About Me – Bio

About Me

Melissa Graves
Hi, I’m Melissa Graves, founder of the Youth Acting Studio.    For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved acting . . .  When I was young, acting classes were few and far between (and very expensive), so I spent most of my childhood imagining and creating my own productions at home in Pennsylvania.

As a teenager, my first acting experiences came through engaging with my community through “Educational and Social Activism Theatre” with TOVA – Artistic Projects for Social Change.  There I learned to create original theatre works from personal stories and social issues.  I participated in and helped guide workshops, conventions and performances dealing with peer pressure, adolescent drug abuse, women’s issues and teen pregnancy.

In addition, I found a fantastic local theatre, the 1st (and longest-running) repertory theatre in the country, Hedgerow Theatre that held small and personalized acting classes. With a small class of about 10 students, we were able just be ourselves and create! We stayed together for session after session, creating scene showcases and plays, performing  in class and at our homes.  I made great friends and learned a lot about putting in the work to create a performance.

I decided to major in Theatre and English at Muhlenberg College where large musical productions ran side-by-side in importance with myriad smaller “Black Box” or “Studio” productions.  We were encouraged to participate and explore every aspect of production; so . .  I acted, directed, stage managed, worked on sets, props, lights and costumes!   We were also given the opportunity to  study a broad array of international theatre performances and techniques with a semester away in London, England. (I’m proud to say Muhlenberg has been rated as #1 Theatre Program in the Country by the Princeton Review.)

Upon graduation, I moved to New York City where I hoped to grow as a theatre artist.  I found acting mentors in New York that enlightened me with entirely new and different approaches to acting  like Polina Klimovitskaya at  Michael Howard Studios, Lee Brock and Seth Barrish at the OBIE-award winning The Barrow Group Theatre Company and Acting School, improv classes with The Upright Citizens Brigade, writing classes with Second City and workshop after workshop with a variety of industry professionals from the stage, screen and writing worlds.  Every day I was able to practice my craft and grow as an artist!

After 10 years of working in the NYC theatre scene, events led me and my husband to the beautiful city of Olympia, WA.  We had a beautiful baby boy and a whole new coast to navigate!  However, my urge to create as a theatre artist remained – it was just my time that was more limited.  Because of my parenting duties, I’ve been unable to participate in the rich local scene that Olympia offers, so I decided to create Youth Acting Studio and contribute a bit of my own.

I hope to create a learning environment where students can feel heard, create bonds,  explore their emotional life, learn a diversity of techniques and styles, maximize their creativity, perform and have fun growing as an artist!