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'Opens my eyes': Theatre pro offering audition workshop, acting classes

Barrie's Scott Hurst will be passing on his extensive knowledge and expertise at South Simcoe Theatre in Cookstown starting in June
Theatre creator and teacher, Scott Hurst, is offering several courses at the South Simcoe Theatre in Barrie beginning in June.

Longtime theatre professional Scott Hurst is offering an adult audition preparation workshop for musicals, storytelling and play reading courses for those 55-plus, and summer acting classes for a range of ages at the South Simcoe Theatre (SST) in Cookstown beginning early June.

Hurst lives in Barrie and is well known for his work with theatres in the Simcoe County area, including SST, Kempenfelt Community Players, Talk is Free Theatre, Theatre by the Bay, Huronia Players and the Orillia Sunshine Festival.

He has made a living as a professional actor, singer, dancer, director, writer and producer, with seasons at Stratford Festival, Charlottetown Festival, Blyth Festival, Thousand Islands Playhouse and National Arts Centre. He has offered private coaching and classes for all levels of interest and ability for almost 25 years.

This comprehensive experience of the theatre world is generously shared with his students. A past participant in Hurst’s acting class, Tracie Kennedy, said, “Scott's classes were a great introduction for me to some of the basics of acting on stage. Scott is full of experience and interesting stories, and he made each class truly enjoyable. Regardless of your stage in your acting journey, the SST classes are so beneficial.”

The learning curve is mutual. When asked by InnisfilToday about what motivates him, Hurst said, “In the past two years, in particular, I have found that I leave every one of these classes energized, and I've learned a few useful things by listening to others. Whether it's acting basics, or scene study, audition prep or storytelling, I try to actively listen to those who come to class and personalize the courses to their needs. I try to meet everyone where they're at but encourage them to reach a little further than they thought they would. Every class opens my eyes a little to the potential of artists in Simcoe County.”

Another of Hurst’s students, Andy Della Ventura, said, “I had a great experience with Scott and his teaching really is top notch. In all honesty I would have paid more. The level of instruction was university or even post graduate. You could get as much out of the class as you were willing to put in.”

Since taking some of Hurst’s classes, Della Ventura auditioned and got a part in Theatre Georgian Bay’s production this summer, Much Ado About Nothing. He said, “Scott encouraged me to get back into acting which was not an easy decision. Scott made me feel more confident as an actor by putting me in the right mindset.”

Most of Hurst’s adult acting classes (18-plus) fill with people of various ages and experience on stage. Some people are trying acting for the first time, and sometimes as a personal development exercise. Others, such as Della Ventura, acted earlier in their life and want to explore it again.

“Since the (COVID-19) pandemic, people are rediscovering their voices and in-person classes are bringing together people who are hungry to interact and learn new things," Hurst said. "Everyone has had enough of classes and performances online for awhile, and I'm seeing people grow in confidence, and self awareness. Lots of terrific self observations come out of all the classes; people tell me they feel heard and seen.”

The pandemic was a motivating factor for SST to bring in several instructors and to develop classes about acting and other aspects of theatre production such as introduction to directing, costume design, reading music and stage management.

SST president, Nancy Chapple Smokler, said, “The board recognized post-pandemic that it was vital that we build capacity within the group, to ensure SST's continuation for years to come. One of the best ways to do this is by offering education opportunities to the community. This has been a wonderful way to get our name out and to involve people who weren’t even aware of our existence. Our goal is to enhance our talent pool with confident, skilled, and enthusiastic actors and designers who will help us to continue to create exceptional and diverse community theatre experiences for our members, audiences and partners throughout the area.”

Besides adult classes, Hurst will be teaching a course to 13- to 17-year-olds this summer.

“Many young people in that age range are beginning to explore what they would like to do with their future and beginning to consider a post-secondary education in the arts," he said. "Taking a class from an instructor who has been in the business for over 40 years can open their minds to the possibilities out there for singer/dancers who act, actors who sing, and actors who dance. Learning the basics of technique in an atmosphere that is safe, encouraging and well structured encourages them to excel. I'm also very encouraging of students who are struggling to identify who they want to become.”  

Acting is a process that develops over time. Although the adult courses are called Acting Level One and Two, retaking a course offers another opportunity to explore.

“People who are serious about the craft of acting, from teens to seniors, know that lifelong learning is how actors grow and refine their 'instrument'," Hurst said. "There is always something new to learn or explore in an acting class. That's why I don't issue certificates of completion, because you're never truly done.”

Classes begin soon. To learn more, go to

Rosaleen Egan is a freelance journalist, storyteller, and playwright. She blogs on her website: