by Mike Meno | Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 23, 2008
It was not a typical theater setting, but the young actors preparing to perform at the Long Branch Community Center received serious stage direction last week from youthful leaders.
‘‘Speak slowly and enunciate your words,” the head instructor, Adam Carey, 16, told the middle-school-age class of six girls and one boy in a meeting room at the Silver Spring center. ‘‘Make sure you’re looking at each other so it looks like you’re talking to each other.”
The students are summer campers who have opted for an alternative to the standard activities, such as swimming and basketball, offered at the center on Piney Branch Road.
Carey, a former Long Branch camper himself, has returned this summer to offer youngsters a chance to do something different.
Growing up in Long Branch, Carey said, he spent most of his time at the center swimming and playing kickball. It wasn’t until eighth grade that he discovered his true passion: acting in front of an audience.
In Long Branch, ‘‘there weren’t a lot of theater opportunities, and so I wanted to give some of those opportunities to kids who live in the area,” said Carey, who will be a senior at Montgomery Blair High School. He has become a regular performer in the school’s theater program, with roles in recent productions of ‘‘The Comedy of Errors” and ‘‘Beauty and the Beast.”
The camp’s theater class, which doubled as Carey’s Eagle Scout project, was part of the community center’s Summer Fun Center. It was taught for one hour every weekday for six weeks and culminated in Friday’s performance in front of the entire camp.
Carey’s friends and schoolmates Kaycee Tucker and Laura Boyer served as co-instructors in the class and helped him and the middle-schoolers write a play, ‘‘The Pajama Party,” the story of a missing teddy bear at a sleepover.
At the last rehearsal, Carey and Tucker gave performance tips to the young actors: Keep your body facing the audience. Improvise dialogue if you forget your lines. Never break character.
‘‘They try to get us excited for it,” said Silver Spring resident Priscilla Perez, 11. ‘‘That way, we won’t be nervous.”
Tucker, 17, who graduated from Blair in the spring, spent the first few minutes of a recent class leading the students through physical and verbal warm-up exercises, including jumping jacks and tongue twisters.
‘‘The whole point is to have fun,” Tucker said. ‘‘That’s why Adam and I do theater in school, because it’s fun.”
Silver Spring resident Lisa Jobe, 11, said she signed up for the class because she is interested in acting. ‘‘It’s fun to act like somebody else for a while,” she said.
Jocara Knight, director of the Summer Fun Center, said he was happy with the way the class worked out.
‘‘He did a very good job,” Knight said of Carey. ‘‘He seemed like he was a very good positive role model. I’m getting a very good reaction from the kids, and they seem to very much enjoy it.” Knight said he is considering including the class in the camp’s activities again next year, and possibly expanding it.
Carey said part of the reason he proposed the program for Long Branch was because of recent crimes in the area that he worries have tarnished the neighborhood’s image. With programs such as his theater camp, he hopes more positive stories will come out of the neighborhood.
‘‘I live right down the street,” he said. ‘‘This is my community.”
Knight said the class was an example for the entire camp. More than 70 youngsters watched the theater group’s performance Friday.
‘‘It’s very important to see someone doing something positive,” he said.