On Location Education:
School Without Walls
In the late
1980s, Alan Simon, a Brooklyn native and aspiring actor was
making a living as a per diem substitute teacher.
Though the salary was stable, he felt dissatisfied. “I
always felt like one of the kids,” he says. Simon had
always harbored the dream of becoming an actor. Although
he never formally studied acting, his theatrical nature drew
him to the field. His parents’ belief in the value of
education influenced Alan to pursue formal studies in college
where he majored in English with a minor in Education.
In 1980 he was hired by the musical Frankenstein to work
as a tutor on set. He never anticipated that this temporary
assignment would evolve into a career.
A year and half later he was approached by a colleague who suggested the
idea of a starting a tutoring service for young actors.
Simon’s discouragement was soon dispelled two years later in the
fall of 1982 when he was hired simultaneously by the production
company of Easy Money to
tutor kids on set and on the production of Almost an Eagle. He then tutored child actors on both the Cosby Show and Kate and Ally. The business expanded when the show Les Miserables requested
that he hire teachers in the local cities on tour. The once
simple project, now called On Location Education,
has expanded and built its credibility within both the education
and entertainment industries.
insists that the relationship with the home school is an
essential barometer for the child’s progress. Some teachers provide
syllabi and On Location keeps a portfolio of the student’s
progress for review by teachers in his home school.
1995, Simon’s business faced an obstacle with schools that were
forcing children to make a choice between formal enrollment
in school or pursuing their acting. Simon conceived of The
School for Young Performers in response to this need. He
developed a new component of the business that allowed students
to earn academic credit while working on set. The school,
with an accredited New York State K-12 curriculum has been
coined “A School Without Walls” providing teachers
on site that easily accommodate a schedule of working actors
traveling with a production.
The School for Young Performers currently enrolls 60 students, including
kids of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.
Ringling Brothers hires the teachers and On Location Education
provides head hunters for teachers and oversees student progress,
as well as providing exclusive on-set enrollment.
Teacher recruitment is a major component of the business. When selecting
teachers, Simon looks for candidates who have a sense of
humor and flexibility. The school recruits college graduates
who are considering a fulltime teaching career as well as
retired teachers who enjoy a flexible schedule and the travel
it provides. Simon describes ideal
candidates as “mavericks,” people who like the
life on the road.
It is not at all uncommon, Simon states for parents looking for an alternative
to home schooling
to enroll their child in the School for Young Performers
as well as hiring On Location Education to provide additional
Alan Simon who once dreamed of being on stage himself struck the ideal
balance between work that integrates his two passions. Both
components, On Location Education and The School for Young
Performers combines his belief in education with his dedication
and love for the field of entertainment. He sees himself
as advocate on behalf of the child. In addition to lobbying
on behalf of child labor laws, and procuring work permits
for his clients, he has worked in New York for a bill to
set aside accounts for children in the industry. He stays
informed within the industry and is the Co-Chair of the Screen
Actors Guild Young Performers Committee. He is also active
in Actors Equity, American Federation of Teachers, and educates
both parents and children through seminars on college campuses
on how to integrate education with a career.
The proof of Simon’s success lies in the work of its graduates,
and its list of clientele among whom are Natalie Portman,
and members of The Sopranos,
and The Lion King. For young child actors, athletes and others who
struggle with the decision to pursue a career in entertainment,
Simon helps them to balance career with study. On Location
Education and the School for Young Performers offers them
the chance to nurture their talents while keeping their options