The Los Angeles Performing Arts Conservatory (LAPAC) and Promenade Playhouse have served thousands of international students who come to L.A. to pursue careers in the entertainment industry. The Conservatory and its multi-talented co-founder, Topangan Natalia Lazarus, were recently honored by the City of Santa Monica.
Natalia Lazarus was happy to take a break. As a well-known international actress, she was taking a day off from running up and down Topangaâ€™s hills and valleys while shooting a military â€śactionerâ€ť about two female soldiers during a war in the United States. Lazarus, who stars as Colonel Pinel, and also as its director, is filming in and around her home on Will Geer Road.
â€śThe film is Remains of a Nation, a short film,â€ť Lazarus said. â€śIâ€™m doing it mainly to enlarge my director reel with roles that can be played by women. Itâ€™s about a colonel and a private on the last days of their lives, written for two men, but I only found the project interesting if it is about two women and they are Latina. Itâ€™s here in L.A. during a civil war, and they end up in an abandoned spa, in this beautiful, romantic place. It also has political overtones.â€ť
Truly a Renaissance woman who is fluent in English, Spanish, French, and Italian, Lazarus is an actress, writer, and director for stage, TV, and film. Of German-Jewish descent from her father and Native Honduran from her mother, Lazarus was born in the capital of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. As the daughter of a diplomat and a psychologist, she is a graduate of the Sorbonne University in Paris, France, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, the Film Program at New York University, with adjacent studies at the University of London and The British Film Institute.
She lived around the world but settled in L.A. and since moving to Topanga in 2018, Lazarus says she loves mountain life after living near the ocean in Venice and Malibu.
â€śI love the mountains or the sea,â€ť she said. â€śI never knew about the inside of Topanga when I lived in NYC for 10 years. In 2018, when we saw this adorable little house in Topanga, it is so enchanting, we just hear nature. Whether it is the mountains or water, because I work at home where I feel comfortable with lots of outdoor space and sounds. It fuels my energy to work outdoors in the sun. I have lived in big citiesâ€”Manhattan, Paris, and Londonâ€”but I have to be outside.â€ť
On the rare occasion that Lazarus is not acting, directing or writing screenplays, plays, books or poetry, she is also the co-Founder and Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Performing Arts Conservatory (LAPAC) in Santa Monica.
Outdoor LAPAC classes with 25th Anniversary Year Commendation (Lazarus & Students)
Located in an historic building on Santa Monicaâ€™s Third Street Promenade, LAPAC opened its doors in 1996, and has since served as a creative hub for the international performing arts community. According to Lazarus, the mission is to unite Latin American, European, and American artists, devoted to uniting the synergy that exists between art and theater, as well as exploring the complicated relationships between men and women. As a multi-cultural arts community, LAPAC welcomes students from around the world, including students from Japan, Algeria, Austria, Germany, Mexico, Denmark, the Philippines, Thailand, and India. Many of these students have successfully graduated from the Conservatoryâ€™s acting, screenwriting and filmmaking programs. Due to its ongoing success, Santa Monica Mayor Sue Himmelrich and the City Council congratulated Lazarus, LAPAC and its iconic Promenade Playhouse for its 25th anniversary in 2021.
â€śAll of us at the LAPAC and our Playhouse are greatly appreciative of the honor and continuing support Mayor Himmelrich and the Santa Monica City Council have bestowed upon our organization throughout our historyâ€ť Lazarus said.
Students during Acting Class Outdoors (with masks & behind plexiglass)
LAPAC even survived the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 by holding its classes virtually and even outdoors, with permission by the city of Santa Monica.
LAPAC Receives National Accreditation
In March, after positive action by the Commission on Accreditation of the National Association of Schools of Theatre, the Los Angeles Performing Arts Conservatory was granted Associate Membership. This is great news, Lazarus said, because now that they are accredited, students throughout the United States can receive grants, loans, and financial aid to attend LAPAC.
â€śThe Conservatory which is one of the things that helped me come over as a student [to study] filmmaking and acting and make the transition to this life,â€ť she said. â€śFrom 2008 to 2014 I was guest speaking and visiting around the world; these artists had the same dream, to come to Hollywood to pursue acting, writing, and filmmaking. This is a great way to give back and [see them] make this their first transition to this world.â€ť
LAPAC hosts about 20 students per class, at an average age of 18-20-years-old.
â€śItâ€™s an intimate school, everybody gets personal time,â€ť Lazarus said. â€śEveryone has individual projects and freedom within those, not like a large university campus where students get lost. Coming from another country, they have a sense of security and family. I always say it is kind of like an adult boarding school. Now [the accreditation] will open the revenue stream for a lot of students who were not able to attend before and we can offer international financial aid.â€ť
Moving On â€¦
Lazarus revealed that LAPAC will be moving on soon because Santa Monica is planning to tear down the historic building that houses the conservatory and the Promenade Playhouse. Meanwhile, Lazarus has her film to complete before deciding where the Conservatory will end up next.
â€śAfter 25 years we have to find a new home,â€ť Lazarus said. â€śWe have outgrown the space, we added a film program for acting and screenwriting, the stage, the classrooms, we realized it would be really cool to have a sound stage for the students and an art gallery that I envision. Iâ€™m excited to be able to move. I donâ€™t know where we will end up but we will try to stay on the Westside, Culver City, or in Santa Monica.â€ť
For more information on the Los Angeles Performing Arts Conservatory, go to laconservatory.com.