By: Lacy Hilliard
Tomahawk Writer

The Barter Theatre has become a welcome presence in Johnson County, offering several amazing performances at Heritage Hall as well as educational opportunities for local youth that spend their time dreaming of the spotlight. Talented youth look no further because Barter Youth Academy (BYA) will once again hold its phenomenal workshops in Mountain City. Open enrollment is already underway. This is a truly unique opportunity for the youth of Johnson County as BYA tuition fees typically range from $110 to $200. However, due to a grant from a DuPont community outreach program BYA workshops are available to Johnson County students for just $25.

The 2015 Spring Workshops will take place at the Johnson County Public Library in Mountain City. The workshops are offered to a wide range of age groups including the Pre-Academy for first through second graders, the Elementary Workshop for third through fifth graders, the Middle Workshop for sixth through eighth graders and the High Workshop for ninth through twelfth graders.
Two highly trained instructors are tasked with leading the workshops. Scott A. Koenig will lead the Pre-Academy and the Middle Workshop and Benjamin Dawson will direct the Elementary Workshop and the High Workshop. Koenig, “started working in professional theatre in 1991 as a Production Intern for Richard Frankel Productions (Song of Singapore), according to Michael Gerber, Associate Director of Barter Youth Academy. Koenig quickly emerged as a talented technical theatre professional, and a mere three years later took the position of Resident Sound Designer at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia. After working professionally in Florida, Colorado, Virginia, Tennessee and NYC Scott turned his attention to Academic Theatre.  In 2003 he went back to school at East Tennessee State University for a Master of Arts in Teaching degree to supplement his professional career and his Bachelor of Arts in Speech/Theatre from the State University of New York College at Cortland. Dawson directing credits with BYA include “The Music Man” (Co-Director), “Journey to the World’s Edge” (Director), “Into the Woods” (Assistant Director) and “Thoroughly Modern Millie Jr.” (Assistant Director). Benjamin has also served as Keyboard Accompanist for “The Music Man” and “Into the Woods.” Benjamin first came onto the BYA scene as a student, playing the role of Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof Jr.” Benjamin has also directed and produced several short films,and has written a work for musical theatre, which is scheduled to be performed this spring. When not teaching for BYA, Benjamin maintains a private music studio and hires out musicians for weddings. He plays with the Johnson City Symphony Orchestra and serves as a board member for Mountain Empire Children’s Choir, Suzuki Talent Education of Appalachia, and Appalachian Men’s Ensemble. Benjamin holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Thomas Edison State College.
The Mountain City BYA Workshops will begin on February 10 and will run for eight weeks with all sessions taking place at the Johnson County Public Library. The Pre-Academy will meet on Tuesdays from 3:15 to 4:15. The Pre-Academy will focus on building the confidence levels and instilling the proper fundamentals of stage acting in the youngsters. The Pre-Academy will create and perform a short play of their own, learning to memorize lines and build character in a warm and accepting environment. The Elementary Workshop will take place on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The elementary students will hone their skills by taking on the classic tale of “The Brave Little Tailor.” The Middle Workshop will be offered on Tuesdays from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Middle Workshop students will student and perform the pivotal drama “The Giver.” The High Workshop will take place on Saturdays from 11:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. The High Workshop will focus on comedy and students will perform a variety of comedic scenes chosen by the class.

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