OGDEN -- When Heritage Elementary School Principal Vincent Pascal Ardizzone brought in a veteran actor to teach improv classes and direct a play, he expected his students to benefit from exposure to the lively arts.
What Ardizzone got was that, plus a group of newly enthusiastic third- through sixth-graders whose confidence and social skills blossomed, whose reading and English fluency improved and who were infinitely more concerned about appropriate in-school behavior, knowing an infraction could cost them participation in the after-school theater program.
"I didn't know how they would react, but the students are thrilled," Ardizzone said.
The actor is Eric Jensen, of Farmington, who owns and operates Salt Lake City's Off Broadway Theatre. The Off Broadway hosts a full season of comical plays by the improvisational comedy group Laughing Stock.
The original plan was to direct all participating students in a play based on the story of Robin Hood. When there weren't enough roles, Jensen decided to limit play participation to 24 fifth- and sixth-graders, who will perform for their fellow students and their parents.
The dozen third- and fourth-graders participating were disappointed until they learned they would get improvisational training, which would provide fun now and basic acting skills for when they get their chance at a script.
Since fall, the improv class has been held once a week.
"I like everything about it," said Logan Collins, 10. "It's fun and it's a good way to express some feelings."