The Starved Rock Country Children’s Learning Theatre will begin its third session Saturday, Sept. 12, with a presentation to the public scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 22.
Sessions will begin Saturday, Sept. 12, with an orientation for student actors new to the program. This orientation/registration for new student actors will be 10 a.m. to noon in the Lincoln Boardroom, in the lower level of the 807 Building (below Jeremiah Joe Coffee), 807 La Salle St., Ottawa.
After this initial orientation, classes/rehearsals will meet 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, beginning Sept. 16. Sessions on Saturdays, 10 a.m. to noon, will be added Oct. 17. The production for the public is scheduled for Nov. 22. Classes and rehearsals will be conducted at the Ottawa Dance Academy, 725 Fulton St.
Space is limited. For information and registration, contact the Ottawa Dance Academy at 815-434-5308, or email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The program was founded last fall by Ottawa native Walt Willey, perhaps best known for portraying Jackson Montgomery on ABC’s "All My Children" for almost 25 years, and more recently for his portrayal of “Wild Bill” Hickok in his one-man show, and on the television series "Gunslingers." Willey is co-founder of WilleyWorld Community Productions, which has been producing plays in Ottawa and Starved Rock Country since 2009.
Based on a model, a children’s learning theater that Willey’s son, Chance, attended in Santa Fe, N.M., it will serve students from grades one through six in Starved Rock Country.
“It is a fusion of classes and rehearsals culminating in a presentation for the public,” Willey said.
“I saw firsthand how a program like this helped young people,” he explained. “I watched as these kids developed skills, confidence, appreciation for the arts and process, and friendships with other like-minded young people that lasted for years. And I see this already happening at the (children's learning theater).
“The outcome of the first two sessions was very gratifying. We had some extremely talented young people who worked very hard, and had such incredible community support. We’re very excited that this program is a success and hope that it becomes a staple of extracurricular activities.”
“One of my passions is teaching acting, which I’ve done — on and off — since the mid-80s,” noted Willey, who serves as Starved Rock Country's community arts adviser. “Another passion of mine, as many know, is bringing the theater arts to area high school students. Our mission at the Starved Rock Country Children’s Learning Theatre is to expand this opportunity to even younger children.”
Willey, who has made his living as an actor/writer/producer for more than 30 years, will be teaching the classes, conducting the rehearsals and directing the production for the public.
“I’m taking a very hands-on approach to this,” Willey said. “We employ accomplished assistants, technicians and scenic designers, which contribute to the excellence of our instruction and productions.”