PLAY-BY-PLAY SUMMER Youths in program to write and stage their own stories


Under the guidance of a playwright, a puppeteer and a drama teacher, county children can turn idle vacation hours into dramatized fantasies this summer.

Carroll Community College will tap children's imaginations for a series of programs at its Kids College Progressive Arts Workshop. Through four 20-hour workshops, participants 10 to 13 years old will write their own stories and bring them to life on stage.

Kathy Menasche, coordinator for community services programs at the Westminster college, said the program "lends itself to kids' imaginations. They can write, create their characters and make production scenery."

The writing, puppet-making and performance techniques "will all coalesce into the kids' own production," she said.

Ms. Menasche said she is bringing several artist-teachers to the program. They will help participants develop scripts, make puppet characters, learn the technical aspects and stage their own productions. Teachers met recently at the Carroll County Arts Council to make plans for the series.

"We will accommodate each child's interest," said Beth Phelps of Open Space Arts of Reisterstown, which produces 25 theater pieces a year.

First, Laurie Precht, a published poet and fiction author, will lead students through the writing process. The children will leave the seminar with a one-act and one-set play to call their own, she said.

The building blocks of writing will involve fairy tale interpretation and discussions of well-known myths and fables -- for inspiration only, she said.

"We won't use any pre-existing or contemporary characters," Ms. Precht said. "They must be from the student's imagination."

The young writers will enliven their stories with tangible characters at Michael Lamason's Puppet Creation workshop.

"I want to send kids to Michael with an idea of their character," Ms. Precht said. "It might be a 2-foot-tall green man."

"Hopefully, we can turn it into a several-foot-tall something," Mr. Lamason said.

Mr. Lamason, the co-founder of Black Cherry Puppet Theater in Baltimore, laughingly calls his approach to his craft "disorganized."

"Participants decide what is a puppet and how they want it to work," he said. "If they want to dance around with a Clorox bottle and call it a puppet, that's OK with me."

He stresses the use of "found objects" in the creative process.

"A brick, a pencil or a watch -- just stuff," he said. "The artist gives a commonly found object a personality."

Amy Sass, mask-maker and performer with Open Space Arts, will teach physical and vocal performance techniques.

"We will help children visualize a change of context in the objects and transfer movement techniques to their puppets," Ms. Phelps said.

Ms. Menasche said the workshops should help show children creativity doesn't "mean spending millions."

Students will finish the summer with a production using their characters, stories and new performance skills.

Kids College will meet from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting July 6, at the college, 1601 Washington Road.

"The children can progress from one study area to another or take just one workshop," Ms. Menasche said.

Each session costs $68, and scholarships are available. Students who enroll in the first three sessions may attend the fourth at no cost.

Information: 876-8855.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad