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Classes and shows abound at new theater

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NORTH BEND - Students are required to play and relax only. There is no homework - not even lectures. All they need to do in order to succeed in the class is play games.

The class is not offered in regular schools and universities, but at the Unity Theater located in North Bend. Gary Schwartz is the instructor of the class. He wants his students to learn acting techniques through games. All games played in class are related to acting and theater.

"Every game is a problem," said Schwartz.

In order to solve the problem, students have to think and use their imaginations. It is much different from a typical class in regular schools and universities where instructors normally provide answers to their students directly.

Most of the games are not easy. However, students have lots of fun participating.

"A game takes away the pressure," said Schwartz.

He notes that students are having fun and learning at the same time.

This proves that learning through play can be an effective educational tool.

"It should be in every school," said the instructor.

The class is offered to both children and adults. There are currently eight youngsters and four adults taking the class.

Schwartz observed that the children like the class a lot because they find the games really interesting. The adults find themselves in the same situation. One of them needs to bring bathroom tissue to every single class because she cannot stop laughing.

Nevertheless, Schwartz wishes that more adults would take the class. A lot of games need more than four players and as a result, adult students can only play a limited number.

Schwartz thinks that many people are reluctant to take acting classes because they have no prior experience. However, taking a class in the Unity Theater is a different story. Nobody needs experience. In order to apply, a person needs only to be physically able and willing to participate actively in the games.

The instructor said that by taking the class, students could learn how to relax. Besides having fun, they could also obtain acting skills. It is a very good opportunity for those who are interested in acting.

The idea of learning acting skills through games came from Viola Spolin, Schwartz's mentor. It is known as the Spolin Games technique. Schwartz noted that the technique is very useful, and students benefit a lot from learning it.

"Unfortunately, very few people know about Viola Spolin," he said.

One of Schwartz's goals is to introduce Spolin and her work to more people. He wants to make the Unity Theater a center of Spolin's work.

"I'm the only expert teacher in the area," said Schwartz.

He suggested that if people really want to learn the Spolin Games technique, they should come to North Bend.

Many may believe that plays not produced in big cities aren't worth seeing, but Schwartz disagrees. He thinks there are a lot of good quality theater companies in different cities in Washington state, not just in Seattle. A good play needs good actors and Schwartz claims that he could help develop more great talent through the Spolin Games technique.

There will be a Spolin Theater Games Retreat from March 12 through March 14 in North Bend for those interested in Viola Spolin's work.

* For information, contact Gary Schwartz at (425) 831-5667 or visit the Web site at www.spolin.com.

Joyce Yiu is a student in the University of Washington School of Communications News Laboratory.

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