Discovering ATC: A Mother & Son's Journey

[My son] was born seeing the world through an actor’s eyes. ATC is one of the few places I’ve ever experienced that seems to understand what this means....

acting blog parent
Mother & son, Kate & Ben Ancell, discover ATC is the right fit for a burgeoning actor's education.

When our family moved to the North Shore of Chicago from the city, finding a place for my second-grade son to train as an actor was the farthest thing from my mind. It's funny now, looking back, that we didn’t see it coming...

My Ben sang before he even spoke - so much so, we called him “Billy Elliott” as a toddler because although walking was apparently a complete waste of his time, moving to ANY rhythm or beat was a calling. Fast forward to his first experience on stage (as a tree, with his first-ever line being, “Timber!” ) & that very night, he asked me when he could expect to go on stage again. It was all he wanted to do. It was inherent in who he was. It still is.

We heard about Actors Training Center (ATC) - as one does living on the North Shore— & found that everyone whose kids participated seemed to adore it. So, naturally, about five years after it was first mentioned to me (mother of the year, I am), I called on the “off chance” that they might have a program my then-freshman son could participate in. I think it’s fair to say that they did, as since that day he’s never looked back.

Over the past three years, ATC has become such an important part of Ben’s life—of our whole family’s life—that I literally can’t imagine not being a part of the community.

Ben did the Professional Summer Acting Intensive (PSI) the summer after his freshman year & loved it so much that he did it again after sophomore year because he felt that the training he got in those two intensive weeks both summers was irreplaceable.

(In fact, this summer he will be attending a summer course at a drama school in London & his ONLY hesitation in taking the spot he was offered was that it conflicted with PSI, which he now can’t imagine NOT doing every year.)

on camera summer camp
Ben in a dramatic on camera scene during PSI 2018.

The teachers & staff at ATC have been life-changing for my son. They are all - each & every one of them - educators in the very best sense of the word. Although the training Ben gets is rigorous & expectations on him are high, he never hesitates to do his best to rise to the challenge. Their approach to teaching is done with such love, compassion, & positive energy that the students demand to raise the bar on themselves. The students have such respect for their teachers & - unusually for this age - one another, that none of them are willing to be any class or group’s weak link.

(I don’t really understand how they do it, to be honest. If I had to deal with that many teenagers & their angsty issues while they were learning to EMOTE effectively, I think I’d jump out a window...)

Their universal desire is to become the best actors they can be, while remaining good humans with empathy, compassion & encouragement for one another.
And I know that this is solely down to the environment that is written into the soul & DNA of the very place itself.

Ben is in the Comedy Troupe now, & he is so proud to be a member of that group, because he considers all the other members to be so talented that he’s lucky to be able to train with them. I actually think all of the kids there feel this way.

As a parent, I feel extraordinarily lucky to have found ATC for my son. I feel that he is truly seen there—both by his peers & by the educators surrounding him. I feel safe for him there—which, as a theater parent, I can assure you is not the most-common sensation in the world.

Ben was born seeing the world through an actor’s eyes. This is not always an easy gift to have. ATC is one of the few places I’ve ever experienced that seems to understand what this means, intuitively—they see life the same way, after all.

It will be a sadness to all of us when he leaves it & us to go off & do what he was put here to do…but I know that because of his time there, he will always have two homes to come back to, both filled with people who love him.

And that is a very, very rare gift— & lesson for a teen to learn—indeed.

-Kate Ancell, ATC Parent

To find out more information about the programs listed in this article, visit

Other Summer (& Spring!) courses are available for all ages in a variety of disciplines at Registration is open, rolling, & filling! See you in class!

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