Class channels acting talent

NORTHWEST DISTRICT ? While temperatures climbed toward the triple digits Monday, nine young acting students were laying flat on their backs on a soundstage in an air-conditioned studio in Burbank, channeling imaginary sunshine as their teacher talked them through a guided imagery exercise.

"Can you feel the warmth?" teacher Glenn Withrow asked the class.

Several students grimaced, trying to shrug off a scorching heat that only existed in their minds.

The exercise was a part of In House Media's "Summer Workshop for Young Actors," hosted by actress Hallie Todd, who has appeared on television shows such as "Golden Girls" and "Murder, She Wrote" and most recently as "Jo McGuire" on the Disney sitcom "Lizzie McGuire."

Todd and her husband, Withrow ? who has logged dozens of film and television credits ? founded In House Media, Inc., in Burbank in 1998, primarily as a visual and audio production studio. But three years ago, the studio started offering classes and workshops for aspiring young actors.

"I had so many memories of the workshops and the classes that I was in," Todd said. "I think watching people catch on to something in them that they didn't know was there is an exciting thing ? when they discover that they can do something that they didn't know they could do."

The students in the workshop currently underway will leave with head shots and a professional demo reel that they can use to market themselves as actors, but the class is more about developing and honing vital skills, Todd said.

"I really believe that there's so much that comes from studying acting ? it's helpful in so many areas of life," she said.

During an improvisation called "The Mad Family," four actresses ? Ivy Withrow, 13; Paige Tucker, 12; Marie Barnes, 14; and Heather Duncan, 15 ? turned one of the more mundane areas of every day life, morning breakfast, into torrent of jibes and exaggerated sibling rivalry.

The opportunity to test the bounds of acting without inhibitions is one of the things Heather finds most attractive about the workshop.

"This has really helped me a lot to kind of come out and do things that I wouldn't normally do with my acting," she said. "You feel really comfortable here. You can work just on your acting without worrying about what other people are thinking."

Courteney Burness, 10, who has taken classes at the In House studio for more than a year, said the workshops have taught her valuable knowledge about the language and craft of acting.

"I'm learning how to break down scenes and how to read more into the characters," she said.

In House added a third summer session from July 31 to Aug. 11.

Workshops meet from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information call (800) 448-9700 or visit

Caption: (LA)Actress Hallie Todd, right, coaches Devon Tucker, 9, and Alexis Walker, 12, at her summer acting workshop for youngsters.

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