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So you think you can act

Students in East Ridge High School's theater workshop participate in acting exercises that help them with character development.

Even though the school plays are still a few months away, students got a little taste of theater last week during East Ridge High School's theater workshop.

The workshop, which was open to all students, ran Aug. 18 and Aug. 19 at the school.

The workshop drew a total of 95 students from all three District 833 high schools, three of the four District 833 middle schools and even Math and Science Academy, East Ridge theater director Amanda Hestwood said.

Hestwood started offering a summer theater workshop last year.

"One reason we're doing it is to get kids excited about theater," Hestwood said. "It's a great program-building opportunity - it builds excitement for our program."

Hestwood said the workshop also helps the Loft Performing Arts Community fulfill its mission of education and outreach to middle school students.

"During the summer kids have the time and they have the energy to put things in motion for the middle school," she said. "There's no question, it's a time to be inspired for these middle school students."

Lake Middle School seventh grader Tegan Jones said she chose to participate in the theater workshop because it was a chance for her to be well versed in the theater. Jones' sister Kajsa, a 2011 East Ridge graduate, is heavily involved with theater as well.

"My sister is majoring in musical theater and I look up to her a lot," Jones said. "Plus I really like to sing and dance. I want to get more experience with acting, singing and dancing and how to use my voice better."

Jones said she enjoyed hearing from the high school students on how to break into high school theater.

"They know how it feels, so they can tell you exactly what path you should go down," she said.

During the two-day workshop students were divided into smaller groups where they participated in a variety of different workshops.

Some of the acting workshops included improvisation, character development and building character through song.

East Ridge junior Austin Robinson said he enjoyed dabbling in improvisation.

"I know everyone is really uncomfortable about it," he said. "You just have to let yourself go and not worry about what everyone else thinks."

The second component of the workshop was dance.

"We want students to be comfortable moving," Hestwood said, "even if they don't consider themselves a dancer."

The third component was audition, which had the students audition for Hestwood and the other workshop leaders before receiving feedback on their audition.

The fourth and final component was "techie heaven," where students learned about technical aspects of theater including lights, sound, set and costumes.

Hestwood said she felt the entire workshop was a success because it allowed students to experience all facets of theater, which they may not have before.

"You have to find what you're good at, but not just stay there," she said. "Everyone should try everything -- we try to give them a taste and have them explore these areas more."

Hestwood said the biggest benefit of the theater workshop is exposing students to what theater could be.

"It's really more about inspiration and planting the seeds," she said, "it's about planting the seeds of growth."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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