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FOR KIDS : Staging a Dramatic Summer : Theater workshops help youngsters build social skills and self-esteem.

June 09, 1995|BARBARA BRONSON GRAY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Barbara Bronson Gray is a regular contributor to The Times

Whether children are shy or extroverted, comfortable on stage or seemingly better suited to prop and backdrop de sign, drama directors say there is something for them all in a summer theater workshop. Here are three established programs available for children and adolescents interested in trying out theater.

Many of the children who participate in summer theater workshops have shown no particular interest or talent in the field. "It's about more than acting and playwriting," said Ken Gardner, an assistant professor of drama and director of the Children's Theater program at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. "It's about building social skills and self-esteem. Some participants love drama, and some have never set foot near a stage."

Merilee Oakes Sperber of Topanga first enrolled her three children in the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum about 10 years ago, when they were just starting elementary school, and they continued with the program through high school.

"It was very broadening, the kids made wonderful friendships, and they have learned, if nothing else, to be comfortable speaking before an audience," she said.

This summer's Youth Drama Camp at the outdoor Theatricum Botanicum, in its 16th year, meets three days a week (the weekdays vary) from July 5 to Aug. 5. Sessions for the 60 children from 8 to 14 will include improvisation, dance and period movement, mime, costumes and props, music, fencing and stage combat, acting and rehearsal, Shakespeare, and theater games. The workshop culminates in a performance.

Susan Angelo, director of the Theatricum Botanicum, said the camp is geared to meet a broad range of children's interests and needs. "I think every child can benefit from a drama program. We try to make a very non-competitive environment. It gets them before they have a fear of the language, and it gives such a sense of confidence," she said.

At Cal Lutheran, two-week beginning workshops will be offered in the weekday mornings in July. An advanced theater session for ages 11 to 16 will be given in the afternoon from July 17 to 28.

The beginning workshops will cover acting, voice and movements, and students will create a play by improvisation and present it at a public performance. The advanced workshop, open to students who have completed the beginning workshop or who demonstrate advanced talent, will focus on a scripted play.

CSUN's program--in its 38th year--will provide a six-week Teen-Age Drama Workshop for students beginning grades 8 through 12. The workshop, offered weekdays from July 5 to Aug. 11, involves producing weekday matinee and weekend evening plays for family audiences, and includes electives in design technology, improvisation, musical theater, playwriting and scene study, said Barbara Crochete, a drama department spokeswoman. Teaching staff include CSUN faculty and secondary school drama teachers.

Sperber thinks every kid should have a chance to participate in a summer theater workshop. "It was one of the best things we ever did for our kids," she said.

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Where and When

What: Teen-Age Drama Workshop for youths entering grades 8 to 12.

Location: Cal State Northridge, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge.

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. weekdays from July 5 to Aug. 11.

Price: $675.

Call: (818) 885-3086.

What: Youth Drama Camp for ages 8 to 14.

Location: Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. three days a week from July 5 to Aug. 5. Register by June 30.

Price: $450.

Call: (310) 455-2322.

What: Summer Theater Youth Workshop for ages 9 to 14; advanced workshop for ages 11 to 16.

Location: California Lutheran University, 60 W. Olsen Road, Thousand Oaks.

Hours: 8 a.m. to noon weekdays July 3 to 13 and July 17 to 28. Advanced session from 1 to 5 p.m. July 17 to 28.

Price: $165 for each two-week session.

Call: Ken Gardner, (805) 493-3863.

What: Summer With Shakespeare for teen-agers.

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

Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays June 26 through Aug. 4.

Price: $675.

Call: (818) 546-1449.

What: "Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors," Showboat Youtheatre's summer workshop.

Location: West Valley Jewish Community Center, 6429 Independence St., Woodland Hills.

Hours: 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays to Thursdays June 27 to July 27. Performance July 30.

Price: $120 members, $170 non-members.

Call: (818) 587-3300.

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