Lewiston library bringing literature to life in series

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LEWISTON – A series of four free workshops in the art of readers theater will be offered this summer at the Lewiston Public Library. The first program is scheduled for 3:30 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, July 31, and the sessions will continue each subsequent Tuesday through Aug. 21.

Funded by a community literacy project grant from Maine Reads, the workshop series will focus on teaching participants how to bring literature – especially children’s literature – to life through the spoken word.

Readers theater presentations differ from conventional theater in that the actors typically perform while seated on stools or in chairs, facing the audience with scripts in hand.

“Because they utilize no stage movement and little or nothing in the way of costuming or props, the actors must rely solely on their voices and nuances of verbal and facial expression in order to capture the attention of their audience,” said Cindy Larock, coordinator of the LPL cultural center, which is sponsoring the program.

Leading the workshops will be professional educator Lucy Rioux, recognized as one of the authorities on readers theater in the Northeast.

Rioux is co-founder and artistic director of the Open Book Players, Maine’s only readers theater performance troupe, established in 1996, and has presented workshops on how to use the technique in the classroom at many state and regional educational conferences.

Rioux is the associate director and manager of classroom methodology for the Readers Theatre Institute in San Diego and has been with the organization as an instructor since 1995. She has taught readers theater techniques in acting, scripting and staging for the institute’s annual international workshop held in London and Toronto, and is a regular featured contributor to the Readers Theatre Digest, an online resource which focuses on all aspects of readers theater.

A teacher/consultant for the Gifted and Talented program in the Litchfield school system for the past 18 years, Rioux holds a bachelor’s degree in theatre communications from the University of Southern Maine and a master’s in education from the University of New England.

She was chosen as Maine’s Middle Level Teacher of the Year in 1999 and was recently accepted as a candidate for the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program. She serves on the board of directors for the Maine Alliance for Arts Education and is the founder and past artistic director for the Monmouth Community Players.

Rioux feels that a library is a particularly appropriate setting for her upcoming workshop series.

“Readers theater respects the literary texts,” she said, “and seeks to discover and transmit the author’s intentions within the context of the times in which it was created. It differs from conventional theater in that it is ‘presentational’ in nature, as opposed to ‘representational’ as you might see with most performances on stage, television or film. The setting is usually intimate, which makes the audience very much a part of a successful readers theater performance. In fact, this genre is sometimes referred to as ‘theatre of the mind’ or ‘theatre of the imagination,’ alluding to the active imaginative engagement required by both the audience and the performers.”

The series is open to anyone from high school age up through senior citizens. Elementary school teachers are especially encouraged to participate, said Larock, since the program will offer tools to enhance their ability to provide dynamic and entertaining storytimes in the classroom. Rioux will teach a variety of oral interpretation skills in addition to elements of scripting and staging.

In order to ascertain the number of scripts required, the library is encouraging participants to register in advance by calling 784-0135, ext. 200.

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