TOWSON — A full-scale "brawl" had broken out with about 15 people throwing John Wayne-style punches, slapping each other and rolling on the floor.
Next door, jugglers were tossing sticks, walking on stilts and balancing plates on their noses.
And in the middle of it all sat Rebecca Woodward.
At 13, the Hampstead resident was one of the youngest participants last weekend in the Mid-Atlantic Movement Theatre Festival, annual workshops bringing theater professionals from up and down the East Coast to exchange ideas and perfect their techniques.
Surrounded by people who perform for a living, Rebecca held her own and actively participated in the two intense 2 -hour workshops each day, said David Geyer, coordinator of the festival.
"I'm really impressed with Rebecca," said Geyer, the artistic director of Imagimime in Westminster. "We've had younger ones in here before, and about halfway through, their attention starts to wander."
For Rebecca, her desire to become an actress bridged the age and experience gap.
"Nobody treats me like a child orlike I'm younger. Everyone is equal," she said. "It's nice to find people who share my interest in acting.
"It's hard to find people like that."
Rebecca said she has had fewer opportunities to performsince moving to Carroll from Baltimore in September.
In Baltimore, she participated in the Baltimore School for the Arts' "To Work in Gaining Skills" program. Fifth- through eighth-graders audition for the program as if they were entering the high school.
She also tookSaturday classes at Baltimore City College and competed in the Baltimore City School's dramatic-reading contest, winning the school competition every year except one.
"I lost in the fifth grade to another girl, and it was devastating," she said. "I guess when you're used to winning every year you build it up, and when you finally lose, it's a letdown."
However, North Carroll Middle doesn't have a drama club, Rebecca said, and the school has stopped having its annual play.
"This year, they're just not going to have one," she said.
During the four-day festival, Rebecca took classes in circus theater techniques, stage combat and masks and movement.
But her favorite class was mime and improvisation with Tony Montanaro, although she said she can't see herself as a mime.
"Tony's class was the best," Rebecca said. "He's a really good mime, and it was really interesting."
Don Mullins, another festival participant from Carroll, said Montanaro was his favorite instructor, too.
"I had heard wonderful things about him for years and never got the chance to go to his festival," said Mullins, director of Motions of Mime in Westminster. "So many people have gone to him for instruction.
"His class was what I waslooking forward to the most."
Festivals are a time to meet with friends he hasn't seen for a long time and to get feedback and exchange ideas, Mullins said.
"It's like a breath of fresh air," the 24-year-old mime said. "We all have our solo careers, and, except for festivals, we don't get together very often."
Performing pieces that aren't complete allows him to grow and expand, Mullins said.
"Instead of relying on what I know works, I can show a piece I know is notperfect, and people give me feedback," he said. "That way I can progress and get better."
For example, in a mime piece that portrayed Mullins' own uplifting experience in becoming a Christian, he was released from ropes that bound him by a friend with a Bible.
"It's real different from what I usually do -- mostly light-hearted mime skits," he said. "I've gotten into the ministry with my church, and I'm having my art express that part of me now."
For a professional, taking time to focus on the craft is the highlight of festivals like this, Mullins said.
"I'm totally away from the phones and the desk work and can focus on technique," he said. "Here, in one building, thereare so many masters, accomplished in their own trade. It's a real treat.
"I learned to twirl a plate on a stick, something you don't do every day," he said. "It's all been wonderful."
Planning has already begun for next year's festival, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 23 through 26 at Towson State University, Baltimore County.
Information on the festival can be obtained by calling 876-6640.