ATTENTION: Teachers, counselors, youth workers, pastors, and human service personnel:

You work with kids. Not just any kids. You have the square pegs, the oddballs, the at-risk kids. You know how special and wonderful they can be. But you’re running low on ideas to keep them learning, interested, and involved. You’ve thought about theatre, but where and how do you start?

First You Sit on the Floor!

Author/teacher Michael Burns knows from experience how to develop new original theatre pieces on topics that matter to today’s kids, from substance abuse, teen sexuality, and violence prevention to respect for the differently abled. He shows you how to provide both a serious education in theatre arts and a real working ensemble involving: acting and improvisational training
group writing exercises
scenario development
a unique “high tech/low tech” approach to production
finding and creating nontraditional performance spaces.
Along the way, learn how to challenge, uplift, and inform a group of teens; help them form a cohesive, active team; and build skills in communication, conflict resolution, and creative expression. Whether you are interested in developing a one-time performance or building a lasting theatre program, this book is an invaluable resource-a powerful tool for reaching, teaching, and transforming the lives of young people, and yourself. Coming in August from Heinemann!
Click here to order from!

Click on the juggler to review the table of contents

a vignette, for your consideration....

A couple of training tips from the book:

In addition to this important new text, Mr. Burns is offering
for human services professionals, educators, counselors, clergy, and other youth workers who wish to apply exciting and dynamic theatre techniques in their work with youth.

Past theatrical experience is not required!

Workshop Summaries:

Getting Started

Effective prevention education through theatre demands a long term commitment on the part of youths and their adult trainers. But many agencies and workers are stymied by the very simple problem: how do you get the young people in the door? More importantly, once you've got them, how do you keep them involved? This lively, hands-on workshop provides a powerful, energizing experience. You'll take part in proven activities designed to help you reach out to at-risk teens. You'll receive important tips and invaluable advice on recruitment and team building. You can create a dynamic program that teens will happily return to again and again.

Roy G Biv and the Seven Emotions

If you were an art teacher, you wouldn't ask a student to "be" red, orange, or yellow. Rather, you would show the student how to choose and use the proper tools and materials to produce a colorful canvas. Yet, in the performing arts, young actors are often expected to deliver emotionally charged, "real" performances without being given any tools to work with! This workshop presents a proven, powerful way to train youthful actors to access their own actor's tool box, and liberate their expression-safely. Using exercises developed by Viola Spolin, Mr. Burns, and others, participants will learn a process for opening adolescents to the rich and potent emotional reality of the stage.

Building a Performance

Proven techniques for facilitating the creation of original theatre on the topics important to your group. This workshop will introduce you to basic acting and improvisation, show ways to develop powerful plot /performance structures, and suggest accessible and affordable media/technical elements. Presented in a way that makes creation of a unique, original performance piece not only less frightening, but downright fun!


Developing your youth theatre, teaching and directing, building your perfomance team may be the most lively, fulfilling, and fun work you've encountered in years. But without producers, theatre can't happen! This workshop provides a practical, no-nonsense look at the "front of the house" job functions: finding and using the resources needed to build and sustain a youth troupe. You will learn ways to develop effective community partnerships, seek grant and business funding, and maintain useful records and numbers. You'll also receive invaluable practical tips on touring with a youth theatre show.

What do past workshop participants say?

The following are quotes from evaluations of Mr Burns' workshops at prevention conferences.

"He was terrific! (The workshop) was very real. "--Frank, counselor

"Upbeat and serious and very informative." --Helen, agency administrator

"Dynamic, enthusiastic presenter."--Juan, youth outreach worker

"I enjoyed this program, it was extremely informational. It is certainly a great way to get to children and young adults!"--Tracy, volunteer youth worker

"More!"--Jean, youth worker

To discuss availability, fees and scheduling, please contact:

Michael Burns
34 Benedict Street
Saratoga Springs NY 12866

Writer, director, actor, and educator Michael Burns has specialized in applying theatre techniques to the needs of human services agencies and schools for the past twenty years. Mr. Burns has taught and directed young people for The American Folk Theatre, CAPTAIN of Shenendehowa, the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Council of Saratoga County, Spaha, Inc., Shenendehowa Advocates for Gifted Education, Saratoga County BOCES, Very Special Arts (At Greene Correctional Facility) and numerous schools and community theatre groups. He developed and ran The Northway Construction Company, The In Lieu of Detention Theatre Co., and the Spaha Performance Group youth theatre troupes, served as Artistic Director of Saratoga's Home Made Theater, and was the founder/director of The Mop & Bucket Co. improv comedy troupe. Mr. Burns is the author of several produced plays, including Alexander Hamilton: First American, Alice in Wonderland (adaptation) and Close The Kitchen Door. He currently teaches theatre at The Charlton School, a residential facility for girls in Saratoga County NY. First You Sit on the Floor is his first book, written in response to frequent requests by attendees of his workshops.

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