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Meet John Paizis of Performing Arts Studio West in Inglewood

Today we’d like to introduce you to John Paizis.

John, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I was born in San Francisco. I have been an actor and musician from the time I was fifteen years old. After a brief stint in college, I studied acting with Sanford Meisner at New York’s famed Neighborhood Playhouse, and worked extensively in theater throughout New England, the Midwest and California. I trained as a puppeteer with The Muppets creators Jim Henson and Frank Oz, and appeared in several large-scale children’s television projects.

As a musician, singer, and songwriter, I founded the Bay Area-based show band The Del Pompadours, and was the lead singer in the L.A. based rock bands Kid Twist and World Affairs. I’ve also performed as a voice over artist for CD-Rom interactive software games, children’s educational music projects, and law enforcement training DVDs.

After seventeen years of working with adults with disabilities in Los Angeles while pursuing my artistic endeavors, I founded in 1998, Performing Arts Studio West (PASW) to provide hands-on individualized training, career management, and on-location support for performers with intellectual disabilities working in film, television and commercials. Our year round training program gives each performer the chance to explore their creativity, test their courage, show their determination and build their self-esteem. I started out as the sole instructor work with five very determined would- be performers. PASW is a non-profit affiliated arts program funded by the State of California Department of Developmental Services through the Regional Centers of the Greater Los Angeles Area. We now have a staff of thirteen and work with more than ninety actors, singers and dancers with disabilities.

The PASW Director of Talent Management researches and submits clients for both disability specific and non-traditional roles for union and non-union projects, including film, television, music videos, commercials, a theater. PASW performers ave been cast in over 1,800 roles since the studio’s inception.

PASW works with SAG-AFTRA, casting directors, producers, and directors to promote and increase hiring of performers with disabilities for entertainment industry projects.

I have written, produced and acted in three PASW original musicals, “The Ecstasy of Dogs, Sparks & Giants,” “Kick Me When I’m Down…I’m Dead!” and “The National Cesspool!” John wrote, directed and co-starred in the studio’s first film project, a 1960′s horror genre film spoof, “Cut It Out, Monster…You’re Killing Me!” He was also the writer and producer of the urban comedy web series, “Sir Glen of Glenwood,” and the book for the musical “Recovered” in addition to writing and producing fifteen annual holiday shows.

I am a contributing writer for Ability Magazine and an on-set consultant and acting coach for film projects and television shows which have included “ER,” “CSI:NY,” “Shameless,” “Saving Grace,” “7th Heaven,” “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” “Glee,” and “Legit” starring Australian stand-up comedian Jim Jefferies and veteran PASW actor Nick Daley. His feature film work includes “Any Day Now,” starring Alan Cumming, Garret Dillahunt and PASW actor Isaac Leyva, and “Wakefield,” starring Bryan Cranston and Jennifer Garner. PASW actor Isaac Leyva co-stars.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has not always been a smooth road. Twenty years ago, it was a tough sell to get casting directors to consider auditioning actors with intellectual disabilities to play roles of characters with similar disabilities, even in small roles. Consider that these were the days of movies such as My Left Foot, Rain Man, and Forrest Gump and I Am Sam, which all starred hugely popular, box office stars.

Thankfully, the industry is evolving, albeit slowly. But there have been some major strides, which our actors have benefited from. They have had the opportunity to work with Emmy, Oscar and Tony Award winning actors in both film and television in guest star, co-star and lead roles.

The other challenge has been finding the right personnel to work with our actors. I’m proud to say that PASW now has any amazing team of professional instructors in the areas of acting, music, dance, and production.

Please tell us about Performing Arts Studio West.
I am most proud of the opportunities we have created for truly talented performers with disabilities, and the strides we have made in opening up the eyes of the entertainment business and the general public regarding the abilities of this population.

There is no other organization with a full-time, year-round academy style training program for adults with intellectual disabilities that provides professional instruction in acting, music, and dance and also produces original film, theater and multimedia in-house projects, and also has a talent management component that creates opportunities for professional work in entertainment industry projects.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
There are so many…

Family vacations

My early attempts at puppetry and ventriloquism

Performing “plays” in our family’s garage

Building monster models with my older brother

Listening to rock & roll on my transistor radio

Skateboarding

THE BEATLES and THE ROLLING STONES (of course)

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