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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS | THOUSAND OAKS

Don't Have a Cow, It's Just for Laughs

March 20, 1998|LISA FERNANDEZ

Campy tunes. Comical improvisations. And cute jokes about Bart Simpson and detention hall at Colina Middle School.

Students are putting last-minute touches on these whimsical acts in preparation for this weekend's Colina Comedy Club, a series of skits and sketches where budding young performers get a chance to let their hair down and go a little bit crazy on stage.

The students are performing today and Saturday at 7 p.m. at the school, 1500 Hillcrest Drive, in Thousand Oaks. Tickets are $5 and will be available at the door. Performances also will be held at the Civic Arts Plaza on June 18.

"Kids are so afraid at being laughed at," said event organizer and Colina parent Peggy Albrecht, 47, of Westlake Village. "This is the age of no confidence. I want to be able to teach them to manipulate the laugh."

And to do that, this redheaded comedian with an infectious giggle must find a balance between humor that will keep the kids' attention and jokes that are age-appropriate and Conejo Valley-friendly.

Albrecht is a writer-producer, former actress and mother of two Colina students who are not in the show. For months she has been training about 30 students in sixth through eighth grades about timing and punch lines for the second annual show, the only drama outlet at the school.

She has decided that running a yellow billboard across the stage that reads, "I will not Xerox my butt" and "I will not belch the national anthem" are OK.

But she has nixed other signs that she finds unsuitable: "I will not do that thing with my tongue," "I will not trade pants with others" and "I will not call my teacher hotcakes."

The jokes are taken from "The Simpsons" cartoon show, in which Bart writes on a chalkboard about the mischievous activities he vows he will never do again.

"I've never got in trouble for a butt joke," Albrecht said, adding that she is cautious about what she puts in the show, describing many of the children's parents as religious and conservative. "I feel free to use it because it's used in the school's talent show."

Albrecht also is comfortable allowing the preteen performers do a Dave Letterman-style "Top 10" list about lunchtime talk, which includes a joke about one student spending all of his time in detention.

Regardless of what jokes are allowed, students simply enjoy being able to dance and ham it up on stage.

"I really don't get stage fright," said 12-year-old Danielle Zuziak. "I just love getting to be funny." Said seventh-grader Ruji Chapnik: "This is different from other plays. You get to fool around on stage."

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