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Youths to Meet the Bard : A Glendale repertory company's summer Shakespeare program offers teen-agers a chance to learn, act and build self-esteem.

June 04, 1993|JANICE ARKATOV | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Janice Arkatov writes regularly for Valley Life

Local teen-agers get a workout with the Bard in Summer With Shakespeare, an eight-week training program launching its first season June 21 at the Glendale classical repertory company A Noise Within.

"The idea is to have fun and provide an important educational opportunity for kids, whether or not they want to be actors," says Art Manke, the company's artistic co-director. "It also builds self-esteem--and for us, selfishly, an audience for the future."

Beginning at 9 each weekday morning, students will participate in a series of classes, including acting, voice, speech, stage combat, period dance and improvisation. The afternoon session will be spent working toward the performance of a to-be-chosen Shakespeare comedy. Under the direction of resident artist Neil Vipond, the production will have three performances Aug. 13 to 15. The program, which will be staffed by company members, is open to children ages 13 to 19 and costs $875.

"In my experience teaching teen-agers at the Court Theatre in Chicago and the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival, it's a little scary going in," Manke says. "There's so much unbridled energy. But the kids are really craving structure and discipline."

He and several of the company members are products of San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre, where, he says, "the tenet is that the mature actor is responsible for passing on what he knows to the young actors. So the whole aspect of conservatory is quite literal."

Manke left ACT in 1991 and opened the doors of this theater (the former Glendale Masonic Temple) that year with a production of "Hamlet."

"I came here, as most actors do, to make money off film and TV," he says good-naturedly. "Then I noticed that nobody was doing the classics on a consistent basis."

When the theater was initially formed, Manke says, "we had no master plan. But it sort of took off--and now we're here for good." Rave reviews don't hurt. The company is basking in critical acclaim for its repertory productions of George Bernard Shaw's "Man and Superman" and Thornton Wilder's "Our Town," which closes Sunday.

Company Executive Director Julia Rodriguez Elliott--also co-director of "Our Town"--has participated in similar training programs for young people in the Bay Area and at the Professional Actors Conservatory in Garden Grove.

"We have a lot of teen-agers coming to see the shows," she says, "and they're so surprised to have a good time. Seventy percent of them have never been to a theater. They think they're going to hate it, that it'll be boring. Afterward, it's like, 'Oh, so this is what it's about.' So to be a part of that, to share that experience in their lives, is such a payoff.

"My own fondest memory, going to ACT as a student, was watching my teachers perform. Also, I know that I learn a lot when I teach. It puts into words specifically what the process is about."

And Manke is convinced there is a real need for such an acting program. "Other places have classes in how to cast comedy or 'Auditions 101,' " he says. "But no one is doing serious training of the classics for young people. So I hope we'll be able to fill that void."

WHERE AND WHEN

What: Summer With Shakespeare training program for 13- to 19-year-olds.

Location: A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, June 21 to Aug. 15.

Price: $875; limited scholarships available.

Call: (818) 546-1449.

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