Young actors learn the ropes at workshops

Mike Lawrence

Out of an invisible magic box that sat on the floor in front of her, Sara Stout pulled an imaginary scooter that she “rode” across the room, grasping handlebars with her hands and kicking the air with her legs.

Sara, a 10-year-old fourth-grader at Strawberry Park Elementary School, was taking part in the first session of an “Acting for Kids” workshop in the school’s media center. The workshop is taught by local drama teachers and will run Thursdays after school for the next five weeks at Strawberry Park.

At this week’s class, Rusty DeLucia led 23 fourth- and fifth-graders in the magic box exercise, in which the “box” was passed around the seated circle of students, who each pantomimed pulling an object out of the box, playing with the object then passing the box to the next student.

“If you want to, you could open this box and take out the Empire State Building, a house or a motorcycle,” DeLucia, a drama teacher at Steamboat Springs Middle School, told the students.

Also teaching the workshop are Stuart Handloff, theater instructor at Colorado Mountain College and director of the Great American Laughing Stock Company, and Christel Houston, a local music teacher and vocal coach.

Handloff, who recently completed a production of “Nunsense” at CMC, said Wells Fargo Bank is helping sponsor the workshop.

“Teaching kids is going to be kind of a new experience for me,” he said.

DeLucia told Handloff he should look forward to the challenge.

“You’re going to be very surprised at how uninhibited and honest (the young students) are,” DeLucia said.

Honest, that is, unless otherwise directed.

As a warm-up exercise Thursday, DeLucia asked students to say three things about themselves, one of which was a lie. Other students then would guess which was the lie.

“I’ve been to Fiji five times, I hate kava, and I have a ring made of a spoon,” said 9-year-old Alex Jusfan, a fourth-grader.

No one guessed that Alex actually loves kava, an herbal drink popular in the South Pacific.

“You are all very shrewd,” DeLucia told the class. “You’re like coyotes!”

Parents paid $60 to enroll their children in the course, which Handloff said originally was planned to handle 15 students. That number rose until just before Thursday’s class, when two parents signed up their children at the last minute.

“I hate turning kids away,” DeLucia said.

The young thespians will give a short performance on the last day of class, Feb. 9. DeLucia and Handloff said they might do another session in the spring, because of high interest.

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