After spending nearly three decades as an actor, director and producer in Hollywood, Deke Anderson and his wife, Elsa Ward, moved to The Woodlands 10 years ago and brought their business, Next Level Acting Studios, with them.
Anderson, Ward and their colleagues offer their expertise in film and TV to aspiring actors and actresses of all ages through classes and private lessons. The couple opened their first Texas location in The Heights in 2006, followed by their second studio in The Woodlands two years later.
“There’s other acting coaches and teachers in the area, but they haven’t worked as long as Deke or they haven’t produced or directed before,” Ward said. “Deke’s length of experience in Hollywood for so many years is just unparalleled for the region. I think that sort of professionalism and quality trickles down into all aspects of our business.”
Since the 1980s, Anderson has accrued a lengthy list of film, TV, operatic and theatrical credits, including roles on TV shows, such as “Cheers” and “Devious Maids,” and the movie “The Green Lantern.” Ward, an attorney-turned-actor, made her own impression on Hollywood through her recurring role on “Days of Our Lives.”
The couple now teaches weekly adult, youth and teen acting classes between the two locations year-round. During the adult classes, held mainly at The Heights location, Anderson works on audition and screen test skills with the goal of helping his students book professional acting jobs.
During the youth and teen classes, held primarily at The Woodlands location, Ward and the studio’s other instructors focus on improvisation and traditional drama training.
“There’s so much joy and so much fun in [drama], and it develops so many skills kids need in order to be successful human beings—teamwork, creativity, imagination and confidence,” Ward said. “My heart is really, really in it for the development of the kids and teens. It’s just an amazing transformation to watch.”
In addition to developing life skills, drama also helps improve public speaking and presentation skills, Ward said. Many of her students are also involved in theater and receive supplemental TV and film training through Next Level to become more well-rounded actors.
Some of the studio’s adult students have earned credits in TV shows, such as “American Crime” and “House M.D.,” while some of the professional youth and teen students have appeared on “Parks & Recreation” and “Criminal Minds.”
“I coached people in Los Angeles and so much of the talent there comes from Texas,” Anderson said. “I’ve never coached kids in Los Angeles that are as talented as they are here—Texas just breeds art.”
Although the couple offers 13 classes between the two locations, each class is kept small with a maximum of 10-12 students. As a result, the studio typically has waiting lists. To help expose more students to the art, Ward offers a complimentary trial class for potential students before they decide to enroll for a full month.
In the future, Ward said she hopes to initiate “Bring a Friend to Class” days to enable more young people to try the program.
“I have several children that I started with when they were 7 years old—and now they’re 12 and 14—and I feel like I have extra kids because I’ve watched them grow up,” Ward said. “We really are a family here. We love the kids, and we really seek to help and foster them no matter what their interest is here. I think that’s why we have so many kids that come and they stay with us for so long—it becomes a second home for a lot of them.”
Anderson said although show business is not an easy industry to be successful in, it is worth the work.
“We get up every morning and are excited about what we do,” he said. “Failure can’t cope with persistence. If you keep going on auditions and you get on the good side of casting people, they’ll keep bringing you back even if you don’t get the job. And if you have the guts to stay in it, you’ll make it.”
Youth and Teen Classes:
- Monthly tuition for one session of four youth and teen classes is $150.
- Youth and teen classes meet once a week for 1.5 hours.
- The Woodlands offers seven youth and teen classes; The Heights offers two.
- Youth and teen classes are taught by Elsa Ward, Shelley Calene-Black and Teri Medina Galvan.
- Youth and teen classes focus on improvisation and traditional theater training.
- Monthly tuition for one session of four adult classes is $185.
- Adult classes meet once a week for three hours.
- The Heights offers three adult classes; The Woodlands offers one.
- Adult classes are taught by Deke Anderson.
- Adult classes focus on camera work, audition and screen test skills.
307-C Sawdust Road, Spring
Call for specific class times