Teenage Drama Workshop receives award

Marissa Kindelspire

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CSUN’s Teenage Drama Workshop has won an award for cultivating  theatre programs at local high schools for budding theatre majors.

The California Educational Theatre Association (CETA) awarded CSUN’s Teenage Drama Workshop (TADW) with the Professional Artist Award at their annual conference in Long Beach, earlier this month.

Doug Kaback, executive director of the TADW, said the Professional Artist Award was presented as a result of CSUN’s assistance to the theatre community.

“This year the drama workshop at CSUN was singled out and honored as an organization,” Kaback said. “We received a nice plaque representing the extensive outreach we do in the department through the drama workshop.”

The award is both an honor to the university as well as tangible evidence of the hard work and dedication of all who contribute to the workshop each year, he said.

“Teenage Drama Workshop is very much student run in the sense that they put on the plays and are expected to work in the way of a professional troupe,” Kaback said. “But we also have wonderful members of the CSUN theatre department and seasoned outside instructors who make the program so great.”

The 53-year-old program, which takes place every summer and is open to applicants in grades 7 to 12. Because it is available to high school students, they are being given the opportunity to begin developing skills in the field they love prior to starting college, Kaback said.

Students enrolled in the program attend class from 8 a.m. to about 4:15 p.m.  every day over the course of six weeks, and learn both in the classroom and through physical experience.

“The day is split into two parts, where the students learn the technical aspects of the business in the morning, and then rehearse in the afternoon,” Kaback said.

The all-encompassing program does not just focus on sowing a new crop of actors and actresses.  Students interested in script writing, set design, costumes and lighting are encouraged to enroll and help round off the workshop, Kaback added.

“The great thing about TADW is the versatility we offer to the students,” Kaback said. “It is a forum for those who want to pursue what they know they already love to do, or for those who may be testing the waters of the acting world.”

One feature of the yearly workshop is the three-week-long “Page to Stage” portion, which allows TADW participants to write and produce their own short play.

“Page to Stage allows the kids to be unique in expressing themselves, whether it’s angst or fantasy,” Kaback said.

Alongside the student produced plays, the entire group of about 70 to 85 students perform in two separate shows, typically a musical and non-musical. Performers of the last session put on “Seussical,” a Dr. Seuss musical, and “Alice in Wonderland.”

Love of performance rather than college preparation often act as the drawing card to many involved in high school drama programs, said CSUN theatre major Stacey Abrams, 19.

“Being involved in theatre before college can be very helpful,” Abrams said. “It gives you a base of knowledge that can make your first semesters as a theatre major easier, simply because you have a basic understanding of what is being taught.”

Amanda Swann, past CETA president and drama instructor at Los Angeles Central High School, agrees.

“Many students haven’t had the opportunity to have realistic experience in the theatre business, which makes programs like TADW extremely beneficial,” Swann said.

As a former instructor at Monroe High School and Birmingham High School, Swann said she witnessed the positive outcome of teenagers who took part in outside drama programs similar to the Teenage Drama Workshop.

Swann said former students who participated in drama programs as high school students not only gained more experience but were able to grasp what it means to be in theatre as a profession.

Students active in drama programs not only got on stage sooner, but became more focused on acting in a professional capacity and also learned to analyze characters and understand who and what they were portraying, Swann said.

“CETA recognizes those who are outstanding in their support of theatre, which CSUN has proven itself to be this year,” Swann said. “Congratulations to TADW and all those who work so hard not to be recognized for their efforts, but to spread the word and make a difference in the community.”

The next session of TADW will take place in Summer 2011. For more information, visit www.csun.edu/tadw or www.tadwbackstage.blogspot.com.