Lincolnwood kids improvise after-school laughs
Fifth-grader Jayla Turchin, 11, acts out a word in reverse charades with fifth-graders (from left) Ajla Idrizovic, 10, and Natalle Kanjou, 11, as well as third-grader Vanesa Hoxha, 9, during a theater games class at the Lincolnwood Public Library on Monday. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 22, 2013 11:34AM
Eleven-year-old Jayla Turchin threw her arms in the air like a rock star after strumming a silent air guitar.
Nearby, Christopher Atsaves, 10, put two hands on an imaginary wheel and wildly wiggled his shoulders and hips.
“He’s a good truck driver,” commented their classmate, Joseph Ealkhatib, amid giggles and shrieks. “He doesn’t get into a lot of crashes.”
At the Lincolnwood Public Library Monday afternoon, 16 kids gathered into a circle for a fast-paced exercise called “Bibbity-Bibbity-Bop!”
Their objective: quickly strike a wacky move or repeat the keyword, “bop,” when called upon by an adult moderator.
The last kid standing is declared the winner, though no actual prizes are given. The after-school “acting class,” as the children call it, is exclusively for fun and games.
The library has hosted the free hour-long improv program for the past three years on days District 74 students are released early from school.
Local theater teacher Debbi Brodsky leads the third- through fifth-grade troupe through a series of theater exercises along with daughters Chelly Brodsky McKanna, 28, and Lizzy Brodsky, 26.
Drama games like “Wax Museum” and “Reverse Charades” get kids to think on their feet and be silly when pretending to be statues and helicopters, to play kickball and melt.
Assistant Library Director Julie Anne Nitz-Weiss said creating positive experiences for children at the library encourages them to become lifelong patrons, whether in Lincolnwood or elsewhere.
She enjoys seeing the face-to-face interaction. Kids, too, embrace the nowadays-rare opportunity to be free from technology toys. In acting class there are no TVs, iPad apps or other electronic bells and whistles.
“It’s something fun to do at the library other than go on the computer,” said Ajla Idrizovic, 10.
Students, some who said they aspire to be actors, understand the more practical payoffs to playing around, too, noting they are fine-tuning their listening skills, learning how to work as a team, and making new friends.
“We get to learn about each other,” said 11-year-old Leila Hoxha.
Leila, along her 9-year-old sister Emily and cousin Vanesa, also participates in a children’s program at Gorilla Tango Theatre in Skokie.
In April they’ll star in “We Are Monsters,” a musical produced by the Brodsky family’s theater class and private coaching business called Broadway, Our Way!
“We’re teaching skills of theater that you can apply to your every day life,” said Debbi Brodsky.
Another perk to the improv and acting games is giving children the chance to let loose and think outside the box in a safe, non-judgmental environment, Chelly Brodsky McKanna added.
“It usually helps pull out their personalities,” she said.