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Multiple Grants Enrich Comedy of Middle Schoolers At Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle School

The Comedy Club at Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle School in Wheaton has received grant support from an exceptionally wide variety of sources for the school year 2006-07. Corporate, government, and community funding is enabling the Comedy Club, now in its 13th year, to provide a program for both the school's mainstream and Learning Center students. The grant funds, along with money provided by the school PTSA, pay production costs as well as stipends for professionals to conduct workshops and assist the students in creating their latest production.

The work of the Lee Comedy Club has gained notoriety throughout North America since 1995 as material from its annual shows has been published and widely performed by thousands of schools and youth groups in the US and Canada.

The 2006-2007 Comedy Club activities are being under written by five organizations as well as the school's PTSA.

The Washington Post Educational Foundation's Grants in the Arts awarded the Comedy Club $490 to underwrite workshops in Stagecraft which are being led by Comedy Club alumna Katherine Bagdasian who is now a professional stage manager and scenery painter.

The Target Corporation's $1,600 underwrites the participation of professional playwright/director Harry M. Bagdasian, and two comedy club alum Chris Brooks, now a professional musician/composer and Austen Villemez, now a professional comedy writer/performer.

The Under 21 Activity Fund Grant of $1,000 is helping the Comedy Club acquire new sound equipment to support its production, and pay a portion of set, prop and administrative expenses for the production.

The Montgomery County Collaboration Council for Children, Youth and Families granted $10,000 to Arts At Lee, a consortium of the school's five in-school and after school arts activity programs. A portion of these funds will enable both the Lee Comedy and AV Clubs to repair and acquire additional sound equipment, and to engage the services of a professional sound technician who will train students to operate a variety of sound equipment used for the school's many public performances. Collaboration Council funding has also helped the Lee Comedy Club secure the participation of Beck Krefting,, PhD Candidate in American Studies at the University of Maryland, to work with the students for a third year conducting comedy acting workshops as well as directing a portion of the production.

Additionally, The Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County has awarded Comedy Club co-founder Harry M. Bagdasian a $1,450 grant to conduct comedy performance workshops with Lee Middle School students. These performance workshops utilize material developed by early Comedy Club members prior to 2002. As a result, many of these older sketches were chosen to be part of this year's show.

The 2007 Comedy Club production,


plays Friday April 20 and Saturday April 21 at 7:30 pm at Lee Middle School in Wheaton, MD, and features one act of comedy sketches and a new one-act musical, No Child Left Where? with music by Chris Brooks and book & lyrics by Comedy Club director Bagdasian.

For more information, contact Harry M. Bagdasian 240-381-3196 or eMail hbagdasian@aol.com.

Comedy Club Mission Statement

The Comedy Club is an after school program that enables 30 to 40 students in grades 6, 7, and 8 at Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle School in Wheaton, MD, to work with theater professionals to create and perform an original revue of comedy sketch material based on student-generated ideas. Under the direction of a professional stage director, the Comedy Club youth also have an exceptional opportunity to work other Washington theater professionals -- a published playwright/director, a doctoral student/standup comic, a professional stage manager, a professional composer and a comedy improvisation performer who help the students develop their annual comedy show in the format of Saturday Night Live.

The program is open to all students at Lee Middle School and draws in a diverse group from both the school's general population and its special needs Learning Center (for students with physical, mental, or learning disabilities). The Comedy Club's mission is to develop the students' skills and abilities in the areas of creative comedy writing, live comedy performance, and the technical aspects of theater stagecraft. To accomplish this, participants meet weekly for seven months during the school year to collaborate on sketch development, performance skills, and such technical areas as sound, lights, props, costumes, and stage management. At the end of the seven-month process, the students' work culminates in two in-school and two evening performances before their peers, parents, and the community. Through this hands-on experience, the students learn teamwork and gain a new perspective on the complexity of theatrical presentations. They also experience the pride of performing before an audience. This provides an immeasurable sense of accomplishment, builds self-confidence, and gives them courage to take creative risks in the future.

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