Workshop lets students learn acting


April 09, 1993|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,Contributing Writer

For two hours on Thursday afternoons, a classroom at West Middle School is transformed into center stage for a workshop called "Play Production."

It's part of the county's After School Program, which receives grants from the Department of Human Resources to offer a variety of workshops for students as an alternative to sports.

"It gives the middle school students an advantage when they go into high school," said Mark Tonti, the coordinator of the program. "The community likes it because it brings the kids off the streets and back into the school system."

Other After School activities include aerobics/Jazzercize, cartooning and drawing, cheerleading and bowling. Each class runs one day a week.

The program was started two months ago and already has workshops for East Middle, West Middle and Northwest Middle schools. There are plans to establish workshops at St. John Catholic School.

"We try to take a maximum of 15 students per class," Mr. Tonti said. "Any more than that and we have to get another instructor."

The program has been expanded to include all-day workshops when schools are closed and will continue during the summer.

Each nine-week class costs $30. Scholarships are available for disadvantaged children.

The students involved in "Play Production" were enthusiastic about its benefits.

"We play games, and it's really fun," said Chris Lysy, a 13-year-old seventh-grader at East Middle School. "I like it 'cause we don't have to be serious about what we do. We can fool around and make it fun.

"I like acting like other people," Chris said.

"It gets boring acting like yourself all of the time," agreed Katy McAllen, 12.

Katy, a seventh-grader at St. John Catholic School, has participated in an After School acting workshop and a production of the play "Who, What, What Did I Do."

"We put on [another] play for the parents at the end of the workshop," said Katy. "It [the workshop] prepares you for other plays."

The students learn acting through improvisation, pantomime and games such as freeze tag.

"You have to act without props," said Brian Zerner, a 13-year-old seventh-grader at East Middle.

"Close your eyes and visualize a scene," workshop instructor Adam Wilson told the class as they listened to music.

He used to teach drama classes and direct plays at Broad Run High School in Loudoun County, Va., but took a position as a reading teacher at East Middle because it was closer to his home.

"I took the reading job, but I missed teaching drama," said Mr. Wilson. So he was pleased to become part of the After School workshop.

"I teach theater as playing because that's what it is," Mr. Wilson said. He said he enjoys teaching the middle school students because they're "risk takers."

The students respond enthusiastically to the exercises Mr. Wilson has developed to teach them the finer points of acting.

"He keeps their interest," said Mr. Tonti.

In addition to teaching the technical aspects of acting, Mr. Wilson brings years of his own acting experience to the classroom.

"If you make it real for yourself, it will be real for the audience," Mr. Wilson told the students. "If it's real for the audience, then it's a success."

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