Friday, January 27, 2012

Local Improv Company to Teach Skills and Confidence to Youth

Alec Lewis is the founder of Oddfellows
Improv Company.
(Photo by Katie Thompson)
By Katie Thompson
Gordon College News Service
January 26, 2012
(This story appeared January 30, 2011, in the Boston Globe, Beverly Your Town site, and in the print and online version of The Salem News.)

BEVERLY, MASS. —Julia Perry, 13, of Beverly has been involved in theater productions with the YMCA of the North Shore for several years. But it wasn’t until she tried improvisational theater a year and a half ago that she found out it was what she loved the most. 

“It [improv] is the freedom to take over and let this imaginary character be whatever your mind comes up with,” said Perry. “It’s not having to worry about saying the right thing.”

Now young people like Perry will have the opportunity to learn more about improvisational theater, commonly known as improv. From February 20-24, the Oddfellows Improv Company will hold an Improv Intensive at the Salem YMCA for children and teens grade six and up. The cost is $75 for YMCA members and $93 for the community. The workshop will run each evening that week from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Alec Lewis, 23, of Beverly started the North Shore-based Oddfellows Improv Company with friends Ben Drake, 23, of Beverly, Zach Reynolds, 24, of Beverly, Jon Ramey, 23, of Beverly, Tyrel Borowitz, 21, of Gloucester, and Andrew Lamb, 25 of Portland, ME. The group has been doing improv since performing together in college. After taking a road trip to perform in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Tennessee in the spring of 2010 and performing in several shows together last summer, they decided to start their own company.

Lewis approached Kimberly LaCroix, 25, performing arts director at the YMCA of the North Shore, with the idea for the workshop, and LaCroix—who’s in her third year as director—was quick to agree.

“There’s not much available for teens locally in improv,” she said.

Improv is typically comedic and involves actors performing spontaneously in response to cues from fellow actors or the audience.  A popular improv game is Freeze, in which performers begin a scene but at any point actors not on stage can yell “Freeze.” Those performers then take the exact pose of the replaced actor and a new scene begins. According to Lewis, Oddfellows’ mission is to teach people to have fun with improv games like this, and to connect the performance aspect with the opportunity to improve social skills and confidence.  

Salem Meeting on Commuter Rail Increases Gets Heated

Residents gather Jan. 25th in Salem to hear from MBTA officials. (Photo by Kate Goodale)
By Kate Goodale
Gordon College News Service
January 26, 2012

SALEM, MA – Shawnora Weddles, 36, of Danvers relies on the T or bus to get from Salem to her job in Boston every day. She is a single mother of three daughters ages 9, 12, and 13 who frequently use the bus to meet her in Boston at work. But proposals to increase charges for commuters like her on the North Shore might change that.

Weddle’s story was one of many heard during Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) meeting on January 25th. Salem’s City Hall Annex was overwhelmed with attendees Wednesday night for the MBTA forum meeting. The turnout spilled over into a second conference room across the hall, causing MBTA representatives to hold two separate simultaneous sessions.

The meetings began with an overview of the service change proposals. The first scenario increases fares by 43 percent. The second increases fares by 35 percent, but cuts more services.

“We’d prefer not to do anything like this,” said Charles Planck, senior director of strategic initiatives at MBTA. “But we have to act.” The MBTA cannot financially support the current level of services with a projected deficit of $185 million dollars, according to Planck.