By Julianne Homokay
Special to The Alpine Mountaineer
There is a new theatrer program for kids brewing here on the mountain.
Tracey Ellert is a working actor and storyteller who has been teaching Tween Improv Class, Spanish Storytime and Tot-Time for Rim of the World Recreation and Park District for a year-and-a-half. She also premiered the first Mountain Moth with Heisler Theater (featured in the Alpine Mountaineer dated March 31, 2022).
Kelly Vento has been teaching dance, creative movement, acrobatics and Look Before You Leap for Rim Rec and Park since 2015.
Together, this powerhouse team is launching a new performance-based theater class that will culminate in a production of Annie Jr. in July.
The idea for the class was a joint effort. After a December showcase, Vento says of Ellert, “I was impressed by her skills and resume.” She said to Ellert, “We need to join forces and do some theater for the mountain.” Ellert’s daughter was taking one of Vento’s dance classes, and Ellert was “impressed completely with her one-woman show for the kids.” Vento had done all of the production aspects herself: choreography, costumes, lighting, everything.
Says Vento, “This will be our pilot year.” Depending on community response, the team hopes to grow the program from there. Their ultimate goal would be to turn this into a staple at Rim Rec and Park.
As to why they chose Annie Jr. to start with, Ellert says “It’s a classic!” And Vento has always wanted to tackle the dance aspect of “Hard Knock Life.” They describe the age range for the class as “mature 5 and up… we’ll take ‘em all the way through high school,” although they don’t want to detract from the excellent theater program at Rim of the World High School. The middle school crowd is what they are most hoping to draw.
Ellert’s kids went through Mary Putnam Henck Intermediate School, so she is painfully aware of the dearth of extra-curriculars for that age group due to lack of funding. They want to provide “inspiration for our own children and the children of the mountain communities.” Vento adds, “We can provide professional quality classes at Rec and Park prices.”
And professionals they are. Ellert studied acting and improv in Chicago’s famous Improv Olympics and has been making a living as a storyteller for 20 years. She has created multiple TV show pilots for kids that she has been pitching to Hollywood executives.
Vento has been dancing since the age of 3. She taught at Lake Arrowhead School of Dance and danced in Lake Arrowhead Classical Ballet Company’s The Nutcracker for several years before she was recruited by Rim Rec and Park. She also has an extensive background in the pageant world, having won titles in the Miss Inland Empire and Miss San Bernardino contests. She went on to help choreograph and produce these pageants.
Registration for this program opens on March 28. The class will be held on Tuesdays from 5 to 6 p.m. beginning April 11. The instructors will reserve Mondays for extra rehearsals depending on need, and they will expand the schedule as needed closer to production time. The fee is $55/month or a flat fee of $220. There will be a $65 performance fee per student to cover costumes and props.
The class will mostly be held at Lake Gregory Education and Community Center, with some rehearsals at Rim Rec and Park’s space in Rimforest. Performances will take place the weekend of July 15. For more information, visit rim-rec.org.