Baltimore group spreads offerings to Howard County

ASHLING FINDS THE DRAMATIST IN EVERYONE

June 06, 1993|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,Staff Writer

Tired of sitting back and watching a bunch of anonymous actors and actresses endorsing the latest brand of soap, promoting some high-tech automobile or persuading you to invest your money in a particular bank?

The Baltimore-based Ashling Theatre Center hopes to change that by turning passive consumers into actors in a new class called "On Camera Performance in TV Commercials." Anyone can join the class, whether they are career-bound actors or those who just want to get over camera shyness.

Nancy Hirsche, who will teach the commercial acting course, bTC said she will teach students how to deliver written copy persuasively on public television, how to model for print ads and how to organize resumes and photographs for professional clients.

"Commercial acting is generally not perceived to be an art, but there's a very special technique to it," said Mrs. Hirsche, who taught similar classes at Towson State University and has done professional work for well-known clients such as Chase Manhattan Bank and USAir.

"Any age can take this class, teens through people 90 years old," she said. "It's very competitive, but it can be lucrative."

Founder and theater director Donald Kennedy said he wants to spread the center's influence beyond Baltimore's limits. The commercial acting class is one of several programs the center has planned for the Columbia area this summer, he said.

"We're not abandoning Baltimore," he said. "We want to introduce ourselves to new communities."

Beginning on Wednesday, the classes are scheduled to run from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. every Wednesday for four weeks at the Owen Brown Community Center. The Baltimore classes will begin tomorrow, and will run four consecutive Mondays from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the center's Fells Point location in the 1600 block of Eastern Ave.

The class costs $80, which allows participants to take all eight sessions offered in the Baltimore and Columbia areas.

The center was founded in February. It has been a grooming place and networking center for actors and has provided creative development courses for leisurely poets, storytellers and visual artists.

From July 10 through Aug. 14, the center will offer several classes at the Owen Brown Community Center, including instruction on stand-up comedy, Shakespearean theater and improvisation.

Chris Dickerson, Ashling Theatre's playwright-in-residence, said the center focuses on the group effort involved in theater.

"A painter paints by himself. A novelist writes by herself. But in theater there's a collaborative effort between everyone, whether you're doing it to make people laugh or to move them to tears," he said. "To Bury Caesar," Mr. Dickerson's one-man play about John Wilkes Booth, will be featured June 18-19 at the Columbia Festival of the Arts.

Terri Chastain, a communications consultant at Alexander and Alexander Consulting Group in Baltimore, took play-writing

classes at the Fells Point-based center to sharpen her writing skills. She learned there is a big difference between plays and the employee benefit plans she writes about for her company, she said.

Ms. Chastain is working on a play called "The Hummingbird Hotel," a place in New Orleans where social misfits go to escape their problems.

"At the center, I can allow my imagination to take over," she said.

Bill Horn of Cockeysville takes Mr. Dickerson's play-writing class in Fells Point when he's not working as a systems analyst at the Mass Transit Administration. He said he has taken some theater classes at colleges in the Baltimore area, but the center has done the most to tap his creative energy.

"I love it," he said. "It's something I've always wanted to do."

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