Purple power

By James Johnson

July 5, 2014

LUMBERTON — Those who prefer spending their summer basking in the spotlight as opposed to the sunlight may be pleased to know that Robeson County’s Purple Doors Productions is officially relaunching its Summer Stage Performing Arts Workshop on Monday.

The theater is run by artistic director Jeanne Koonce, who also teaches theater for the Public Schools of Robeson County by way of its Studio One Lab program. Since opening in 2011, Purple Door Productions had made its Summer Stage Performing Arts Workshop an annual tradition. Last year, due to scheduling conflicts, the theater was unable to offer its usual classes, however Koonce says that this year the Purple Door’s summer workshops will be back in full swing and that thus far the excitement among students has been palpable.

“Jumping into the program that she created helped me discover my passion for acting,” said Matthew Jacobs, 23, a longtime student of Koonce’s. “It is kind of like this thing where you can’t get enough of it.”

The workshop series, which includes classes on acting, dance, auditioning, singing and literary analysis, is intended to offer something for both children 8 years old and up, as well as adults, like Jacobs, who are offered more advanced training.

According to Koonce, each year the focus of the workshops are slightly different, depending on the students themselves.

“[The classes] will involve a lot of improv work, and scene work,” Koonce said. “I like to base everything around what they want, so if it is musical theater people, it will involve song work, or sometimes we will do a lot of literary analysis to be grounded with the scene. It depends very much on the students.”

While Koonce says she has seen many of her students go on to actual professional performance careers, she believes performance classes can be used as an escape and a helpful confidence building tool for just about anyone.

“It has been very beneficial in the long run,” said Jacobs. “It gives you certain abilities that can be applied to everyday life, as opposed to just being used in theater. My communications skills and being able to think quickly on my feet has benefited. Some of the closest friendships I have developed have been through the different shows I have been part of. The Purple Door has been has been a great place where you can express yourself without fear of ridicule.”

Koonce, who first began working on the stage at age 5, said there is no set formula for teaching performance skills, as everyone is different, just as every technique is different.

“I am a great believer that actors have to have their own process,” Koonce said. “There is no one way to work. What I like to do is hand out those various methods and find out what one way works best for you.”

Workshops will run Monday through Thursday for three weeks, with specific times set for specific age groups, on the campus of Robeson Community College. At the end of the three weeks, students will be given the opportunity to participate in a full production which will consists of scenes from various popular films and stage productions.

The deadline for applying is Tuesday. For information call 910-258-0787.

James Johnson may be reached at 910-272-6144 or on Twitter @JJohnsonRobeson.