Twenty children, all flat on their backs, dotted the stage at Vive Les Arts Theatre on Tuesday morning.

As stretching exercises started, Hayley Dugger, VLA board member and the director of the Young Actor’s Workshop at the Killeen nonprofit, remarked on how quiet the kids were.

“We start at 9 a.m. and they’re still kind of sleepy, so we do warm-ups for about 15 minutes — then they’re ready to go.”

About 20 minutes later, the young actors were energized enough to dance and skip around the stage, some performing cartwheels before the grand curtain. After explaining the importance of constructive criticism and the peer review process, Dugger had break-out groups render improv scenes.

“These are based on familiar tales,” she said. “After they repeat their scene four or five times, with the other actors’ input, there’s tremendous improvement.”

Chiara Estrella, 15, and Keith Davis, 16, were Dugger’s assistants at the weeklong workshop.

“It’s a learning opportunity for them, too,” Dugger said. “We increase their duties and responsibilities throughout the week. Both have been associated with VLA shows and know the ropes around here.”

Chiara, a sophomore at Harker Heights High School, said she enjoyed helping the children get settled. “They’re really shy the first day. Miss Hayley, Keith and I lead them in tongue twisters, games, exercises — a balance between work and play. The kids always have more confidence by the end of the week.”

A freeze-in-place game based on “Night at the Museum” was a popular exercise in body control, while random improv themes were readily tackled and presented.

Dugger, a veteran director, actor, singer and dancer, was consistently upbeat and had an obvious rapport with her young charges. “The first day includes a complete tour of the theater. ... Backstage, the box office, up in the light and sound booth — a thorough demonstration of the mixing board, what each different kind of microphone does. And the lighting demo is fascinating: the use of colored gels, gobos, how the audience’s mood is controlled through use of color and effects.”

A game of “keep your face in the light” gave the nascent actors valuable performance tips “and was fun, too,” said Tyla Lucas, 15, a sophomore at Harker Heights High School. Many of the workshop’s participants were newbies, “and that’s good because it helps build the talent pool for future VLA shows,” Dugger said.

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