That program is the Neighborhood Conservatory, currently operating free afternoon acting classes in five elementary schools in Costa Mesa: Rea (instructor Diana Burbano), College Park (instructor Joe Alanes), Wilson (instructor Amy Louise Sebelius), Paularino (instructor Marianne Savell) and Pomona (instructor Sara Guerrero).
It’s an understatement to say that the instructors are energetic, enthusiastic and encouraging. They are simply the best young teachers for these kids—many of whom live in at-risk areas where after-school programs provide a safe gathering place.
According to Joe Alanas, who has a record of success in the program, the emphasis is on self-esteem, teamwork, discipline and respect. “Even if the kids don’t want to be actors or get involved with theater, what they learn in Neighborhood Conservatory is helpful to them as they grow and develop.”
Joe has a big class—22 kids. “And,” he adds, “they come in from playing outside after school so they’re really hyper. Because the classroom is small, we do a lot outside, and it’s definitely a challenge, getting their attention!”
But according to Joe, the challenge is worth it. “It’s very rewarding, because the kids are always happy to see me, and I know they really appreciate the class. The shy kids find out that the class offers a safe place to take chances, and they eventually get up and participate. As for the ones who are really hyper, if that’s toned in the right way it’ll reveal strokes of very good stuff. I see in many of the kids a spark of talent on the inside. It’s just a matter of getting them out of their shells and giving them self confidence. Of course, many of them are hams to begin with!”
Joe brings to Neighborhood Conservatory lots of talent of his own. He’s a founding member and co-artistic director of a new non-profit theatre company, The Modjeska Playhouse, has directed three plays there and is currently staging a theatre for young audiences production of David Mamet’s The Frog Prince. Most recently he was a director and program supervisor for Kaiser Permante Education Theatre Programs. At SCR, he directed three Junior Players shows and acted in many Educational Touring Productions. Also as an actor, he toured the country with Magic School Bus Live and has appeared in productions at theaters from San Diego to New York City.