SAUGUS — It was an afternoon of transformation as the library became a performing arts center — teenagers changed into dinosaurs and a few shy kids turned into improv actors.
Designed similarly to the hit comedy show “Whose Line is it Anyway?”, Jape Payette, acting coach and owner of JapeScape Productions, led 14 Saugus teens through the fine art of improvisational acting through a series of games that required listening, taking direction and a whole lot of imagination. The teens, aged 11 through 14, had to jump into a character, strike a pose or create a new scene as quickly as Payette could call out “Freeze!” “Go!” and “Who are you?”
They hit the floor. They rolled. They changed direction. While some started and ended the class comfortable in the limelight because of their experience in school plays, others shocked even Payette as they came out of their shell.
Loren Robinson entered the room quietly at 3 p.m. and around 4:30 p.m. had her peers wide-eyed when she took on a British accent and pretended to take her tea with bonbons.
During one game, Payette laughed out loud when the group asked Diana Whitcomb, “What’s up, dude?” and she responded, “I’m a girl taking selfies in Starbucks!” and struck a pose.
“That’s really funny!” Payette told Diana.
True to the art, Payette even made up a game on the fly called “Genie” after one of the students took on the character of a genie during another game. “I get inspired right on the spot,” said Payette, adding that two of the games that were played came from a dream he had. “I must love my job.”
Olivia Wallace, 10, said the genie game was her favorite. Admittedly shy at first, Wallace said the games made her open up to the fun as she twirled around the floor like an ice dancer and jumped up and down pretending she had won a lot of money. “I would def do this again,” said Wallace.
Payette, who works with adults and children as young as three years old as a coach, said becoming a different character makes it easier for participants to be comfortable in their own skin.
“They have so much inside of them that wants to get out,” he said of the high-spirited group. “Stepping inside of someone else can be the best way to that.”
The class was a one-time grant-funded event, but Young Adult Librarian Lisa LeJeune said there will be another event next month working with pastel paints.
For more information about JapeScape Productions go to www.japescape.com.