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Pistarckle Theater Starts Stars After School

Sept. 17, 2005 – The acting bug bit a lot of students this summer at Pistarckle Theater.
Motivated in part by a successful summer program, the theater is starting an after-school program called Stars After School.
"We found this summer that kids started connecting with theater and each other so much that they came back after school just to visit," said Education Director Bethany Burgess-Smith. "That was really huge for us, that this had made that big of an impact on them."
The idea for an after-school program hatched in 1993, when Pistarckle Theater started to host youth workshops for 10 days each summer. Since then, the summer programs have grown to two theater camps totaling 11 weeks, said artistic producing director Nicola Emerich. The four-week performance camp this summer was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, which selects funding based on the level of teaching and productions offered.
"That was a tremendous shot in the arm," Emerich said.
"I've always wanted to do a children's after school program in theater, or create a group of children actors that would be able to form their own troupe," Emerich said. "They could either create their own program out of their own experience or they could rehearse publish scripts and perform them."
The success of the summer camps, area youth's increasing interest in theater and Emerich's long-standing desire for the youth program were more than enough motivation to start Stars After School.
Auditions for Stars After School are from 3 – 6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday this coming week at Tillett Gardens, Anna's Retreat, St. Thomas.
Stars After School is funded by the department of education and through tuition payments of $25 per week. Classes will meet three times per week starting Sept. 19. Classes will last through the school year, and performances are scheduled for early April.
Burgess-Smith's goal for the after-school program is to have a group of close to 30 students. "I want the kids to have time to create," Burgess-Smith said "We don't want to have so many that we don't really get to focus."
Students do not need to have participated in the summer program to audition.
Burgess-Smith said the program will allow students to take ownership of the ensemble. To audition, students will tell a story about an event in their own life and interact with other performers. Burgess-Smith is looking for students with a little bit of experience or who are "charismatic."
"I'm looking for kids who are already a little bit into it," she said.
Burgess-Smith worked in educational theater programs in New York, and has experience with Broadway productions. She has taught acting classes, acted herself, and specializes in stage combat and Shakespeare. She comes from a performing arts family – her mother was an opera singer, and her father was a concert pianist.
One of her ideas for the after-school program is to work with a Shakespeare play or Shakespearean couples. But the show's focus will be largely guided by the students themselves.
"I'm interested in their stories and turning that into a show that shows the community what's important to them," Burgess-Smith said.
For more information call 775-7877.

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