Noe Valley Voice May 1999

Hey Kids, Let's Put on a Show!

By Dodie Hamblen

What's the hottest ticket in town? A theater arts program for kids -- that's what. The Lively Arts Workshop is a summer camp that's made to order for aspiring young thespians -- as well as for working parents.

Operating out of Rooftop Alternative School at 500 Corbett Ave. (near Clayton), Lively Arts offers visual and performing arts programs for children entering grades three through nine.

"This summer we are celebrating our 10th season," says director and program coordinator Elisa Ronstadt Elliott. A theater arts specialist at Rooftop for 15 years, Elliott has been with Lively Arts since the beginning."There are a number of programs similar to ours, but we were here first," says Elliott. "One of the things that sets us apart is our ratio of seven or eight kids to one staff person."

Among her fellow directors are music director Dorothy Moskowitz Falarski and choreographer Pamela Wong.

The program, which accepts up to 50 students, attracts kids from public and independent schools all over the city. "But," says Elliott, who lives on 26th Street, "most of our students come from the 94114 and 94131 zip codes."

One is 10-year-old Sophie Curtis, who is making a return engagement this year. " I really think Lively Arts is a cool and fun program, and all kids should go," says Sophie. "When summer is over, I am so sad that Lively Arts is over."

Sophie's mom, Martha Curtis, is also impressed with the program's quality: "The teachers -- artists, songwriters, and musicians -- are very professional and love to work with kids. They're warm and nurturing, and the art projects are very creative. One of Sophie's productions was Ukrainian folk tales, and they made really beautiful Ukrainian cloth dolls."

Elliott says that while the summer program involves lots of learning about the arts, the focus is on having fun. "We serve snacks and have recess and, yes, they can play basketball here, too. But we hope that the campers come away realizing that we are all artists, that they can express themselves in spoken word, song, movement, and visual arts with some confidence, and that they should value their own and others' contributions to the group -- but, above all, have fun."

For third- to sixth-graders, the curtain rises for three 2-week sessions on June 14. Kids may sign up for all three sessions or just one. The last session ends July 23.

The core program, called "Lively Arts," runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and includes theater games, skits, music, art, dance, and rehearsals for a performance at the end of the two weeks. The cost for one session is $210.

If kids want to stay all day, they can attend a "Quiet Arts" afternoon program from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Starting with tea and a story, this program is a mix of crafts, cooking, story projects, singing, and outdoor games. There's also an "Other Arts" program, dabbling in props and scenery, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Moms and dads (and the public at large) are invited to the final show, which includes dramatizations of myths and legends, as well as material written by the students. This summer's performances -- at noon on June 24, July 8, and July 22 -- will feature African folk tales and adaptations of "The Legendary Musicians of Brementown" and "The Frog Prince."

For older kids -- those in the sixth to ninth grades -- Lively Arts holds a weeklong workshop from July 26 to 30, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. This session covers theater games, music, and improvisation, and costs $135.

Elliott says many of the younger kids attend two Lively Arts sessions, and fees go down the more sessions you take ($390 for two 2-week sessions; $570 for three). Parents should add $100 per session for the afternoon Quiet Arts program, and $40 if their child takes the one-hour scenery class.

Scholarships are available, and the program is committed to diversity, Elliott says. This year the Lively Arts Workshop, a nonprofit organization, was proud to receive a community grant from the Noe Valley branch of the Bank of America.

Elliott points out that no prior performing experience is necessary. To sign up, give her a call at 641-4960.