Students from the “Actors at Play” youth theater program will have their final public performance this season Sunday, April 26th, in Venice.

The group’s “Works in Progress” performance is scheduled at 7 p.m. at the Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice. For reservations, theater box office at (310) 822-8392.

The group of approximately 25 teens has been learning its acting chops at a weekly workshop sponsored jointly by the Venice Neighborhood Council, which funded the program, the Venice branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, and the Venice-based Pacific Resident Theatre.

“We can see the confidence of these young people, and their acting skills, growing each week,” says Beth Rubin, the Young Adult librarian at the Venice Library who participates in the weekly sessions held in the library’s community meeting room.

The free, eight-week “Actors at Play” program began in early March. During two-hour sessions each Thursday afternoon, the teens received coaching from “teaching artists,” who are professional actors from the Pacific Resident Theatre. Participants learn improvisation, voice movement and scene study, among other theatre skills.

A typical session begins with drills, such as games that sharpen the young actors’ timing and responsiveness to each other. The drills are followed by script readings and improvisation.

“In some sessions, we have the students write scenes from their own experience and perform them in front of the group,” says Sarah Zinsser, an actor with Pacific Resident Theatre who serves as an instructor for some workshop sessions.

Tania Getty of Pacific Resident Theatre says that cutbacks in schools’ arts curriculum have left “a gap in arts education for many students.”

“The goal of the Youth Theatre Program is to bridge that gap,” she said. “PRT and the neighborhood council cooperated in a theatre production in summer 2008, while PRT has sponsored other youth theater programs.”

The Venice Neighborhood Council has supported the program with community improvement project funds, Getty said.

“The result is a program that supplements our schools and gives teens a great chance to build their social and group dynamic skills,” she added. “It’s a great example of grassroots community activity.”

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