WLT offers workshops for kids

Posted: January 14, 2014

The Winchester Star

Jara Barrett (from left), Nathalie Bly, and Biz O’Keeffe rehearse a scene from “Cinderella” at Winchester Little Theatre for Kids last summer. The theater is adding workshops this winter for students. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)

Winchester — Winchester Little Theatre has seen a need for children’s theater education and is trying to fill it.

Interest in youth programming at the theater has been steadily increasing for several years as the WLT for Kids offerings went from one to two summer shows a year and overall interest has grown, said Victoria Ryles, a longtime supporter who has directed and acted in plays there for years.

Now, organizers are taking the next step in the evolution of filling that need with workshops aimed at immersing middle and high school students more fully into the world of theater, she said.

“It was the sense of we are doing a program that is working and the kids are very excited, so what more can we do for them,” said Ryles, of Frederick County.

Ryles will offer a Playwriting Roundtable workshop from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays from Jan. 22 to March 5 at the theater, 315 W. Boscawen St., Winchester.

Also, instructor Roxie Orndorff will teach a “Scene Study Intensive” workshop from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Mondays from Jan. 20 to March 3 at the Adams Companies, 303 S. Loudoun St.

Both workshops cost $125 and are for middle and high school students. Spaces are limited.

The workshops are not the first attempts to expand programming, Ryles said. She offered the playwriting workshop four years ago, and Orndorff helped her daughter, Joette Orndorff, teach a class in the fall on theater essentials.

“It had a very nice turnout, and the kids really seemed to love the class,” said Roxie Orndorff of Berryville. “We are all very excited about being able to offer these opportunities.”

Adding to the natural growth of WLT’s program is the closing Aug. 7 of Wayside Theatre in Middletown, which offered a comprehensive list of year-round programs for children and teens, she said.

“It was something that was kind of lost when Wayside closed. People were calling and asking are you going to do it?” Orndorff said.

Still the youth workshops were not a direct response to Wayside’s closing and the fall offering didn’t see an influx of young theater enthusiasts from that program, Ryles said. “The impulse was not thinking about Wayside but thinking there is such an interest and demand.”

Ryles’ workshop is aimed at youth who like to write and theater, film, or movies, since playwriting and script writing aren’t too far apart in their essentials, she said.

The class will cover the elements of powerful scenes and plays, how to captivate audiences, and the practical experience of putting their work on in small productions, she said.

“I think kids who like to write need opportunities to write about what they enjoy doing,” she said. “Many times they write for school and they don’t get the chance to be as creative as they want.”

She will have the students perform their plays using the other youth in the workshop as their actors. As long as enough students sign up for the workshop for it to go ahead, they will perform at 12:30 p.m. March 8 in the auditorium at Handley Library in Winchester.

The students will also have the opportunity to meet and talk with a local playwright, Jan Kirby of Winchester, whose new play “What She Wants” premiered at the theater last weekend, Ryles said.

For her workshop, Orndorff will explore topics such as training and rehearsal ethics, different acting techniques, warm-up and relaxation exercises, breakdown of scene analysis, and critiques.

“We will do active learning through theater games. Those are always fun but there is learning that sneaks up on them,” she said.

Her goal is to make the students more comfortable onstage and develop character building techniques and skills in analysis and interpretation, Orndorff said. There will not be a performance with her workshop.

Unlike WLT for Kids in the summer, children do not have to audition for placement in these workshops, she said.

If these two workshops go well and there is interest, organizers hope to offer more in the fall, she said.

“The theater is a wonderful learning arena. Sometimes it is not always the main focus in school,” she said. “It is a mission that we want to keep theater out there and alive for young people.”


A Playwriting Roundtable workshop from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays Jan. 22 to March 5 at the theater, 315 W. Boscawen St., Winchester. To sign up, contact 540-869-1950 or vryles44@gmail.com.

A “Scene Study Intensive” workshop will be held from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Mondays Jan. 20 to March 3 at the Adams Companies, 303 S. Loudoun St. To sign up, contact 540-664-5252 or randyorndorff@comcast.net.

Both workshops cost $125 and are for middle and high school students.

— Contact Laura McFarland at lmcfarland@winchesterstar.com