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Kids can learn about all aspects of theater in Evergreen's new program

3:16 PM, Jul. 5, 2013  |  Comments
Acting instructor Joy Rockstroh, center, gives direction to Felix Torrez-Ponce, right, and Holly Zakowski during an Evergreen Productions Summer Theater Arts & Creativity Program class.
Acting instructor Joy Rockstroh, center, gives direction to Felix Torrez-Ponce, right, and Holly Zakowski during an Evergreen Productions Summer Theater Arts & Creativity Program class.
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"Projection is about bursting out of the bubble," says Joy Rockstroh to a class of young actors enrolled in Evergreen's Summer Theater Arts and Creativity Program.

After Rockstroh's encouragement one of the students reads his lines again, but this time he can be heard across the room that is otherwise filled with the voices of similar aged students reading their lines.

"It's (the class) more about teaching acting in general rather than something specific to your role," said Beth LeGreve, an Ashwaubenon High School junior.

And some of the skills are even useful beyond the stage.

"It (theater) does so many things for young people, it gives them self confidence to be up and feel good about themselves to be up in front of people," said Bonnie Goggins, who is one of the instructors for the acting class and veteran of local theater. "Being on stage is like being on a team, you work together and that collaboration between actors on stage is a very good experience for young people."

For another student, being involved in the theater goes deeper than just collaborating.

"I don't think of it as friends," said Hannah Freund, a 6th grader at Foxview Intermediate School in De Pere. "I think of it as my second family."

More than acting

Evergreen's program also offers classes in other aspects of theater such as lighting and script writing.

"We're trying to teach kids about every aspect of theater, on stage or behind stage," said Teresa Aportela-Seregott, who is a volunteer with Evergreen Productions.

Students get handouts, take notes, write out back stories for their characters and participate in discussions.

But it's not just theory, there are plenty of hands-on opportunities and practical applications to what they are learning. In the lighting class, after learning about safety issues, kids adjust lights from ambient to spotlight and even stand in front of an LED light which doesn't produce as much heat as traditional lights.

In the script writing class students answer a series of questions from the instructor, Bill Sergott, about their favorite characters and movies and then eventually get involved in a discussion about what makes a good plot and keeps them interested in a story. It has the feeling of an English creative writing class.

It's the second week of the 4-week session and by the time they finish, they will have written an original script.

Typically, when students are involved in a play their focus is on their particular character and there is little time to learn about other aspects such as make up or set design.

In a way the program, running in conjunction with a summer production of "Robin Hood" gives students the best of both being in a play and a class.

"We are teaching different acting strategies and techniques in the classes because a good portion of our students in the class is also in the cast," said Goggins. "So like projection and things like that we are able to teach in the class and then have them relate to now you are going to use it on stage for real."

More than theater

"You see kids come out of their shell," said Aportela-Seregott. "This is a great way for them to learn to connect with human beings and helps with communication skills."

Goggins sees other benefits in a community-based theater program for kids.

"It also introduces them to the arts and it gives them the opportunity to be someone else and to be creative and to be expressive," she said.

Ask Felix Torrez-Ponce, who will be playing Robin Hood in the upcoming play, what he's gained from his theater experience and he has another insight.

"I find it useful because if you can get up on a stage and say lines, talk in front of a lot of people then it's easier to make conversation, it's easier to get out there and be open instead of (being) that shy kid," said Torrez-Ponce, who will be attending 8th grade at Lombardi Middle School in the fall.

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