Zechariah Beletso and Marla Beletso improvise a scene involving, race cars, hot dogs, snakes and a box of treasure during the Bottom of the Barrel
Zechariah Beletso and Marla Beletso improvise a scene involving, race cars, hot dogs, snakes and a box of treasure during the Bottom of the Barrel Productions' improv workshop, Wednesday night, at the Farmington Civic Center. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)
FARMINGTON — Two children ran around in circles Wednesday evening at the Farmington Civic Center stage, making car noises as they ran.

Suddenly, they stopped.

"You made me crash," said one of the children, Zechariah Beletso, to the other.

William Caldwell, the other children in the scene, left the stage, and then Marla Beletso, Zechariah Beletso's sister, took his place.

"I did not make you crash," she said, shaking her brother. "You made yourself crash."

The children were participating in Bottom of the Barrel Productions' monthly workshop. Each workshop has a different theme, and this month's theme was improvisation.

Marla and Zechariah Beletso pretended that they were race car drivers who had just crashed into a hot dog stand. At first, they were angry and blamed each other. But their anger quickly subsided and was replaced by hunger.

The two children then acted out eating the imaginary hot dogs strewn around the stage. But the hot dogs made them sick, so Marla and Zechariah Beletso held their stomachs and moaned as they approached their audience.

Then the scene ended.

The brother and sister smiled and laughed, joining the other participants in the audience to watch the next pair act out a scene.

The community theater group's president, P.J. Gillen, directed the children and gave them acting advice. For example, many of the children initially hovered around the back of the stage, looking away from where an audience would be sitting. Gillen stood up in front of the children and demonstrated talking in the opposite direction. She explained that even though the character she was portraying might be looking away from the audience, she had to keep the audience in mind and look back at the crowd occasionally as she spoke.
Students go through a warm-up exercise at the Bottom of the Barrel Productions’ improv workshop, Wednesday night, at the Farmington Civic Center.
Students go through a warm-up exercise at the Bottom of the Barrel Productions' improv workshop, Wednesday night, at the Farmington Civic Center. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

The workshop began with the children, gathered in circles, throwing imaginary "emotion balls" to each other. The participants called out the emotion they wanted to throw, and the child who caught the ball had to act out that emotion.

Later, Gillen paired children together to portray characters. The rest of the children came up with the characters, setting and plot.

The first scene involved two kids on a playground looking for treasure.

"Look, this thing is under the sand," Alice Caldwell said, kneeling down on the floor of the stage and acting as if she was digging.

When she and her partner finally found the treasure, they found a box of spiders inside.

Gillen later instructed pairs of children on how to act in certain situations. Each pair forgot one of the details from Gillen's directions, such as wandering in circles as they gathered acorns in the woods.

There was a lesson in the exercise.

"There's a lot to remember when you act," Gillen told the children.

Hannah Grover can be reached at hgrover@daily-times.com; 505-564-4652. Follow her on Twitter @HMGrover.