CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With a recent master's degree in theater in hand, Leah Turley is taking off later this summer for Washington, D.C., with the goal of becoming a working actor and the realization that she'll be a professional waitress.
But first, the Charleston resident will again teach acting at the Clay Center's Summer Discovery Camps this month as well as a couple of acting workshops for teenagers and adults.
Turley, 26, proposed the idea of adding acting to camp activities after her first semester at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. "I had learned a lot," she said. "I felt a need to bring this back."
Turley worked at the Clay Center during the year she took off between graduating from Marshall University with an acting degree and deciding where to go to graduate school.
"With schools struggling to keep arts programs, it's up to places like the Clay Center to provide what the government and schools can't do," she said.
"The arts are incredibly important," she continued. "[Acting] teaches you verbal skills, reading comprehension, self confidence, public speaking."
Those children who attend her July 23-27 acting class will write, direct and produce their own structured improvisation. "This is the first year I have handed control over to them," she said.
She explained structured improv: "There's a situation. Let's say two girls are playing in the backyard and something happens and they are no longer friends."
From there, the five W's of journalism are applied -- who, what, when, where and why -- to flesh out the story.
"Last year, we did 'The True Story of The Three Little Pigs,'" she said, noting that all 15 students had a job even though there were only eight roles. If not a character, they were in charge of props, the set or direction.
"There's a place for you in the theater, even if you do not want to be an actor."
Her acting class is for students entering the third through seventh grades. She said structured improv works well with this age group.
"I am reteaching imagination for children who have already seen everything on television, at the movies or in video games. It's hard for them to envision much larger than 'Avatar,'" she said.