- The Washington Times - Monday, May 4, 2009

CUMBERLAND, Md. — Performing with your name in lights, on a big stage and in front of a packed house. That’s one feeling no thespian can deny is great to have.

But this dream isn’t possible without the basic skills of theater life. And that’s what 11 local kids are learning from the Winter Theater Camp at the New Embassy Theatre in Cumberland.

The program works with children 9 to 16 years old to help improve their performing arts skills and also teach them how to take those skills into their everyday lives.

“I spent a year as a teacher at the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts school and I realized, in addition to my professional experience as an actor on Broadway, TV and film work, everyone isn’t speaking a common language or technique,” said Mark Baker, owner of the New Embassy Theatre. “I thought it would be good to infuse some technical savvy, along with the other terrific actors and musicians in our Embassy company, to instruct younger talent in this regard.”

With the help of a $250 grant, the theater can help educate young talent.

“We are working to show how things learned in the theater, like listening to others, being aware of where they are and controlling their emotions, can be taken to their outside life,” said student coordinator Linda Julien. “This also is a confidence builder for the kids. They are learning to tell us what’s on their minds and convey their emotions.”

Ms. Julien said the workshop has also helped bring some of the shyer participants out of their shells.

Karalee Geis, 14, of Short Gap, W.Va., heard about the camp through some of her theater directors.

“I would definitely encourage others to do this,” Karalee said. “It’s a good experience to pretend to be someone else. It helps you break out of your shell instead of being dull and boring for the rest of your life.”

Allie Hott, 14, of Fort Ashby, W.Va., said she came to this camp through a friend who was interested in acting.

“I’m not very confident in my ideas, and this has helped me be more confident with that,” she said. “It’s a really good experience getting to learn how the environment of acting really is. You learn it’s not just getting up on stage and saying what someone gives you, but it’s about being yourself, having confidence and being your own character.”

Regina Alderton is helping the children at the camp develop their own characters and give them a better idea how to create and give depth to those personas.

“I think the kids are learning a little more about themselves and how to free themselves,” she said. “They may be quiet and introvert[ed], but I can really see their personalities coming out, see them letting loose and that their confidence is building up.”

Miss Alderton said she hopes the children will come away with a better sense of themselves.

“I hope they are more self-assured and may be able to think twice before they act,” Miss Alderton said. “On stage, we teach them to think before you speak, react accordingly and take everything into consideration.”

Marta Fiscus, instructor for actor movement and basic acting technique, said she thinks a lot of children want to perform because they feel they have something to say.

“We all have the innate qualities to express ourselves that we can bring from our outside lives,” Miss Fiscus said. “I think everyone can bring their world to the stage and have fun bringing what they learned on stage to their outside life.”

Miss Fiscus said children in the camp are learning how to bring intention and meaning to all of their actions onstage to their lives outside.

“I think it helps everybody slow down and pay more attention to what they are doing,” she said. “We work to define correlation to why we do what we do.”

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