Actor/educators Zachary Kulzer and Karen Vaughan from CLIMB Theatre, spent last week working with four West Central Area student volunteers: Max Duncan, Emily Engen, Grace Liebl, and Louise Liebl, rehearsing wordless plays on important community building topics like bullying, intergenerational gaps, conflict, family time, and manners. They also learned a hip-hop dance and busking to help the students attract a crowd before their performances which will be Flekkefest Saturday at 1:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. in front of the Grant County Courthouse during the Arts and Crafts Fair.
This CLIMB Across Minnesota project is funded, in part, by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. The performances are free and each will feature three eight to 10 minute plays.
Kulzer, from Ham Lake, Minnesota recently received his BA degree from St. Cloud State, and started working for CLIMB Theatre just this summer. Vaughan is from Georgia and she has been working with CLIMB since last August. They taught the four WCA students pantomime and improvisational skills for six hours a day, Monday through Friday incorporating the story of each play.
“We teach movement and give them a basic story line. We let them figure out how to tell the story to an audience,” said Vaughan.
By Wednesday afternoon, the actors were well into fine tuning their skills with full run-throughs of the short plays, followed by reviews with Kulzer and Vaughan, who offer tips on fine-tuning their performances, and answering questions on what to do if mistakes are made.
“Just tell the story,” Vaughan told them. “If you forget something, just go along with it, as long as it doesn’t take away from the story.”
Kulzer reminds them to always be thinking, “What would your character do?”
When the two teachers ask their four students what they have taken away from the experience, Grace Liebl says, “It’s been fun!”
Duncan said, “You never know a person until you take their skin and walk around in it.”
Kulzer and Vaughan are planning to work with the next CLIMB Theatre project called “Elders,” in which they work in nursing homes on improvisational theater with the elderly.
CLIMB Theatre has two separate companies; an acting and performance company and a teaching company that uses performance as a teaching tool.
The four WCA actors will now have two weeks off before performing. While they will not rehearse by themselves, the CLIMB teachers will be back on Flekkefest Saturday and run brush up rehearsals a couple hours before the performances.