The theater stage at Vive Les Arts is vast, but the combined energy of 22 teenagers nearly dwarfs it.
It’s midway through a five-day Young Actors Workshop, and the exuberance and excitement is tactile. Breakout groups respond instantly to directives like “be a camera taking a picture,” somehow portraying that command by on-the-fly improvisation. Director Hayley Dugger seems everywhere at once as she moves around the stage explaining and encouraging her students.
“This group is super open to my suggestions,” she said. “They are very creative, and I’ve seen a tremendous growth in their abilities in just a few days.”
Some of the kids enrolled are “hoping shyness goes away,” Dugger said. Others include pageant girls and those seeking to boost confidence and self-esteem. All exhibit an unaffected, genuine love of being onstage.
Catching her breath after a group improv session called “you’re a teapot pouring out,” Shelly Hussey, 13, said she’s already performed in a couple of plays. “I want to pursue acting as my career path and I also sing pop and bluegrass.” Her favorite exercise is “body masking” — a nonverbal, charade-like solo act.
Keith Davis, 15, appears focused and earnest. “I’m serious about this. I really love everything about the Young Actors Workshop.”
“Much of this is getting comfortable with expressing themselves,” Dugger said. “Sometimes the script is the smallest part of acting and body language is something we emphasize.”
The floor of the stage is completely covered by the entire workshop group as they perform “museum” — a stop-action, freeze-in-place exercise that mandates each student hold a pose until Dugger’s watchful eye is diverted. The kids’ flexibility and body control is impressive. Based on the movie “Night At the Museum,” Izzy Kimmon, 11, said, “Museum is my favorite.”
The Young Actors Workshop divides its classes into two age groups: 7 to 11 and 12 and up, with space limited to 40 children.
A fourth-grade teacher at Fowler Elementary in Killeen, it’s Dugger’s third year as director of the workshop. She’s also in rehearsals at Temple Civic Theatre’s “Annie Get Your Gun” in the role of Dolly Tate. “It’s perfect for me,” she said. “I don’t know what to do with free time. If they let me, I’ll do Young Actors Workshop again next summer.”