Improv workshops spice up vacation, earn scout Silver Award

IMPROV ACTING WORKSHOP — Molly Edwards (left) was one of the participants in a workshop led by Allison Baker at the Bridgton Public Library on Friday. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

When her last event was done, Allison Baker made a comment that sounded more like it was coming from an Olympic athlete than a local Girl Scout.

“I have the Bronze. I have the Silver now. And, I’ll get the Gold later,” she said.

Allison had just completed the requirements for her Silver Award. As a Cadette Girl Scout, she is eligible to earn her Silver Award, which requires doing an individual project that makes a difference in the world around her and makes a lasting impact. Her project was approved by the Girl Scout Council of Maine.

Allison is attending Lakes Region Middle School, where she is in eighth grade. She belongs to Troop 1963. For her Silver Award, she decided to provide improvisational acting workshops for the community. “I choose acting because I love acting. I’ve been doing it since I was eight years old.”

During February vacation, Allison offered four improvisational acting workshops at four different libraries in the Lakes Region. On Friday, she had just wrapped up the last of her workshops at the Bridgton Public Library.

Through the experience, Baker gained courage despite having fears and apprehensions. She learned about time management. And, she discovered that things often turn out better than expected. Her preplanning efforts for the workshops helped with that. She invited a few of her peers who had appeared in local plays to each of the workshops. In-between the acting games that kept participants on their toes and generated a lot of giggles, she interviewed the older students who had appeared in local productions.

PERFECT PROPS — Cadette Girl Scout Allison Baker (left) and Pamela “Pam” Sargent ham it up during an improv acting workshop at the Bridgton Public Library during February vacation. (De Busk Photo)

“I decided I wanted to show the younger children people who did theater. These are their stories — you can start at a young age,” Baker said. “I am passionate about acting I wanted to help inspire other kids to start acting.”

Allison told participants at Friday’s workshop that she has been in five shows: Oliver with Lakes Region Community Theater (LRCT); Sleeping Beauty in the 25th Century with Stevens Brook Theater; Willy Wonka with LRCT; and Dear Edwina, Jr. at the Lake Region Middle School. In February, she also had a part in the production of Beauty and the Beast.

“That was fun. It was my biggest role so far. I was the enchantress,” Baker said.

According to Allison’s mom, Meagan, “The Silver Award is [designed] to find an area that you can make better in the community. Her whole purpose is that drama isn’t available at all the elementary schools, except for Stevens Brook. She found out about Oliver because she happened to get a flyer. She went to Songo Locks School. Then, we moved and she went to Stevens Brook Elementary and she said, ‘Whoa, we can do plays here.’”

“She wanted to show kids that acting is really fun. She wanted to help kids get their foot in the door and know that there are acting opportunities out there,” Maegan said.

Allison’s mom commented on the personal growth her daughter experienced while earning the Silver Award. “Definitely, the part that I saw is when she was doing the workshop themselves. She is on the shy side about speaking with people. As the workshops went on, in the span of each day, she got more and more comfortable talking in front of people,” Maegan said. “All of her shyness went out the window. That is pretty big. She has always been hesitant to talk to people. But she got more confident.”

Allison made the same observation. “It was really nerve wracking. I am not someone who puts herself out there,” she said, adding that her parts in plays have been as an ensemble cast, not in a main role.

“This has been a good learning experience. I am better at public speaking,” she said.

Allison said that during her first workshop, which was held at the Naples Public Library, she read off notecards. By the time she held the workshop in Bridgton, the notecards — like her shyness — went out the window.

No one showed up to the improvisation workshop scheduled at the Harrison Public Library, but there was a good-sized group of about eight people at the both Casco Village Library and the one in Bridgton.

“Harrison — no one went and I had a dip in confidence. Casco — it was great. Everyone was so excited. This day went well, too,” she said. “I expected the worst to happen. I thought no one would participate or all the kids would be too young. My workshops went better than I expected,” she said.

Also, Allison said it took a little bit of pushing herself to prepare everything, including refreshments, the night before the workshop. She even provided a small reader board that listed local theater groups.

“I learned self-discipline. I learned I have to work hard for things I want,” Allison said.

The leader of Troop 1963, Marie Caron, said the girls must put in several hours on the paperwork to get their Silver Award project approved. It is like the work done behind the scenes to put on a play. “It is quite a project to put the proposal together. It is a rigorous proposal that has to be put into place and sent into the Girl Scouts of Maine Council to get pre-approved. They have to track hours. In total, the project has to take 60 hours,” she said.

Last summer, in June, the members of Troop 1963 and their parents took part in the Silver Award training.

“Allison had to work hard to have it ready so it was approved in time to offer the workshops for February break,” Caron said.

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