NEW YORK — Dreams of a life in theater begin to come true at a prestigious acting school located right in the heart of Times Square.

Beneath Broadway’s famous Circle, in the Square Theater on West 50th Street, is where the next generation of actors hones their craft.

“Coming here is literally the best thing that has ever happened to me,” student Daniel Oakley said.

Circle in the Square Theater School has been cultivating artists for 60 years. It is Broadway’s only accredited conservatory.

CBS2’s Ali Bauman spoke with Executive Director Erica Moore and Artistic Director Jeanne Slater.

“How does this school stand out from the others? Bauman asked.

“Being able to use space. I mean, it’s so cool as a student to be able to work and have your class on a Broadway stage, especially for voice work,” Moore said. “You’re here and you’re working to be here and get a job on Broadway.”

Alumni include Lady Gaga, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Kevin Bacon.

Currently, the production above the school is “American Buffalo”, starring Laurence Fishburne, Sam Rockwell and Darren Criss.

READ MORE: Laurence Fishburne, Sam Rockwell and Darren Criss return to Broadway in “American Buffalo”

“In general, students see how it works, from loading to unloading. They see the process happening. They still see the shows,” Slater said.

“We’re literally already there. It’s upstairs, so it’s always really special, like, having half your faculty actively working on Broadway shows,” Oakley said.

Oakley and fellow student Maria Limon are in their second year of the two-year program. They had a rocky start as the pandemic forced their entire freshman year at acting school to be completely on Zoom.

“You have to, like, work twice as hard to connect with the person who isn’t even there,” Limon said.

“It made us want to do it more. It made us push harder to cross that boundary, and now that we’re here…we’re so grateful to be here working with each other every day.” , Oakley said.

Distance semesters allowed faculty to update their curriculum.

“We’ve learned from adapting to Zoom that education can’t be stagnant, education can’t be lost in time, it has to evolve,” said creative director Taylor Joseph Rivera.

Broadway, too, is still adapting to a post-COVID world, and with more than a dozen Broadway shows opening in April alone, these students are graduating at an exciting and unprecedented time for theater.

“There are a lot of changes going on in theater right now. It’s evolving, it’s more inclusive, and so we want students to have the opportunity to have a say in who they are as an artist,” Moore said.

“They’re really going where no one has gone. The path is brand new in terms of what happens when you graduate from a program right now. What’s that like?” says Slater. “I’m just really proud of them and really can’t wait to see what they do next.”

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