by Rebecca Harris
When Ms. Beth Painter founded the Contagious Drama Workshop in 2006, she taught one class a week. Now, seven years later, she teaches various acting and improvisation classes to students of all ages.
Painter combined years of acting experience with an education degree to bring entertainment to everyone, not just those interested in theater.
Painter said, “I wanted to create an atmosphere where kids could be comfortable and confident expressing themselves…where there was no right or wrong.”
At CDW improvisation is a major component, according to CDW student senior Dan Connolly. Improvisation is “one of the most valuable tools to have as an actor,” said CDW student senior Megan Mulrooney.
While improvisation is a useful skill in acting, it also has benefits outside the theater. CDW student and junior Anna Bloomfield, said, “[Improvisation exercises] made it easier to interact with people.”
Every year the teen class puts on a play written by a playwright who, after meeting the class, writes a unique script; therefore, each student’s role is created specifically for them. Every production is ensemble, so “every single actor is given a ‘leading role’ and everyone has their own moment,” said Connolly. This year they are putting on a production of A.S.A.P’s Fables, insipired by Aesop’s Fables, according to Mulrooney.
Additionally, students leave the classroom to apply what they learned through a community outreach. Last year, the middle school and teen classes led improvisation workshops for children in Elizabeth and Newark. Painter said, “I’m so glad that I’m not just teaching them to be great actors, but how to share that gift with people who don’t have that luxury.”
The teen class’ production, A.S.A.P.’s Fables, will premiere tonight at 8 p.m. and again tomorrow at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church.