As an actress and theater teacher, Chanda Hall knows that taking a theater class builds a "totally different skillset" than being in a play and simply learning lines.
That's why Hall, the artistic director and founder of Staged!, is offering Staged! After School, a theater class for student ages 7 to 13, from 3 to 5 p.m. April 12 through May 31 in Oregon City. The program will be held at the Marylhurst School, 1232 Linn Ave., the former site of Mt. Pleasant Elementary School.
Students will "learn theater techniques, including some musical numbers, and the tenets of improvisation. The result of this work will be an 'informance,' a showcase at the end for parents and friends," Hall said.
Students from Clackamas County at large are invited to enroll, but the focus is on young people from Gladstone, Milwaukie and Oregon City.
Staged! has been producing contemporary musical theater and nurturing young talent since 2005, largely in the Portland area. But Hall lives in Oregon City and wanted to offer a class to local kids.
"I was talking to some Oregon City parents in my McLoughlin neighborhood, and they said they wish their kids had the opportunity" to work with professional theater teachers, she said.
"The closest professional children's classes are in Northeast and Northwest Portland, not really in reach" of students in Oregon City, Milwaukie and Gladstone, she added.
So if students "don't have the means to get to Portland, we will bring Portland-based teaching artists to Oregon City," Hall said.
Although Staged! has offered two summer theater workshops for this age group in Oregon City, this will be the first after-school program the organization has put on.
According to Hall, four "high-quality, amazing teaching artists" will lead the classes: Andrew Bray and Jennifer Davies are "top vocal instructors;" Jessica Hirschhorn has taught in New York, Costa Rica and Thailand; and Andrea Whittle is a professional actor.
In addition, two young people who have taken classes at Staged! will "have a paid experience shadowing the teaching artists" and assisting them, Hall said. They are Carson Welker, who attends Oregon City's Alliance Charter Academy, and Khameelah Waldon, a Portland State University student.
Staged! is a company "that trains teens and up-and-coming teaching artists, so this will be an experience for them to learn how to teach what they love," Hall said.
Access to high-quality classes
Hall is adamant that "no child will be turned away" from Staged! After School. There is a sliding scale fee for the class, but full scholarships also are available.
"Our goal is participation. We will have a bilingual teacher, and we want to get kids excited about theater," she said.
Students do need to go online to register at stagedpdx.org/classes/after-school-classes, but also can call 971-803-7713 for more information and financial aid.
"The class will be a mix of kids who already love theater and kids who have never done it before and want to test it out in a safe environment," Hall said.
Children who have always wanted to try theater and "kids who are crazy for theater will learn solid theater techniques and the process of building an ensemble, and they will have a lot of fun," she said.
"There is room for a theater immersion class and a theater exploration class. This has so much more value than just putting on a play. And students will experience the sheer enjoyment of being around other kids who are interested in theater," Hall said.
On the final day of class, students will show off what they have learned.
"Our goal is for the kids to leave with their confidence built. They will have found an ensemble of theater makers, and they will realize they aren't the only ones who use their imaginations," Hall said.
Staged! offered a summer workshop last year at the Marylhurst School, and Hall noted that the school administration "supports the arts by donating the space for the after-school class."
Centrally located near Gardiner Middle School, the site is easily accessible and is right on TriMet bus line 33.
"We drove around the neighborhood and saw a lot of kids getting off school buses. It's a walkable neighborhood," Hall said.
The program also has received funding from the Clackamas County Cultural Coalition and the Oregon Community Foundation.
All students will receive a T-shirt on the first day and after-school snacks every day of the class, Hall said.
She added, "This will really be a full after-school experience, and we would love to make this a regular spring offering in Oregon City."
Ready, set, act
What: Staged! After
Where: Marylhurst School, 1232 Linn Ave., Oregon City
When: 3 to 5 p.m.
Wednesdays, April 12
through May 31
Register: Sign up online at stagedpdx.org/classes/after-school-classes, or call 971-803-7713 for more information and financial aid
Details: Students will learn theater techniques, improvisation skills and experiment with music and percussion
Learn more at stagedpdx.org