Paul Pierce is all passion and poise as he discusses his revamped summer theater workshop at Whidbey Playhouse’s STAR Studio, opening July 10 at 9 a.m. The workshop costs $125 per student for all four weeks. Photo by Daniel Warn/Whidbey News-Times

Theater workshop gets face-lift

Whidbey Playhouse’s summer theater workshop returns this year with a new focus and design.

Janis Powell, business manager for the playhouse, said the workshop was almost canceled. The fate of the program hung in limbo because the director of last year’s workshop moved back East, she said.

An uncertain fate until Paul Pierce — longtime thespian with the Northwest Savoyards and Pompeian Players — stepped forward.

Believing that a change in director should signify a change in direction, Pierce put together a proposal for a new-and-improved drama camp.

In the past, the summer theater workshop featured four weeks of theater games, with ample downtime for the teens to practice looking after the younger kids, Powell said. But Pierce wants to give the kids a bit more to chew on.

“What I’m doing with this group, is I’m making it goal-oriented,” Pierce said. “It’s not just a daycare center, where they’re coming in and they’re running around and playing games.”

Pierce said there will still be games, but the students will also be learning about stage direction, dance, stage makeup, listening and how to find their stage voices.

Pierce said he wants the attendees to learn the skills necessary to audition for a part outside of the workshop.

Powell said she understands the importance of Pierces’ vision because she has seen how being in shows at Whidbey Playhouse has transformed lives.

“I’ve seen the kids grow up in theater here and when they come in, sometimes they’re shy, they don’t mix well with the other kids, their attention spans seem to be short, and it’s almost a miracle to watch how they are,” Powell said.

“Pretty soon they’ve opened up … they tend to be more respectful, they tend to be more in tune with adults.”

With 40 years of theater and dance under his belt, Pierce said he is passionate about spreading a love of theater onto the next generation. He said performing has been a constant companion for him and has enriched his life like little else.

Pierce is especially excited to share the gift of theatre to kids in a social-media free setting, because he feels kids’ reliance on technology is robbing them of key opportunities for them to enhance their imaginations.

“I love working with kids because their minds are so imaginative,” he said. “If they do come here and do the children’s workshop … it’s a whole new realm for them. They have to go back in their minds and go, ‘OK, how do I become and old man; how do I become and old woman; how do I give that feeling that I’m on a desert island; that I have to climb a rope?’”

Pierce went on to say that typically, when he is directing, he gives each of his leads one “diva card.” At any time during rehearsals or the run of the show, each actor can have one “diva moment.” When that moment is through, Pierce said he confiscates the card, and expects the “diva behavior” to have run its course.

In a show of personal tradition, Pierce said he plans to figure out a new iteration of his “diva cards” for the workshop.

Showstoppers Summer Youth Workshop costs $125 per child and is from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Mondays, July 10 through Thursdays, Aug. 3, in Whidbey Playhouse’s STAR Studio. The playhouse is located at 730 SE Midway Blvd.

The workshop will be separated into four thematic parts, culminating in a performance for family on Aug. 3:

n July 10-13 features: “Finding my voice on the stage.”

n July 17-20 features: “My audition, getting my part.”

n July 24-27 features: “My part and learning it.”

n July 31-Aug. 3 features: “Overture. Showtime.”

For information, call 360-679-2237 or visit

Photo by Daniel Warn/Whidbey News-Times Paul Pierce is all passion and poise as he discusses his revamped summer theater workshop at Whidbey Playhouse’s STAR Studio, opening July 10 at 9 a.m. The workshop costs $125 per student for all four weeks.

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