Piven Theatre partnership set to showcase Waukegan

Waukegan’s Clockwise Theatre is less than a month away from kicking off its collaboration with the Evanston-based Piven Theatre Workshop, and applications from students are not only still being accepted but are actively being sought.

Clockwise Artistic Director Madelyn Sergel said on Tuesday, Aug. 26, that she and workshop organizers are conducting a last-minute push to both enroll elementary school students and make sure Lake County residents know about an opportunity that might be unfamiliar to them.

“What’s tough is that Piven has this depth of students because they’ve been in Evanston for 40 years,” Sergel said, “and they have this terrific infrastructure and training program, and they’re just a lean, mean, theater-teaching machine. They want to expand, and we want them to expand up here in Lake County. But what’s interesting is not as many people in Lake County know about Piven’s reputation, so we don’t have generations of students to tap into.”

The workshop was founded in 1974 by Byrne and Joyce Piven, who studied drama in New York and improv with the Second City Repertory Company. Their students over the years have included John and Joan Cusack, Lecy Goranson from “Roseanne,” and Aidan Quinn from “Elementary,” along with their son Jeremy, most known for his role as super agent Ari Gold on HBO’s “Entourage.”

According to the workshop’s website, it enrolls more than 1,000 students from age 9 through adulthood each year, and Sergel said the challenge for her Genesee Street operation is to take the first steps toward building a local base.

“It’s not just for theater students. It’s for teaching creativity and communication and teamwork,” Sergel said. “It’s just fun and engaging and a vibrant experience, so we’re working to raise the profile of both the training program and for people to know that they can get it up here — they don’t have to drive down to Evanston.”

The Waukegan classes at 221 N. Genesee are slated to start on Sept. 15, and enrollment is available through Sept. 12 at piventheatre.org/register-for-classes-2/ or by calling (847) 866-6597.

The courses include “Theatre Games, Improvisation, and Scene Study” for fourth- and fifth-graders on Monday evenings from Sept. 15 through Nov. 17. There is also an “Improvisation and Scene Study” for sixth- through eighth-graders on Monday afternoons from Sept. 15 through Nov. 17.

Fees for the courses are $195 and $275, respectively, and Sergel said she hoped residents wouldn’t be put off by the cost.

“What’s really nice is they have a really strong scholarship program, so we can reach out to the population in North Chicago and Waukegan,” Sergel said. “The kids can get really good training on scholarship, and that was one of the ways Piven and Clockwise connected, because we really have this really large Latino population and lower-income population that they haven’t been able to reach.”

For more information on Clockwise Theatre in general, including its upcoming 2014-15 performance season, visit www.clockwisetheatre.org or call (847) 775-1500.

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