GODSPEED gives teens an opportunity to try theater


Miranda Pakulski rehearses her monologue alone in the middle of the floor. Twitching and shuddering, she dodges imaginary people who refuse to acknowledge her. Frustrated, she says unassertively, "Hey, watch where you're going."

Her director, Adam Seabrook, isn't satisfied. He encourages her to shout the line as if it was her own, like she was the one being pushed around, not her character. "Make the whole play that one line," Mr. Seabrook says quietly, but with care. The advice hits home: The actress unleashes an emotional scream that echoes through the Fells Point Corner Theater.

Ms. Pakulski, a 14-year-old from Highlandtown, is a member of GODSPEED, the Young People's Repertory Company of Maryland. This weekend, she and 10 other young Baltimore-area actors will perform two one-act plays dealing with the mechanization and loneliness of life in modern America, Jean Claude Van Itallie's "Interview" and Edward Albee's "The Zoo Story."

"All the characters in the play are talking about how they're not heard," Mr. Seabrook said of "Interview." This, he adds, is something the actors can relate to -- it's an issue they, as young people, have experienced and can understand. "This play gives voice to that feeling."

The comment is not made off-handedly; it's integral to what the 34-year-old Mr. Seabrook created GODSPEED for: as a tool for building self-esteem in young actors as well as promoting healthy multi-cultural interaction (included in the company are actors born in South America and Puerto Rico, among other places).

During rehearsals for "Interview," the company founder encourages the actors to examine their work and note changes in their performances, finding the methods they are most comfortable with. "But if you judge yourself too much," he warns them, "then you won't enjoy yourself. And if you don't enjoy yourself, then the audience won't enjoy you."

"He knows exactly what he wants you to do, but he's so subtle he'll get you to do it without you realizing it," said 17-year-old Symon Taylor of Catonsville.

Mr. Seabrook created GODSPEED -- he says the title is not religious, but reflects an Old English phrase wishing prosperity in a voyage or undertaking -- last summer after visiting Baltimore from New York to give a speech at the Baltimore School for the Arts, which many of the actors attend. After working as a substitute teacher there, he felt compelled to create a theater company for young actors around the city. "I was struck by the talent of young people in Baltimore, they're a wonderful resource," he said. "It's like an explosion waiting to happen."

Company members receive training in scene study, voice and improvisation from Mr. Seabrook, who has worked with Home Box Office and, in New York, the Negro Ensemble Company and the Lincoln Center. When not working with GODSPEED, he's employed by the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development.

Right now, the future of the company is in doubt. They receive no formal funding of any kind ("It just somehow gets done," says Mr. Seabrook), and Fells Point Corner Theater, which lets them use its facilities free of charge, has made no commitment beyond this production.

The foggy future notwithstanding, the director has commissioned a play from one of his actors, 19-year-old Kelly Wilson, of Churchville. Mr. Wilson, who graduated this week from the School for the Arts, is working on a script about "a young man and his car trying desperately to get out of the Midwest."

"Interview" and "The Zoo Story" will be presented Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Admission is free but reservations are required. Call 728-1321.

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