From burlesque to puppetry, musical theatre to Shakespeare, film and television to cabaret, there are hundreds of private and public theatre schools all over the country. You could be forgiven for thinking, therefore, that there are enough drama schools out there already; that whichever area of performance was your passion, your training would be covered. But up until now, there have been few – if any – theatre schools in Melbourne which cater to all ages and levels of experience.

Enter Active Performance Studio, a new theatre school in Moorabbin which offers classes for all ages and levels of expertise, from three-year-olds for whom the "Micro-Stars" course might be an extension of play, to adults looking to begin a career in the performance industry.

The launch for A.P.S, as it will be known to its students, staff, and the wider theatre community, is on August 29th 2011, and is the product of the founders’ long-held passion for theatre. Indeed, Peter and Naomi Derrick, co-owners of Smallfry, Derrick Talent Management and Derrick Talent Elite casting agencies, have had intentions to open an actor’s training studio for many years. Peter says, "I am really excited that Active Performance Studio will give us the chance to work with performers who want to further develop their skills, with the ultimate aim of giving them the best chance of getting work in what is a highly competitive market.  Having an agency background helps us achieve this." His long-held dream of establishing an acting school has finally come to fruition through his years of experience in the industry.

“Having my own kids working and training in the arts industry sparked the idea for the studio,” Peter explains. “As both parents and agents, we wanted to be able to offer quality training and see both adults and kids get the opportunity to showcase their natural talents, and ultimately fulfil their dream of working in the industry.”

They are joined in the management of the school by John Gauci, who is the patron and head tutor at the studio. Mr Gauci has many years experience in the industry, tutoring such diverse talent as Kodi-Smit McPhee and Radha Mitchell, and has previously directed the actors Chris and Liam Hemsworth and Sam Neill.

"I have known and worked with John Gauci for many years and wanted to give more acting students the opportunity to work with him," Peter explains. "He was always going to be the face of the school. We were fortunate to get Jan Russ onboard too, for specialty workshops. The studio is self-funded with a small team of experienced tutors, who I have worked with over time, ready to launch the classes. Additional tutors will be carefully selected over the coming months, many of them working actors and industry people, as the studio grows in reputation and in student numbers."

Jan Russ, another patron of APS, is one of the original production team for Neighbours. She worked as a Casting Director and Assistant Producer on the show for 22 years and cast many now-famous Neighbours alumni, including Guy Pearce, Jason Donovan and of course, Kylie Minogue.

APS hopes to offer a place for actors to experiment, train and fine-tune their craft. Peter explains, "Our tutors are truly interested in people, in particular performers. I believe, apart from our tutors having the knack for teaching acting, they will create a training environment where people can experiment and make mistakes, without losing much needed confidence."

Peter is positive when describing the time it took to set up the school and the range of facilities on offer. "We were very fortunate to come across the Levanswell site. It suits our agency office needs and more than suits our studio needs: green screen space, three training studios, editing suite and a huge rehearsal space. Perfect." When asked if he encountered any difficulties, he says, "Just hard work!"

The studio is affiliated with a number of reputable child and adult casting agencies, and the Derricks are confident that this, as well as the diverse ages and levels of its students, will provide a point of difference to the myriad of other theatre schools in Melbourne. The studio is also devoted to keeping prices reasonable, so that training is affordable. Classes begin at $17.50 for the youngest children and go up to $45 a class for adults, and are paid term by term.

Students can enrol oline or by contacting A.P.S. directly. Peter says, "Tutors will be tailoring their teaching methods to satisfy individual needs. This is the beauty of starting up, participants get extensive attention. As the school grows, course options will expand and become more skill level orientated. Until then, every student, beginner or advanced, will be tutored accordingly."

Students at APS will receive dynamic actor training, attend school holiday programs, and receive singing tuition. All students older than pre-schoolers will complete their own showreel of filmed work, which they can take with them when they finish their course. The studio also hopes to offer classes in dance and musical theatre in the future.

Active Performance Studio. 1/34 Levanswell Road, Moorabbin, VIC 3189. phone: (03) 9078 1454