Louisville Teachers’ Passion Inspires Students to Excel on Stage and Beyond

August 21, 2011


By:  George Addison

Young Actors Institute Director Clint Vaught says "teachers invest more in others; actors invest more time into themselves."

Clint Vaught is a man of many talents who also wears a number of hats, as well.  Some know him as the eccentric Communications Instructor at duPont Manual High School, as Coordinator for the Youth Performing Arts School or as Director of the Young Actors Institute.  Others throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky know him as a professional actor of film, stage and television, and as a caring human being who loves teaching youth as much, if not more, than performing.  Vaught often tells people “ teachers invest more in others; actors invest more time into themselves.”  Vaught’s professional acting career has included appearances in films like the award-winning “Assisted Living, directed by Elliot Greenebaum, Paper Cut, My True Self” and numerous commercials.

But, each summer he is drawn back by the dreams and aspirations of the 10 to 17 year olds that demonstrate the desire, drive and dedication to embrace the performance arts process. This past summer marked the 24th year in a row that Vaught and his cadre of all-star instructors have invested their heart and soul into the youth attending the Young Actors Institute.  He fondly recalls how in July of 1988, a former principal of the Youth Performing Arts school, Bob West, asked him to develop a program that would be available to the community and could be used as a recruitment tool of sorts for students.  After recruiting five teachers and enrolling 55 students in the initial class, the program has since grown and evolved into a labor of love.  Vaught said, “I am blessed by the continued support of the Young Actors Institute teachers, staff, students and parents.”

The YAI program exposes youth to the dramatic and production skills necessary for entering the Cinema, Stage and Television profession.  It was modeled after a program Vaught had seen at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1986.  The YAI model allows students to participate in ten seventy- minute classes over a period of two weeks and have access to a staff of industry professionals like Phillip Cherry, Scott Davis, Felicia Corbett, Tom Luce, Phyllis Vaught and others.  Vaught says this group of teachers rivals any staff of similar programs across the nation.  This year, seventy percent of the class consisted of new students.

YAI intern Emily Kidwell says “I have gained a lot of confidence for myself as a result of attending YAI.  It’s a great experience that helps you face challenges, channel energy and grow as a person.” And, fellow Intern, Madison Cunningham, agreed with Emily adding “I gained a lot from working with different people and I learned to be more open to other people’s ideas.”    One of Vaught’s all-star instructors is Phillip Cherry.  He has an extensive film/stage/television resume.   A graduate of Western Kentucky University, he’s appeared on camera

Cherry says, "skills learned through the arts are skills that will benefit kids for life."

with the likes of Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Bill Murray, Warren Oates, John Candy, Ashley Judd, Stacy Keach, Morgan Freeman and others in films such as; Stripes, The Insider, The Ryan Interview, Keep Your Distance, The Feast of Love, and Workplace Essential Skills (PBS Television).  Cherry has worked with Vaught and the YAI program for some 18 years and teaches style and character classes to students.  Cherry says the early exposure to the performing arts as a youth helped him grow as a person. So, he uses his talents to inspire and encourage YAI students to make good choices for themselves via the arts. He adds, “ I was fortunate to have great parents and good schools to provide the foundation for my success, the skills learned through the arts are skills that will benefit students for life.”  YAI has had some great input over the years.  Vaught remembers the

multi-talented record producer / songwriter / actress / model Nicole Scherzinger when she attended the Youth Performing Arts School. He’s forever grateful and appreciative of her support.  He added “ She cared enough for YPAS / YAI to have visited and further encouraged our students to continue pursuing their dreams.”

Scott Davis is the Producing Director at the Alley Theater of Louisville and teaches acting for the cinema camera.

YAI instructors Tom Luce and Scott Davis have also supported the institute for fifteen or more years.  Luce, a veteran of national and regional television / radio commercials, has a MFA in theatre and attended the graduate acting program at NYU.  He’s taught Stage Combat, commercial acting and several other classes. Luce says, “Young Actors Institute was one of the first programs of its type in Louisville. It’s considered the granddaddy of acting programs for kids, and I think it’s the best program of its kind.”  Scott Davis’ commitment to the YAI program is equally compelling.  The producing director for the Alley Theater of Louisville has been contributing to YAI since 1989.  A graduate of the California Institute of the Arts, he was one of the only graduates to have successfully completed their experimental program. Davis teaches acting for the cinema camera and has worked on film projects with Drew Barrymore and has produced and directed over a hundred productions.  He credits Vaught for giving him his first teaching job and plans to continue supporting YAI as long as he’s needed.

