BARSTOW A fledgling group of young actors is gearing up for its first performance this week.

Dubbed Taking Center Stage, the group was formed as a non-school based theatrical outlet for Barstow's teens, said founder Dee Espinoza.

Espinoza, who has had a role in many Barstow theatrical productions, said she wanted to provide an option for teens who may be unable to participate in theater through school and have aged out of the youth community theater group Stars of the Desert. That group, based out of the Shepherd of the Desert Lutheran Church, is geared for fifth- through eighth-graders.

School marching band and other activities keep 15-year-old Barstow High School sophomore Jessica Ortiz and her sister Monica, 14 who are also Espinoza's granddaughters from acting in school productions.

"Having this group is really good for us, so that way we can still act and stuff," Jessica said.

The sisters, along with friends and fellow Barstow High School students Brian Case, 17, and Savon Bealey, 15, make up the beginning line-up of the theater group, which began meeting within the past three months. Along with Espinoza, local theater buff Jennafer Worland and Pastor Lee Seals of the First United Methodist Church serve as directors for the group, while Amy Ross, director of performing arts at Barstow Community College, acts as an advisor.

All of the young actors have some previous experience on stage. Bealey, who has been an extra in movies and in the television series "Zoey 101," said he hopes to make acting a career. Jessica and Monica plan to go into the Marines and the Navy respectively, while Case said he is still considering his options.

The kids will show their skills in a series of monologues and a 10-minute romantic comedy called "Fighting for Love" in their first performance Friday night.

In the future, Espinoza said she hopes the teen group will collaborate more with the college on productions. Seals said he has a vision of a full-blown all-ages community theater group taking off in Barstow.

On the kids' side, Monica said, "We'd be really happy if this group suceeds when we're older so we can be like, 'We started that.'"

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(760) 256-4123 or asewell@desertdispatch.com

First performance of Taking Center Stage
Friday, April 24 at 7 p.m.
Barstow Community College Interim Performing Arts Center
Free admission
An evening of monologues, short plays, music and dance