Leaving her job casting actors for Disney has worked out well for recent Jamaica Plain transplant Brittany Shapiro. After years in Los Angeles, she has just been made director of the Media Performance Institute (MPI) at Boston Casting.
“L.A. is such a tough city. There’s a very warm feeling in JP,” Shapiro said in a Gazette interview. “I love the community feel to it. I found that lacking in L.A. No one knew their neighbor. No one cared to know their neighbor.”
One of her most popular classes at MPI is Boston Accent Reduction. Currently, MPI does not offer a Boston Accent Augmentation class for actors who would like to add the accent to their repertoire, though she said it’d be a worthwhile consideration for the future.
“It’s just like any other accent. It’s part of being an actor, you need to be able to put on any accent and it needs to be authentic. It’s something you learn with training,” she said.
Accent, or dialect, classes are something she’d recommend for any actor, she said.
“I think a dialect class would be great, especially for teens and adults. I think it’d be really useful, it makes an actor more marketable,” she said.
She also said accent reduction can be useful for business people. “I have a CEO coming in next week,” she said, explaining that some people think the accent denotes a lack of education. “All walks in life may be in interested in this class.”
Shapiro didn’t graduate college expecting to come back to the East Coast. After getting her bachelor’s in drama from Syracuse University, she spent time working and performing in the Washington, D.C. area.
When finding acting work got tough, though, she found work teaching acting.
“It’s hard to be a full-time actor and make a living off that. As a back up, I started teaching acting classes in D.C. One class led to another and another, then I was promoted into school director, which meant I had to give up performing. But I loved teaching,” Shapiro said. “Every actor should have a plan B. I’m glad I did that, getting a minor in education, or I’d be a struggling actor somewhere.”
After a few years in D.C., Shapiro and her husband decided to go big and move to Los Angeles. Shapiro found work casting for a Disney channel kids’ show, but her husband wasn’t so lucky. After a year-and-a-half on the West Coast, they came back East.
“It was one of those moments where we thought we had to branch out,” she said. “Then he landed a job here, and we picked up and moved.”
“I feel very lucky that I found this casting office and this school. There are very few opportunities for drama admin here. It’s a much smaller market,” Shapiro, a Newburyport native, added. “We feel very lucky to come back to Boston. Everything fell into place. It’s a great fit.”
MPI is the educational arm of Boston Casting and provides training to actors, CEOs and anyone who wants to better their improv skills.