RANCHO SANTA FE — This is an exciting time for actress Alicia Silverstone.
While she starred on Broadway with Henry Winkler in “The Performers” this week, her movie, “Vamps,” was being released.
Silverstone got her acting chops from dad, Monty, who teaches acting through the Rancho Santa Fe Senior Center and the San Dieguito Adult School. His students are of all ages and backgrounds including a former CNN correspondent, Greg Lefevre.
“I have been on television for 38 years but never acted,” he said. “I signed up as a lark. From then, I became hooked.
“Monty’s been there — stage, TV, film. When he speaks to us, it’s with authority and practice. As an acting coach he wants you to succeed. That’s Monty.”
Silverstone was raised in London’s West End, in the heart of the theater district. He was a child actor, studying at the famed Italia Conti Stage where he auditioned for the Artful Dodger in the original version of “Oliver” with Alec Guinness, but lost out to classmate, Anthony Newley.
At 13, his dad told him to abandon his theater career and work at the family restaurant. In 1964, Silverstone grew tired of the cold, damp weather and moved to Miami where he became a restaurateur and met his future wife, Didi, a Pan Am flight attendant. When she was transferred to San Francisco, he followed and, once again, achieved success in the restaurant industry and also real estate.
Later, the youngest of his three children, Alicia, began showing promise as a model and performer.
“Neighbors said I should take her to Hollywood,” he remembered. “Agents saw and loved her. In 1990 we thought she should attend Beverly Hills High and we moved to Los Angeles.”
In 1994, Monty started taking acting lessons himself.
“I hadn’t acted since 13,” he remembered. “After one year, I looked for auditions and got an agent.
I went for small parts because I didn’t think I was ready for anything big. Someone said, ‘Why don’t read for this role?’ I got the lead in an Agatha Christa play. I was ready even though I was scared. After that, I never took a role other than a lead.”
Monty and Didi Silverstone returned to Florida where Monty seriously injured his back while boating. They were told about the excellent doctors in San Diego and moved to Coronado in 2003, and Rancho Santa Fe in 2004.
“Because of my injury, I couldn’t act, so I decided to teach at the Rancho Santa Fe Senior Center,” he recalled. “Then a newspaper article came out and the senior center started getting calls from young people.”
Silverstone was subsequently recruited to teach acting by the San Dieguito Adult School and San Dieguito Academy.
Today, he teaches through the adult school from 1 to 4 p.m., Wednesdays at the Solana Beach Community Center and from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturdays at the Rancho Santa Fe Senior Center.
He explains that some students study acting to build confidence, or develop public speaking skills, while others harbor ambitions of becoming professionals.
Regardless, Silverstone says you’re never too old.
“One of my students was discovered at the age of 97 and began making films and commercials,” he recalled.
Maxine Bushnell started taking lessons two years ago.
“Someone suggested I take up acting and I said, ‘Acting?!’” she remembered. Since then she has had a walk-in part on the television show “Dexter” and performed stand-up comedy at The Comedy Store in La Jolla.
“This class brought me a new life I didn’t know was possible,” she said. “Monty’s affirming rather than critical. I’m more confident in myself and my abilities.”
Fellow student Barbara Parker, a retired principal, starred with Bushnell in an Agatha Christie spoof at the Rancho Santa Fe Community Church. She’s been studying with Silverstone for three years and says she’s ready to take the next step and audition for a professional role.
“There’s a kind of freedom of expression in acting, a chance to explore in a variety of ways I’ve never explored before,” she said.
Silverstone has published a manual titled “The A – Z of Acting and Auditioning for All Ages.” For more information visit montysilverstone.com or call Silverstone at (858) 759-7881.