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Theater workshop exposes children to the stage

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Children's theatre instructor Hannah Wansley directs an untangle-the-knot team-building game with (counter clockwise) Addison K

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By Brenda Monty
The Enterprise

Monday, September 4, 2017

FARMVILLE — At least 10 Farmville youth can add theater to their response when asked what they did this summer.

Farmville Community Arts Council hosted a theater workshop Aug. 19 designed for children 5-15. Hanna Wansley, a Pitt County youth theater instructor and Farmville Community Arts Council board member, taught the one-day event.

Wansley believes theater and music play an important role in childhood development. When she is not directing theater productions and workshops, she performs in productions at Magnolia Arts Council in Greenville.

Wansley had previously worked with all but four of the recent workshop participants. She directed more than 30 Farmville youths last winter in the production of “The Happy Holidays Collection” Christmas play. However, this was her first theater workshop in Farmville.

“We decided to do a workshop just before we do auditions for the children’s show coming up, to get more interest and hopefully pull different kids from the community to come try it,” she said. “It’s a great stage here. It’s nice to use it for the kids.”

Wansley packed a full schedule of games and activities into the five-hour workshop.

“The games are designed to excite them about theater. Every activity has a meaning behind it,” she said.

For example, youth ranging in age and size formed a circle, reached into the circle with their right hand to hold another camper’s hand. They did the same with their left hands, which formed a tangled knot. Wansley instructed the children to continue to hold hands while they worked together to untangle themselves.

When the first attempt failed, Wansley asked the children what went wrong and how it might be corrected. While one camper thought the differences in their age and sizes made it impossible, another said everyone was talking at the same time.

Lesson learned. Wansley hoped they would learn teamwork, which is needed to work well together as a theater ensemble. The activity met with much greater success the next time.

Quoting the old theater adage by Russian actor Constantin Stanislaviski who said, “There are no small parts, only small actors,” Wansley explained every role, every character, every part in a play’s production is vital to the story, no matter how small it may seem.

A version of “Simon Says” taught children the stage directions — up, down, left and right stage.

“Simon says, hop like a bunny to stage right” or “Leap up stage,” Wansley called out.

She taught them to understand the lingo or unique theater vocabulary, such as blocking, cast, character, pantomime and to project one’s voice.

Murray Hughes, 11, of Farmville, and his sister, Hazel Kate, 8, were quite comfortable on stage. Before moving to Farmville, Murray’s teacher at his school in Durham had studied to be an actor and directed his students in a kids version of Shakespeare’s “Twelth Night.”

When he moved to Farmville, he and his sister were happy to learn the town had an active arts council and a holiday play was being planned.

Murray and Hazel Kate joined in the cast.

Campers Harry Albritton, 13, and his brother Ben, 6, were also at home at the Farmville Community Arts Council. Their mother, Leslie Albritton, is the organization’s president.

Harry has been acting in Farmville for three years.

“I like portraying other people. Sometimes, I like to become my character a little bit. I kind of act like them outside of theater too,” he said.

Although Harry is experienced, he said his reason for attending the camp was simple, “Any chance we have to do anything with acting, we take it.”

Harry has been an inspiration to his Ben, who said, “I like to do things my brother does sometimes, because I like to try things new. I like acting.”

Perhaps the example of her experienced actress sister, Addison, 9, also influenced Kendall Kingrey, 7, to add theater to her repertoire. Kendall has been busy this summer with both soccer and gymnastics camps.

“I heard about it and it sounded like it would be fun,” she said of the theater camp.

Acting was new to Lexi Annis, 8, too, but not the Farmville Community Arts Council stage.

“I’m used to performing. I dance on this stage,” she said proudly, adding she is takes classes at Dance Unlimited, which holds recitals at the theater.

Of the theater camp, Annis said, “I love it. I love that Ms. Hannah is telling us fun games to play. … I learned that you should exercise your voice and exercise your body before you go on stage.”

The Enterprise serves western Pitt County including Falkland, Farmville and Fountain.

More information

To learn more about Farmville Community Arts Council, programs and activities, visit farmvillearts.org or call 252-753-3832. Upcoming events include an opening reception from 3-5 p.m. Sept. 10 of the arts council’s latest exhibit, which features Farmville resident Kay Taylor’s artwork. The exhibit runs through September.

The Farmville Community Arts Council, Farmville Chamber of Commerce, DeVisconti Trust and town of Farmville are also hosting an agricultural market from 5-7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the green space behind The GlasStation featuring vegetables, baked goods, crafts, beer and food trucks. For more information, visit farmvillearts.org.