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Student teacher Megan Wacker, center, watches a group of LaCreole Middle School students perform their best "cat" walks during a preaudition workshop on Thursday.
January 15, 2013
DALLAS -- LaCreole Middle School sixth-grader Jack Hannan crouches close to the ground with his arms drawn into his body, making himself as small as possible.
He runs around a circle of his peers, doing his best imitation of a mouse.
Like the rest of the middle schoolers at the Jan. 9 acting workshop, he seems a little uncomfortable with the idea at first, but his dramatic sense prevails.
Hannan and 11 other LaCreole students attended a preaudition workshop last week to learn acting techniques from student teacher Megan Wacker.
They are preparing for auditions for the play "Coyote Tales." Through an after-school drama program, Wacker and the cast will create a full-scale production.
Thursday and Friday, middle school students auditioned for the 20 parts in the play, a collection of Native American animal myths. Cast members will play animals, but with human characteristics.
At the workshop Wacker helps the students, even acting out their ideas. She twists and leaps, becoming a salmon swimming upstream, then asks one of her students to follow. Sensing embarrassment on their part, Wacker gives them a pep talk.
Seventh-graders Savannah Studebaker, Kiera Garner and Kimberly Wellman (from left) converse as "elephants."
"Theater is about being something that you aren't," she said, saying they shouldn't be afraid to be silly if the part calls for it.
The message resonated with some of the students.
"I'm super excited because drama is like my favorite thing in the whole world," said Amanda Zeh, a seventh-grader planning to audition for a role. "I like it because I get to be something other than myself. I get to get away from the normal and be crazy."
Wacker, an education major at Western Oregon University and a student teacher at Dallas High School and LaCreole, is directing the play as part of her practicum requirements. She wanted to work with middle school students, but was disappointed to learn LaCreole didn't have a drama program.
"Blair (Cromwell, DHS theater teacher) and I decided why don't we just make one?" Wacker said, adding it's important for kids that age to be creative. "Having outlets like art, or band or choir to put themselves into and have an identity, that is crucial."
Younger students can participate in Dallas High plays geared for children, but this production is solely for LaCreole students.
"I thought it would be a fun chance to do a play with kids my own age," said sixth-grader Taylor Snoha. "We may have to have a bit more practice, but I think it will be fun."
Wacker designed "Coyote Tales" to be more than just the typical drama club production.
Last week's auditions tested aspiring actors' skills and their professionalism. Judging began when they walked in the room.
"That is something kids will face the rest of their lives," Wacker said, noting it's similar to a job interview.
Once finalized, the cast will rehearse every day until the performances March 14-16. Wacker said she expects the cast to improve together, to bond and boost each others' confidence.
"I really hope they take away a sense of accomplishment," she said. "It's easy to put kids in academic classes and it's easy for them to get discouraged if you get an `F.' This is something that everybody works toward. If we fail, at least we had fun doing it."