A `Haven' for talent: youth create dramas

The culmination of two weeks of hard work by students at the The Next Door's Klahre House happens Friday with a performance at CAST Performing Arts Center.

Eight Klahre House students have been part of the Haven Project, a Portland-based theater company that pairs disadvantaged young people with professional playwrights, actors and directors who teach them how to tell and present their stories through theater. The students have worked one-on-one with playwrights over the past two weeks to create their own stories for stage. On Friday, professional actors from Haven will perform all eight of the two-character plays for the public.

"We saw this as an opportunity to tap into some of our students' talents that might not otherwise be recognized," said Larry James, program manager for Klahre House. "Many of the young people we work with don't think they have much value or much to offer. This project gives them the chance to demonstrate that they do have something of value to offer."

This is the first time the Haven Project has worked with students in a community outside the Portland metro area. James and others involved in the project hope to make it an annual event.

"There's a tremendous potential in this project for inspiring creativity in these kids," said Larry West, director of the Columbia Gorge Arts & Culture Council which helped sponsor the project. "(It's) helping them to dig deeply into their experience and develop what may be a new or more focused perspective on their lives."

West said the Haven Project has had great success with at-risk youth in Portland over the past several years, and he expects more of the same here. "I've been awed to watch the process unfold for the Klahre House kids over the past week," he said.

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Friday's event starts at 7 p.m. and is free. CAST is located at 105 4th Street in Hood River.

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