. Acting is reacting, not just saying lines.  The number of lines and solos are not as important as what you do with them.

-I really and truly want you all to succeed in theatre and most importantly, in life.

Everyone is nervous. I can look past that. And I don’t care too much about mistakes; it’s how you handle them. What I am really looking for is how you play a character.

It’s fine to ask me for feedback and to ask casting questions. I will be honest. Email me at

My love is unconditional <3

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