By LANCE MASTERSON
For the Keizertimes
Lights! Camera! Action!
Okay, okay. Maybe director Lori Hammer’s dream is centered on the stage, but who’s to say one of her budding stars or starlets won’t end up on the silver screen some day. For now, however, the buzzwords are “fun” and “learning.”
Salem-Keizer Inspirational Teen theatre kicks off its third season next month. SKIT, as it’s called in the biz, is open to students in grades 6-12. They are taught acting, dancing and singing although some prefer directing or improvisation.
There’s also something for the even younger set. SKIT-Little is open to students in grades 1-5. This offshoot became a reality last year when Hammer heeded her parents’ requests.
“I have a heart for teenagers. So I was very excited to start SKIT. But parents kept asking: ‘My little guy is in fifth grade. Can he join?’,” said Hammer. “And we thought why not? They do a bit of dancing class, a bit of acting class, and a bit of singing class. It’s a two-hour program and they get to do a little bit of each, and then they put it all together to make their own show at the end of the season.”
Expansion gained even greater steam when other volunteers offered their assistance.
“We were able to expand our program and create our own jumping off point. So we give our younger kids an introduction to theater, and if they want they can move up into SKIT,” said Hammer. “It’s early, but I’m already seeing that in that I’ve got parents e-mailing me so-and-so was in SKIT-L last year and now they’re going to be in sixth grade. Can they audition for the big play?”
Twenty youngsters enrolled in SKIT-L last year. But Hammer said more is welcome this year. The program features instructors in three disciplines: dancing, singing and acting. Youngsters are divided by age, so there are 1-2, 3-4 and 5th grade classes.
“There’s like eight kids in a class,” said Hammer. “We’ve got these small classes and we can work one-on-one with the kids. So we get nice small intimate classes and (students) get a real chance to grow and figure out who’s the crazy person inside (each one) is, along with recognizing what their individual talents are.”
Both programs are offered at New Harvest Church, 4290 Portland Road NE, in Salem. Sessions last 10 weeks and costs $100 per child. Scholarships are available. Registration is 5-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 8.
SKIT classes begin Thursday, Sept. 16, and are from 5-7 p.m. SKIT-L classes are Wednesdays beginning Sept. 15, from 4-6 p.m.
SKIT Theatre began three years ago at Dayspring Fellowship as an outreach. Hammer was the church’s drama leader and directed teen plays.
“We created ‘Narnia’ for the Salem River Fest, and it was a lot of fun. Seventy kids auditioned for the play,” said Hammer. “I thought it was a one shot deal … And then the kids kept e-mailing me going, okay, what are we doing next year? So obviously there was a need.”
SKIT has since grown into its own non-profit theatre company. Last season audiences were treated to “Holes,” performed at Claggett Creek Middle School, and “Beauty and the Beast,” complete with tea party, at the Historic Grand Theatre in Salem.
This season’s first play is more inspirational. “Facing the Giants,” the football movie, is being adapted into a crowd-cheering play. Auditions are open to Salem/Keizer teens in grades 6-12, and are slated for Saturday, Sept. 25, 10-11:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., or from 1:30-3 p.m., and on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2-3:30 p.m. or 3:30 to 5 p.m..
Rehearsals are Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons from October through January.
“Oklahoma!” will be featured in the spring.
Hammer is not surprised by the program’s success.
“I tend to be a real positive person, so I just assume, oh, it’s going to work and it’s going to be fabulous,” she said. “Obviously that doesn’t happen in the real world. But I was hoping that SKIT, and then SKIT-L, would fill a need. We’ve never had less than 70 kids audition for our shows. For ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ 87 kids auditioned. That’s just crazy.”
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