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Now Interviewing for

2024 Classes


Acting Classes for Kids and Teens

Acting classes are a wonderful way to help develop your child’s creativity, confidence, collaboration skills and sense of community. With the decline in school arts programs and elimination of after school programs due to Covid, online professional acting training is a great way to keep your children engaged in creative activities that teach them a multitude of skills that go beyond acting.

Introduction to Improv and Performance Theater for Youth Actors 

Before TV and TikTok, theater was the venue for acting.  Actors used their minds, bodies and voices to create unique moments and amazing scenes onstage.  Mostly this revolved around the ensemble, a creative collective of players who collaborated to make an amazing show. 


In our Introduction to Improv and Performance Theater for Youth Actors class, we introduce the youth actor to this art form. 


This class will include many theater games used to teach actors how to create a scene using nothing but a few props, a hat or wig, some silly characters and a whole lot of imagination. 


This is a wonderful class that offers useful tools for aspiring young actors.  In addition, this class is a wonderful extracurricular activity for any youth, regardless of acting aspirations.  This class will pull the student away from the chaos of the world and immerse them in a safe environment where they can learn what it means to listen to their inner voice.  We use a peer supported formula that emphasizes the importance of the group over the individual, while also highlighting the importance of using each person's uniqueness to bring new aspects and ideas to the performance.


The class will include:

  • Introduction to basic stage performance and taking stage direction

  • Daily Improv games geared towards team building

  • Theater games that offer new and useful tools to the aspiring actor

  • Improvisational tools that help build confidence inside theater and out

  • Basic understanding of the “Yes, and…” concept of improv

  • A performance for family and friends during the final class meeting

  • Laughter, lots and lots of laughter

The class will include minimal lecture time and little to no homework. Primarily the class will consist of Improv and theater games to teach all of the above in a fun, interactive and hands-on learning environment.


On the final class day, there will be a presentation for friends and family of class members.  All students are encouraged to participate, but students will not be required to perform more than they wish to.  With the instructor’s guidance, the class (as a group) will determine the games and scenes that they wish to present. 


By the end of this class, students will have an understanding of Performance Theater, Improv and how to be part of a team (ensemble) through group exercises and activities. 




Class begins on Tuesday, June 11th and ends on Saturday, June 29th.  Class will meet on Tuesdays from 3:00pm to 5:30pm and Saturdays from 10:30am to 1:00pm.  All classes take place in person at Empowerhouse Acting Studio in Berkeley.  


Tuition is $450 for the Summer Session.  Space is limited and enrollment is on a first come, first served basis.  A non-refundable deposit of $200 is required to reserve your child’s spot in the class and the tuition balance of $250 is due on or before the first day of class.




Otis James Gates is an entertainer. He started in Melodrama and Vaudeville in his teens in Campbell, CA (although his mother would say he started melodrama well before that). He performed with Festival Theater Ensemble, traveling to far off places like Humboldt, CA and Sunnyvale, CA, to perform in Shakespearean and contemporary outdoor theater. When he was in his 20’s Otis traveled to Oregon to join the Upside Sketch Comedy troupe and traveled the college and university circuit performing sketch comedy. 


Later Otis moved to LA and worked on various TV pilots and shows and also began studying at Groundlings. Otis took a break from acting to pursue a 10 year career at Sony Electronics, where he did some of the best acting and comedy of his life. He was finally let go in 2011 after 10 years, when it was discovered that someone had hired a Comedian with no MBA to work as a National Sales Trainer for an Artificial Intelligence Robotic Animal.


After leaving Sony, Otis co-founded the Heart On Comedy Group, a show that lasted for 5 years and had a revolving door of great talent. Otis’ day job at this same time was teaching children K-8 Theater and Theater Tech at Starting Arts, bringing after school theater to kids at a time when schools were cutting funding for performing arts programs.


Currently Otis is the adult and youth Improv instructor at Empowerhouse Acting Studio in Berkeley. He is a member of several acting groups, including Grand Artique, a group of artisans that create unique installations at festivals and then create live entertainment and interactive performances throughout the festivals and shows they attend. 




This class is open to any youth ages 10 - 17 with a desire to learn about improv theater.  No prior training or experience is necessary.  For students with previous experience in theater, there will also be more advanced activities to push their individual abilities onstage.  Our instructor has extensive experience  working with youth actors, and he is skilled in making sure every student shines to the extent of their current abilities, while encouraging them to grow into new skills and abilities.  







Introduction to Commercial Auditioning for Young Actors 

Ages 8 - 17

All levels welcome 

There are many wonderful opportunities for young actors to work in commercials, industrials and commercial print. There are also hundreds of young actors auditioning for these opportunities, so an actor must do anything they can to learn how to stand out from their competition - in the right way. Commercial auditioning requires a very specific skill set that isn't taught in most acting classes. 


In this class, students will receive an introduction to the world of commercial auditioning. Students will learn and practice:


  1. Slating for commercial auditions

  2. Audition technique for various types of commercial auditions (improvised, scripted, group, etc.)

  3. Breaking down a commercial script

  4. Handling product

  5. Agent and casting director interviews 

  6. How to prepare for the audition

  7. Dealing with audition nerves and “stage fright”


  • Class size is limited to ensure individual attention for each student

  • 6 classes 

  • Please contact us to be placed on the wait list for the next session

Introduction to Film & TV Auditioning for Young Actors 

Ages 8 - 17

All levels welcome


In this class, students will develop their self-expression, acting skills, and most importantly confidence in their own unique voice. Acting exercises, improvisation and mock auditions will be used to help students learn critical skills required for film and television auditions. Students will learn and practice:

  1. Slating for film and television auditions 

  2. Audition etiquette and audition do's and don'ts

  3. Cold reading technique 

  4. Breaking down film and television audition sides in order to give the best audition possible

  5. How to prepare for an audition

  6. How to create a professional self-tape audition 

  7. Acting and improvisation exercises


  • 6 classes total 

  • Class size is limited to ensure individual attention for each student

  • Please contact us to be placed on the wait list for the next session


You and your child can work privately with a 20+ year veteran of the industry to learn and practice valuable skills needed to have a professional acting career. One-on-one coaching has several benefits:


  • Your child is guaranteed 100% individualized attention in a safe and supportive environment.

  • Empowerhouse Acting Studio Founder Melissa Thompson Esaia will work individually with you and your child to assess his or her needs, strengths and growth opportunities and customize a plan to help develop his or her acting and audition skills, as well as a plan for entering and working in the industry.

  • Your child will receive private coaching in acting, auditioning, cold reading, monologues, commercial auditions, script analysis, listening skills, communication skills, interviewing with agents, managers and casting directors, and navigating the entertainment industry in a healthy, empowered way.


Private coaching sessions are held via Zoom and accommodate your schedule.  All you need is a computer with the Zoom application and a quiet place for your child to work.


Private coaching fees are $125 per hour.  Fees are discounted when you purchase a private coaching package.

Payment Options: We accept cash, check, credit card, and Venmo.

Refund policy 

We interview all potential students and request that interviewees examine their ability to make the commitment required before enrolling in any class. Also training to be an actor is an exciting, rewarding, enriching growth experience. It can also be challenging and humbling and like with any growth journey you may experience growing pains that feel a bit scary or uncomfortable. But so often the biggest breakthroughs and growth come when you feel that fear and discomfort and instead of turning away from it, you explore it and move through it. Sometimes the only thing that keeps someone from quitting in a time of fear and discomfort is the tuition they paid. For this reason, we do not offer refunds on class deposits or tuition.

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