DALLAS - Many summer theater programs can costhundredsof dollars and often don't allow many teenagers to take part. But, there's one that's giving aspring young actors the opportunity of a lifetime, and all for free.

Lea Smith, 16, attends Booker T. Washington High School. She and her friends are learning stage combat for the Junior Players' production of Romeo and Juliet.

It's just going to be the roaring '20s with the nightclubs, which is perfect because in act one there will be a party at night, she said. It'll be a real pumping party, with some jazz music of course.

All of the talented teenagers attend the summer program at the Southern Methodist University for free. For many of them, this is their only opportunity outside of high school to hone their acting skills.

To get this type of in-depth training and opportunity, it's hard to even measure what it can mean to them and how it can transform their lives, said Kirsten James, the Junior Players executive director.

Sixty teenagers from Dallas-area high schools auditioned for 25 spots. They devote six weeks of their summer - four hours a day, five days per week - to rehearsals. The play allows the teenagers the opportunity to express themselves.

Shakespeare is the opposite of Tweeting or Twittering; it's the opposite, said Valerie Hauss-Smith, the director. So, everything you want to say, you never say it in only 180 characters. You have to expand and expand and expand, tell us how you're feeling.

The Junior Players have 50 summer sites throughout Dallas. They are all free for anyone between the ages of seven and 14 years old. If interested, you can sign up through July 12 at


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