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    This is our pick of the best of the burbs. For more information, go to and search music, restaurants, arts and crafts, and other goings-on throughout Greater Boston.


    Gloucester: The White-Ellery House will be open to the public on Saturday as part of Escapes North’s 17th century Saturdays. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Cape Ann Museum, 27 Pleasant St. Free. 978-283-0455,

    Reading: The Old South Brass & Organ Concert will feature pieces from the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical and Romantic eras, including music by Bach, Mussorgsky, Michael Praetorius, Heironymus Praetorius, Monteverdi, Gabrielli, and Gwyneth Walker. Friday, 7:30 p.m. Old South United Methodist Church, 6 Salem St. Free. 781-944-2636.


    Topsfield: The 16th annual Audubon Nature Festival features live owl presentations by Marcia and Mark Wilson of Eyes On Owls, a demonstration beaver lodge, nature walks, and face painting. Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mass Audubon-Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, 87 Perkins Row. $12 per carload. 978-887-9264,

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    Caitlan Lowans is confident the audience didn’t even notice. And that’s a good thing.

    In the Stoneham Theatre’s holiday production last December, the stage adaptation of “It’s A Wonderful Life,” the professional actors in the production were augmented by students trained in the theater’s young company , playing several key roles as the children of hero George Bailey, as well as the younger versions of George and his brother Harry.

    Three members of the cast in Stoneham’s recent production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” — Zoey Michaels, Bradley Jensen and Bernie Baldasarro — were also graduates of the young company.

    “We hope because they’re well-trained they’ll blend in with the company and won’t even be noticed,” said Lowans, Stoneham’s associate artistic director and director of education. It does happen, as Michaels, Jensen and Baldassaro, can attest. A boy or girl walks into a summer drama program and, some time later, is acting, singing, or dancing with some of the finest actors and actresses in the country.


    “They were expected to do everything everyone else did and they did,” said Ilyse Robbins, the director and choreographer of “Millie.” “They auditioned just like everyone else and won the parts. They were well-trained, very talented, and very professional.”

    The summer programs offered by professional companies north of Boston vary widely in time commitment and cost, from a one-day program offered at North Shore Music Theatre to much longer commitments of several weeks — five weeks in Stoneham, for instance. Some offer counselor in training opportunities and almost all offer scholarships to students with limited resources.

    Running a summer program is challenging for Heidi Dallin, whose Youth Acting Workshops for ages 6 to 18 at the Gloucester Stage Company is celebrating its 10th anniversary, because the company has a summer schedule and is running at full tilt for the six Fridays of her program.

    The good news is that it means students will be mingling with professionals as they do their jobs at the theater, and that guest artists will include such notables as Academy Award-nominated actress Lindsay Crouse, a summer resident of Gloucester who will be performing in “Driving Miss Daisy” and will lead a master acting class.

    The students will have a chance to ask questions of theater professionals and see live performances.


    Dallin, a Gloucester native, said she was encouraged to begin the program by three Gloucester Stage Company board members as a way to provide local training for youths interested in the theater.

    “When I was beginning my theater career, I had to go over the bridge [the Andrew Bridge over the Annisquam River] to get the training I needed,” she said. “Here students can take advantage of the fact they have a resident professional theater.”

    There are different sessions for different age groups and Dallin stressed that participants don’t have to be looking for a career in the theater to benefit from the program.

    “The skills they learn may help them with an oral book report, make a speech on the student council, or even conduct a job interview,” she said.

    At Lowell-based Merrimack Repertory Theatre, the Young Company, now in its 16th season, has four different two-week theatre camp programs catering to youths in Grades 1-12, which will run from July 8 to Aug. 9. Each group will create an original theater piece, rehearse it, then perform it for family and friends. Theater professionals and guest artists will be part of the experience.

    “It’s designed to be fun as well as educational,” said director Michael LaChance.

    The Merrimack’s Young Company also includes a series of one-week musical theatre camps for Grades 6-12 from July 8-Aug. 12.

    The Lynn-based nonprofit Arts After Hours is expanding its children’s programming this summer. The AAH Kids summer workshop for those 8 to 14 will take place from July 15 to Aug. 3, Mondays-Fridays, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., at the First Lutheran Church in Lynn. For youths 14 to 18, AAH Kids will have vocal and acting workshops from 4 to 6 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays, during the same period.

    The program will be run by associate education director James Tallach, the recent winner of 2013 Kenneth A McDonald Award for Theater Excellence from the Independent Reviewers of New England for his work with young actors.

    AAH director Corey Jackson and education director Nicole Spirito invited Tallach to be part of the venture.

    “It is summer, and it has to be fun,” Tallach said. “We’ll cater to youths with all different interest levels, kids who just want to try it to those with more experience.”

    His program will feature morning classes in acting, singing, and dancing, work with sets and props, and in the afternoons rehearsals for an eventual performance as well as scenarios and improvisitational techniques, with a full show performance on Aug. 3.

    The North Shore Music Theatre offers students 10 to 14 a Theater Arts Week from June 24 to 28 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, during which students will be learning an excerpt from the script and a number (vocal, dancing, and staging) from each of the five shows that will be presented at the theater this season, with a performance for family members on June 28.

    The theater also offers a one-day event for students 9 to 13 on July 25 in connection with its presentation of “The Wizard of Oz.” After a three-hour class in which they learn the vocals, staging, and choreography of one number from the show, participants will have lunch, then attend the matinee performance of “Oz.”

    Stoneham’s summer youth programs begin with overture for Grades 1-3, act 1 for Grades 4-6, act 2 for Grades 7-9, and act 3 for Grades 10-12 and recent high school grads. The slots for act 3 are currently filled, but names are being taken for a waiting list and Lowans said some students were added from it last season.

    The programs are all five weeks long, with four weeks held at the Greater Boston Academy in Stoneham or at Austin Prep in Reading. The last week of all the programs is held at the theater itself.

    The overture program for the youngest students is a series of five one-week workshops with different themes while acts 1, 2, and 3 are classes and rehearsals with an eye toward performances to be given on the final weekend of the camp.

    Some summer programs, including Stoneham, offer after-care for an additional cost while almost all have provisions for scholarships. The procedures are described on the companies’ websites.

    “Our programs are challenging but inclusive,” said Lowans, who noted that next year‘s Stoneham schedule includes “The Secret Garden,” a musical with several roles for children. “They can be the means to the end of a career as an actor but they may just be social or educational, just a tool to enhance a child’s self-esteem and confidence.”

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