The Acting Club holds summer camp at LOHS

by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Taylor Larson and Jane McMann practice their emoting skills at a summer acting camp.Fifteen-year-old Taylor Larson said he’d rather do theater than hit some fast rides at a carnival.

“I don’t like doing roller coaster rides and stuff, but I like the thrill of being on stage,” said Taylor, who will be a freshman at Lake Oswego High School this fall.

He’s already been spending a lot of time at his future high school, where The Acting Club is continuing the longstanding tradition of a summer acting camp.

The Lake Oswego-based club has been around since 2001, and founder Bernie Duffy and his son still are bringing drama — the stage-based kind — to schools throughout the Portland metro area. The club kicked off about 20 years ago in New Jersey and came to town when Duffy moved here.

Duffy is well qualified to run The Acting Club, having performed on Broadway in “The Cherry Orchard” alongside Diane Lane and Raul Julia in 1977. In 1981, Duffy was in a play called “The Connection” with Morgan Freeman, sharing a mirror with him offstage.

“It was so long ago, I had a bigger part than Morgan Freeman,” Duffy REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Students soak up a regular dose of theater via a summer acting camp at Lake Oswego High School. Pictured are, from left, Jane McMann, Ian Ballew, Phoebe Holman and Darden Harmon.

The Acting Club offers its summer camp through the Community School and holds productions, including “Much Ado About Nothing” in December. Rehearsals for “Ado” are in September.

Bernie Duffy’s son, John Duffy, works alongside him, teaching budding actors and directing or co-directing, depending on the play. He said that the summer camp — with five-day sessions through the week of Aug. 12 to 16 — offers something for all kids, including those who may not fit in elsewhere.

“It’s a collection of different types of kids, different levels of adjustment, but all creative,” said John Duffy, who is professionally trained in theater and filmmaking.

He added that theater helps students gain confidence, social skills and public speaking skills.

“It is important for kids to understand that you can be proud of your emotions, and all of your emotions — even the negative ones can be positive if you use them to project to an audience,” John Duffy said.

Summer camp students are broken into two groups, kindergarten to fifth grade and sixth to 12th grade.

“We’re just part of the theater community here, and we just love watching these kids grow,” Bernie Duffy said.

Camp participants hold free performances every Friday.

“We don’t want money to ever get in the way of people wanting to see theater, and we like full audience,” he said. “That’s good for the kids.”

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