Theater Groups Offering Training; If You're an Aspiring Actor, Young or Old, Here's Your Chance

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Byline: TAMARA MCCLARAN

For those intrigued by the prospect of performing before the glow of stage lights, Beaches community theaters are offering the opportunity to learn the skills and techniques performers need to know with programs for children and adults.

Classes at the Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre began this week. The theater is offering classes for children ages 7 to 16 led by instructor Gary Baker, a 2006 Jacksonville University theater arts graduate who was named JU student of the year in the Fine Arts College and who received the Dean's Award for Excellence in Theatre.

"Gary has a very clear idea of what he wants to do for us," said ABET artistic director Barbara Evans. "He really impressed me."

Baker has developed a program that includes improv games, an introduction to Greek and Roman theater with masks and scenes, an introduction to Shakespeare, monologues, one-act performances, and a performance for family and friends at the end of the 10-week session.

"I'm planning on having fun with the program," Baker said. "I want to teach them what I've learned and I hope I can be an inspiration to them."

Baker is offering two sessions for children on Mondays and Tuesdays from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

For the adults, ABET founder and former artistic director Carson Merry Baillie has been leading drama workshops since 1990. She has helped shape many actors, including Jeff Hephner, who has gone from Jacksonville stages to Hollywood. Hephner has appeared on the television shows Boston Legal and The O.C.

"When I looked up and saw him on television in The O.C., I just about died," Baillie said.

Baillie will conduct her fall adult drama workshops from 5 to 7 p.m. Sundays. The six-week session costs $125.

Both ABET programs take place at the theater, 716 Ocean Blvd., in the Adele Grage Cultural Center in Atlantic Beach.

Players by-the-Sea also has classes for children and adults that take place at the Jacksonville Beach theater.

"We are offering more classes and for different levels this year," educational director Barbara Williams said. "We are building on our success. …