Young actors at the Berman Center for the Performing Arts

Have you ever had a dream?
Edna Turnblad dreamed that one day she’d have her very own coin-operated laundromat.
Alas, it didn’t happen, and Edna — one of the central characters in Hairspray — had no choice but to come “down from that cloud real quickly.”
But sometimes, a dream can come true.
All it takes is a little help — from the JCC.
This November, the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit will introduce the Academies for Education and Engagement, which will offer dynamic learning opportunities in sports, art and theater (including an opportunity to appear — perhaps even as Edna Turnblad herself — in Hairspray at the Berman Center for the Performing Arts.)
The Academies will take a single hour for seven weeks and fill it with all the fun, excitement and adventure of a summer of camp, said Brian D. Siegel, CEO of the JCC. Along the way, participants will have the opportunity to learn new skills from leading professionals.
These Academies “offer educational engagements in a class platform, expressing the breadth of experiences that exist at the JCC,” Siegel said.
There will be classes for all ages, from children to seniors, with a few well-established favorites (like sports) and programs completely new to the JCC, like “How To Audition.”
The Academies are not about competition, Siegel said, so they provide the perfect opportunity for the girl who always wanted to play basketball but wasn’t ready for a team, the young man who has yet to appear on stage but hopes to be the next Nathan Lane or Ben Vereen, the grandmother who rarely cooked but suddenly has visions of preparing Kesar Kulfi (sweetened condensed milk with cashews, almonds, pistachios and saffron, mixed with semolina noodles).
Courses also are progressive, Siegel noted, which means that a student could begin in a class called “Intro to Lacrosse,” then the next season join a league and finally participate in a tournament.
In addition to lacrosse, Sports Academy classes include basketball, golf, gym and swim, hockey, kindersports, skating, soccer, tumbling and volleyball. Fine Arts Academies are ceramics, drawing and painting. In the near future, Siegel said, the Academies will expand to include weight training, nutrition and culinary arts.
At the Berman, staff are preparing for classes like “Acting Basics” and founding its first community theater troupe, the PAIJ (Performing Arts Academy in the JCC) Players, set to star in the Berman’s first completely self-produced show, Hairspray, in February 2017.
Classes will be taught by “one of Michigan’s finest acting teachers, Lisa Melinn,” said Berman Director Elaine (Hendriks) Smith. “If you have kids interested in learning acting, this is the class for them. They will love working with Lisa, whose positive attitude and love of the arts are infectious, and they will learn basics that will serve them well on stage and off.
“We are very excited to be offering this amazing programming, which has been a dream for us since the Berman was built,” Smith said. “Now that it’s becoming a reality, we couldn’t be happier.” *

— Elizabeth Applebaum

For information, visit Elizabeth Applebaum is manager of marketing and communications at the JCC.

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