Behind the scenes

Photo by KATHY CLEVELAND Frances Saxton, above, and Lucy Spencer lead children in their Fairy Tale Theater class through warmup exercises. From left are Phinn Heavner-Phillips, of Milford; Elena Orrego and Maggie Loi of Amherst; and Emmett Wallace, of Bedford, with Saxton.

AMHERST – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and a unicorn? Why not?

Lucy Spencer and Frances Saxton welcomed all of the ideas that the 11 children threw out during their Saturday morning theater class recently.

The two actors gave the first of eight weekly sessions called “Fairy Tale Theater” on April 8, part of the Amherst Recreation Department’s new theater offerings for children called the Amherst Moxie Players.

For Fairy Tale Theater, they build around the story of Snow White, teaching basic theater methods in unconventional ways, using a variety of performance techniques and theatrical tools.

To show how to become aware of everyone else in the room, for example, they had the children in a circle, doing beanbag throws, with the children calling out the name of the catcher before each toss.

Then they had the kids talk about the plot and list the characters in Snow White, with new characters, including mythical characters, definitely allowed.

During the sessions, Saxton said later, they will cover all of the basic acting rules, including listening, storytelling and how to work with other players.

Those techniques help fledgling actors move away from a “spotlight mentality,” Spencer said, and develop the flexibility that would allow them to step into any situation, whether it’s a TV commercial, a movie or a stage play.

Fairy Tale Theater is for ages 6-9, one of three theater education classes taught by Spencer and Saxton at the Peabody Mill Environmental Center.

“Re-imagined” is for ages 9-12, with Saxton and Spencer leading the class in transforming a short story or poem into a group performance piece.

“Yes, And … Scene!” is Spencer’s improvisation class for ages 12-19 taught in the Souhegan High School annex.

They will also have four summer camps.

Along with her long list of theater credits, Saxton has taught at the Belvoir Terrace performing arts summer camp in the Berkshires. She is classically trained in the violin and studied at The Center for Young Musicians in London.

Spencer has been singing and acting for 25 years. She has done private and production vocal and dialect coaching and specialized Shakespearean language and performance coaching.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

COMMENTS