AROUND HOME : Notes on Acting, and Garden and Animal Events : Child Actors

ANYONE WHO HAS watched a child play dress-up or ham it up for grandparents will attest to the fact that every kid has a certain amount of acting ability. Impromptu melodramas with friends or parts in the school play are usually sufficient outlets for this urge to act. But for more serious youngsters, theater workshops can help develop talent. Several Southern California theaters offer acting classes in summer workshops and in sessions that meet after school or on weekends.

Because most entering students are without experience, directors of acting workshops generally request an interview with the child and the parent. "We are looking for enthusiasm," says Cheryl Moffatt, director of young people's programs at the Santa Monica Playhouse, adding, "enthusiasm by the child--not the parent."

Programs usually include basic acting, improvisation and dance/movement. Some schools offer electives such as musical theater, makeup and combat (fencing).

These are not classes for children whose parents want them to be the next child star. "We are not in the business of grinding out professional actors," says Kris Hagen, community services manager for the South Coast Repertory Young Conservatory. "We help children develop their creative abilities by experimenting, using their bodies, voices and emotions. These talents enrich them no matter what field of work they choose later in life."

Acting classes and theater workshops are offered at Santa Monica Playhouse in Santa Monica (age 6 to 16, and 13 to 18); Pasadena Playhouse Young Actors School in Pasadena (7 to 18); Orange County Children's Theatre in Fountain Valley (7 to 18); South Coast Repertory Young Conservatory in Costa Mesa(8 to 17), and La Jolla Playhouse in La Jolla (8 to 18).

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