Breaking Down The Professional Summer Intensive

For aspiring young actors, intensive programs specifically cultivated to help them amount to future aspirations are not easy to find.  Actors Training Center offers classes, workshops and opportunities to be in shows to their students, however, no program they offer is quite as prestigious as their professional summer intensive (PSI). 

PSI is a two-week-long audition-only program. This training intensive is composed of the best-of-the-best and culminates with a showcase that will be submitted to casting directors and agencies in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.  

“The goal is to give them as many diverse skills and tools as possible so they have the best chance to make their dreams a reality,” Christina Ramirez said.

Ramirez is the managing director of ATC with experience as a professional actor, teaching artist and director. 

“Many young actors want to be famous but don’t understand what it means to train as a professional actor and to audition professionally,” Ramirez said. “They need to understand that the majority of your job as a professional actor is auditioning.”

Ramirez executes PSI along with the ATC Founder/executive director, Carole Dibo. Dibo has worked extensively in the film, television and industrial markets. Dibo has been running PSI before even coming to ATC and trained broadway stars including Philipa Soo, the original Eliza in Hamilton.

“Carole has just helped me so much and I have so much insight on the industry now,” 2022 PSI student Shaya Scales said. 

Scales is an incoming high school senior and auditioned for PSI to grow her skill-set before embarking upon college auditions. 

“It’s been everything I ever expected and more,” Scales said. “It’s genuinely been one of the best experiences.”

Ramirez and Dibo both lend their artistic expertise to the program by teaching courses focusing on on-camera work, the business-end of the industry and monologue work. 

Sophomore at Boston University, Eloise Lushina, served as the 2022 program intern. Her primary role was to act as a mentor and confidant to the students. 

“The students have already grown so much and the way they interact with each other and take risks is constantly improving,” Lushina said. “They’re committed and want to be here. I love seeing their enthusiasm and engagement.”

The unique opportunity within PSI is that the students are not only given the chance to enhance their craft but they get to do so in an environment where all the actors are equally serious about it.

“Kids come from all over Illinois and Wisconsin for PSI,” Ramirez said. “There’s something really special about seeing students in a group of peers that have the same amount of passion about the thing that they love.”

In week one of the program (2022), students start off with physical theatre and circus movement work. The goal of this is to get them comfortable taking risks and break their preconceived notions about what it means to be an actor. They then moved into on-camera work and were given the chance to study the Alexander technique with a certified instructor. 

As the week progresses they get professional headshots done, partake in rigorous study of Shakespeare with Kevin Long and work on improvisation with Tim Soszko.

Long was nominated for the 2015 Tony Award for Excellence in Theatre Education, and Soszko has taught at Second City, Columbia College and more- making them exceptional instructors for the hand-selected PSI students.

In week two, guest speakers including Broadway actor, Will Pullen, and Steppenwolf casting director, JC Clementz, allowed students to gain invaluable insight into the industry they hope to break into. 

Pullen himself completed the PSI program and went on to originate two roles on Broadway. Scene study was taught by Jerell Henderson, who received a BA in Theatre Arts from The Pennsylvania State University and an MFA in Directing from Northwestern University. 

The students study commercial work, scene study, audition technique and even put stage combat into the mix. 

Additionally, throughout the two weeks, they work on monologues and scenes that were meticulously selected for them by Dibo. They were split into half and one group was coached by Lynn Baber while the other worked with Michael McKeogh. 

2022 PSI student Eva Vitellaro is an incoming high school freshman with experience in paid and community theatre, Vitellaro has enjoyed working on monologues and scenes throughout the summer and watching her growth.

“It’s helped me because, in the beginning, I was a little extra and really out there,” Vitellaro said. “Now, I’ve learned just to keep calm and keep my inside voice when speaking.”

Students tape these monologues and scenes at the end of the program to be incorporated into the showcase tape.

While it varies every summer how many of the PSI students can sign with agencies, the summer of 2020 had a 100% success rate and 2021 came in with about 90% of students being signed.

“A girl last year in PSI did not sign right after the showcase,” Ramirez said. “She took what she learned, re-submitted 6 months later to the same agencies, and signed with a top Chicago agency. Even without immediate success, PSI builds a foundation for professional success.”

They are working together towards a showcase to show what they learned at a professional level by submitting to casting agencies at the end of the program,” Lushina said.

PSI affords young actors a multitude of opportunities as it provides a variety of instruction covering quintessential areas of the arts. Click here to find out  2023 Program Details and how to audition! –