MLT’s Whear aims to prepare kids for everyday life through improv

Marblehead Little Theater’s Bruce Whear will be teaching kids how to use improvisation, not only in acting, but in daily life. Photo by Marblehead Little Theater

Bruce Whear has spent most of his life as a performer. He began acting at the age of twelve, and has been associated with the Marblehead Little Theatre (MLT) since the 1970’s, working as a performer, co-director, and producer. Now, Whear will be using his talents and experience to instruct a four-part improv course for teens and preteens at the theater, starting on November 30th. 

Whear says his acting roots go all the way back to when he was in 6th grade and had local drama legend Henry Dembowski of Lynn as a teacher. Dembowski passed away in September of 2022, but Whear will never forget how much of a role his late teacher played in getting his acting career started. 

“This is my theater story, he took the shyest kid in the class, and gave him the lead in the school play, and that was me,” said Whear. “That was when I was in sixth grade, and I’ve been in theater ever since.”

Ever since, Whear has enjoyed a great number of years as an actor, highlighted by being a founding member and producer of local improv comedy troupe “Accidentally on Purpose.” Acting requires many skills, but Whear notes that improv is one of the most important skills to have, not only for theater, but for everyday life. With a successful career under his belt, he says it’s time for him to help teach the next generation through this four part class.

“I wanna pass that on to the kids because in my heart I do believe that improv is a wonderful skill for anybody to have,” Whear said. “It’s all about the kids for me, this is my second chapter, this is what I want to do.”

The classes will teach kids aged 9-14 about life skills such as listening, creativity, patience, and

collaboration, all of which are important in order to be successful in improv. The classes don’t require any prior theater experience, because as Whear notes, they are setting the kids up to be successful in everyday life, not just on the stage. 

“The piece about improv is that it’s really life,” he said. “You walk into a coffee shop by yourself and there’s somebody sitting at the table you say ‘Can I sit with you’?, and then you go from there. It’s a skill used all the time.”

During the classes, the kids will be playing a number of games as well as going through skits that help them learn about acting and improvisation in an engaging way. expressing emotions, agreement, and creating stories together. At the end of each class, the kids will have an opportunity to take part in a performance in front of friends and family members. 

While Whear will be the one instructing the courses, he gives all of the credit to the Director of Children’s Theater Alma Mahon and Technical Director and Facility Manager Andrew Barnett, calling them “The backbone of the theater.”

The program filled up quickly and is now sold out. Whear says that it was so popular that the theater will hold another course sometime during the first quarter of 2023, which already has a waiting list. 

Whear said that the theater will also be holding adult classes and emphasized that it’s important to have classes for kids that are outside of the 9-14 age group so that they have a path to continue their acting careers. 

“We’re going to be doing adult classes because it makes sense to have a place for the kids to keep growing,” he said. “That gap after 12, we don’t want to lose those kids.” 

Whear is excited to get the classes going and hopes that through the classes, kids will learn to adapt when encountering certain situations in life, and as he puts it, “dance when the music changes.” He also mentioned how happy he is to be a part of such a special place, and that he wants the best for kids that come through the program.

“I’m very fortunate. I love seeing the kids come through the door,” he said. “I’m totally ecstatic to be teaching kids and I’m pretty sure I’m going to be doing this for a while.”