LEWISTON — The Public Theatre’s professional theatre training program for teens will perform “Where the Sidewalk Ends … Imagination Begins,” an assortment of Shel Silverstein poems with added songs, at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5.

Featuring an auditioned and hand-picked group of 12 students ranging from ages 10 to 15, the young thespians have been working for the past three weeks, taking daily classes in stage combat, voice and speech, singing and the fundamentals of acting.

The Public Theatre’s summer intensive program is a unique alternative to other “drama camps,” as it is taught exclusively by theatre professionals, offering professional insights and standards.

Public Theatre Co-Artistic Director Janet Mitchko said, “We’re not looking to reinforce old habits by having the single focus be the putting on of a play. Instead, we’re trying to focus on the process of acting and developing the skills needed to begin to create truthful life on stage. Our goal is to build each student’s skills in concentration and talking and listening, and to teach them to think about themselves and acting in a new way. Although we do finish the session with a short performance piece, the goal of the piece is to showcase the skills they are learning, and reinforce a new way to think about performing.”

“Children today are often robbed of the richness of their imaginations,” said Mitchko. “In our busy world it’s convenient to put on television programs or videos to entertain our children, and the concept of ‘playing’ can be forgotten. In this training program we give permission and free rein to each child to explore their imagination and intellect, and we encourage them to fully express themselves in ways that might surprise them.”

The students’ final performance is inspired by a series of poems found in “Where the Sidewalk Ends and Falling Up” by Silverstein. Also included will be songs from “Peter Pan” and “Willy Wonka.”

The presentation, which is free and open to the public, will take place at The Public Theatre, 31 Maple St., downtown. For more information, call 782-3200.

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