As a drama teacher in Montreal, Aviva Wolman-Wener says she has seen countless young people benefit from acting lessons. Students develop self-confidence and public speaking skills while working as a team.
However, she also felt her students could benefit from performing to people other than family and friends. So she decided to organize touring shows around Montreal. “Basically, I wanted them to see what it’s like to perform for people who didn’t necessarily know us or love us,” she said.
So, 10 years ago, she launched Teen Tour Theatre (TTT), a company that combines acting classes and workshops with a touring element. The organization offers traditional weekly acting classes for students ages 7 to 12, summer classes and various one-time workshops that include improvisation and voice work for animated productions.
What makes this acting company unique is its touring program for students ages 12 to 16 and 16 to 22. While the senior classes dive right into preparing for their production, the younger students typically spend the first half of the year honing their acting skills. “We play a lot of vocal and physical warm-up games,” she says. “There are improvisations to make it fun.”
In January, the company gears up to prepare and present its touring shows. The plays chosen have young audiences in mind (as opposed to famous musicals written for adults), so they are appropriate for elementary and high school actors and audiences.
For example, this year’s Senior Tour features a play called Exposure, written by Vishesh Abeyratne, a former student from Teen Tours Theatre, which highlights how adolescent misadventures take on new meaning in a digital age.
The plays are performed at schools, organizations and libraries in the Montreal area. They also present a show as part of the Centaur Theatre’s Saturday morning program.
Wolman-Wener says the touring component appeals to many students, especially those who want to pursue acting professionally. No auditions are necessary but older teens should have some experience performing on stage.
“Teen Tour Theatre is a place for kids who just love theatre, as well as kids who are interested in it as a profession,” she says. “I would estimate that 20 per cent of the students [in the school] are acting union members, have union affiliations and/or have agents. But it’s also a great place for kids who just want to do it as a hobby or to develop skills.”
Although she is able to connect families with acting agencies, Wolman-Wener says that her focus is about showing students the magic, power and pleasure of taking to the stage. About 90 per cent of her students return year after year. “The kids really love it,” she says. “It’s a place to have fun, be expressive, love what you’re doing and maybe put aside some of the stress from school and the rest of their lives.”
The next workshop (for ages 14 and up), is focused on how to read for auditions, and will take place on January 13, 2012. Classes and workshops are held at Wesley United Church, 5964 Notre Dame de Grace Ave., in N.D.G.
For more information about this year’s tour, call (514) 626-9409 or go to www.teentourtheatre.com.