Actors from LA teach local students valuable skills

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Professional actors from Los Angeles visited a school in South Bend Monday. It wouldn’t have happened if it were not for a little help from the University of Notre Dame.

The 90-minute workshop focused on a specialized performance technique not normally covered in schools, but is valuable to developing skills that translate into the workplace.

The state of arts education in America is bleak according to a governmental survey released last year and performers with The Actors' Gang see it firsthand.

"The group we are finding that gets the least amount of arts education in our neighborhood is middle school,” said Vanessa Mizzone, The Actors’ Gang.

In Indiana and across the nation, funding for the arts has long been an issue.

"It takes a back seat to other things that we think are more important," said Tom Dits, drama teacher at Trinity at Greenlawn.

Schools are still reeling from the $300 million cut to education by Governor Daniels in 2009.

Even though Governor Mike Pence has proposed an one-percent increase of $63 million, it looks like funding for the arts will continue to be tepid at best.

Even private schools like Trinity at Greenlawn need outside help to secure special opportunities for their students.

"Notre Dame has been very generous with us in offering a lot of workshops, probably for the past 10 years,” said Dits.

Students are buying into the process.

"They really want us to delve into the world and meet people that are doing these professions that we ourselves are thinking about going into,” said senior Alex Bokhart.

Monday, kids did that enthusiastically.

"These students want this and they're excited and they are ready and we are already taking our teaching to the next level because the students are already here,” said Mizzone.

Dits says the skills they learn can translate beyond the stage and into the workforce.

"In business, they talk about small group skills; it's like, well if you want to learn that, you learn it in a workshop like this, where you trust the other people in the group,” said Dits.

Making arts education a vital part of these students’ growth as young adults.

"By focusing in more on the arts, it will help you be in general a better person in life,” said Bokhart.

This was a rare opportunity for the professionals as well.

This was the first workshop they've held on their current tour. They are in town for another day, and then off to Miami for their next show.

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