The Actors' Gang exposes at-risk youth to the art of theater

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A Hollywood acting troupe known for its work with California prisoners takes its act to at-risk young people

The Actors' Gang, an acting company that has worked with California inmates at the state prison in Norco, is bringing its program to the streets of L.A. The troupe is partnering with Homeboy Industries to offer a similar acting program to the people it serves.

It's the first time actress Sabra Williams has taken the eight-week acting workshop beyond its stage at the prison. Williams is the prison project director with the Actor's Gang, the Culver City-based theater troupe co-founded by actor-director Tim Robbins.

"It's something we've been talking about for a long time and Homeboy deals with people who are at risk for going into gangs or they are trying to come out of their gangs. It's usually pretty young people who have lived their whole lives in gang territory and want to do something different," Williams says.

Students will learn techniques based on a 16th-century European method of acting. The aim is to shed the masks they think they need to survive on the streets and in jail. Williams says, "You know we're pretty hard, it's not an easy ride for these eight weeks."

The program is based on the same work that Williams, Robbins and other actors have conducted with inmates at the Norco state prison and other jails. "You have to face yourself and your issues and come to terms with the life you've led so far. So if people are serious about their lives, that's the only qualification they need," Williams says.

The Actors' Gang will stage a public fundraiser this weekend to benefit its youth and prison projects on the same day it receives a commendation from the city of Los Angeles for its work in those areas.

Fundraiser ticket information can be found on the company's website.

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