Felicia Corbett teaches improv and began her relationship with the Young Actors Institute in 2001 as an intern, and began instructing a few years later.   She attended Millikin

Vaught says Nicole Scherzinger has visited YPAS to encourage youth to continue pursuing their dreams.

University before transferring to and graduating from the University of Louisville.  Corbett has performed on stage and did a stint with

Corbett worked at the Second City Improv company in Chicago and now shares her experiences with YAI students.

“The Second City” company in Chicago, which specializes in sketch comedy and improv.  Felicia says she shares her experiences on improv that she gained while working at Second City with her students.  She further stated, “ I try to teach the kids the importance of improv because it is an important skill to know, whether they’re shy or outgoing, everyone has to participate and I think everyone gains something from it.  More importantly YAI instructors like Phillip Cherry, Tom Luce, Scott Davis, Clint Vaught and others teach the kids that it’s not necessary to become an “A” list artist to succeed in this industry.  These are role models they can see and who help make their dreams tangible.” 

Make-up and Set Design professional Phyllis Vaught has shared her talents with YAI students for more than fifteen years.

Make-up artist and costume designer, Phyllis Vaught, teaches students the art of using theatrical make-up and has taught at YAI for some fifteen years.  She says, “A lot of the kids are really serious about acting and doing commercial work.  They learn how to put their make-up on and utilize creativity while working with different materials.  The basics I teach at YAI take them well beyond the classroom.”   Sixteen-year old make-up intern, Christian Dospil, has been with YAI for nine years.  He says the experience has taught him about more than applying make-up and acting.  Dospil adds, “ The opportunity helped prepare me for YPAS.  Ultimately, I hope the skills gained here will help me do what I really want to do which is to some day perform on Broadway.”   His co-intern, Ana Cervera, also echoes the sentiment.  Ana loves the blood and gore portion taught by Ms. Vaught and also dreams of using these skills one day on Broadway.

Actor Tom Luce is a veteran of a number of national television commercials. He has taught YAI students stage combat and several other acting classes.

Safiyyah Rasool professional dancer and owner of Safiyyah Dance says she trusts the instructors at YAI and has seen her daughter grow from the experience.

A number of professionals in the performing arts industry also see a great benefit in sending their children to YAI.  Twelve-year-old Jazzlin Hamilton’s father Mauriece, a professional musician, and her mother Angela, an artist, say they are proud of their daughter’s success at YAI.  Young Jazzlin says, “ Participating in the monologue classes has helped my confidence a lot.  There’s no place like YAI.  You can learn everything here, it’s like being home.”   Safiyyah Rasool, a professional dancer and owner of Safiyyah Dance, says she trusts the top-notch instructors at YAI and her daughter has attended the Institute for two years.  She has seen her daughter, Ciara, grow as a person and performer.  Adding, “Her confidence in herself has grown and now she’s more motivated and inspired to pursue her dream of acting.  The YAI program really gives her and other kids a sense of maturity in understanding the arts.  The self-assurance and confidence instilled in her by the YAI professional staff allows all the kids to be who they are and explore the possibilities of developing their craft.”

Other instructors contributing to the YAI team include: Amy Attaway of Actors Theatre a former intern that has nine years with the program.  She teaches acting for the commercial camera.  Charlotte Douglas, a theater teacher from Presentation Academy, has been with the program for six years and teaches monologue and audition skills.  Kate E. Reedy, a contributor for thirteen years, teaches Musical Theater Movement and YPAS graduate, Eric Allgeier, teaches scenic and artistic design.   Vaught’s focus now returns to teaching students at the Youth Performing Arts School as the school season begins to hit its stride.  But, students and parents of the YAI program can be certain that he’s already planning new challenges and surprises for the kids as he looks forward to celebrating YAI’s 25th year in 2012.








Clint Vaught played the character Hance Purcell in the acclaimed movie "Assisted Living."

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