The scene got a bit tense as some patrons in the restaurant started a confrontation. "We're talking to you scum," a man said.

"Are you deaf?"

"Leave him alone, you ruffian," a worker said.

"He's got as much a right to be here as you," another said. "Can't you control your men? They're being rude and offensive."

The confrontation escalates into a fight, but everyone will be OK because — it's all staged.

This scene is from a production that 21 students in a stage combat class are learning. Throughout the two-week class, the students, who range from fourth- to 10th-graders, will learn how to safely sword fight and act as part of a play about pirates.

The workshop is one of six types being put on by the Tyler Civic Theatre Center as part of its Summer Theatre Arts Review.

The others include those geared for preschool through first-graders, first- through fourth-graders, fourth- through seventh-graders and seventh- through 12th-graders along with a musical theater camp that is underway.

Becky Clayton, a Tyler Civic Theatre Center instructor for children, said she started the stage combat class several years ago as a way to draw more young men into the theater. Although it has worked, this year's group has a sizeable amount of young women too. The 21 participants include 12 boys and nine girls.

"My primary hope is that they would develop the poise of learning how to speak and act in front of people," Ms. Clayton said.

Almost half of the class, which runs about three and a half hours per day, was spent in sword-fighting instruction last week.

Kit Alderson, of The Fellowship of Christian Swordsmen in Tyler, led the sword-fighting instruction portion with assistance from other group members, Ms. Clayton said.

She said the teenagers who help her with the camp are the secret to her success. They are very safety oriented, she said.

Each participating child will have the opportunity to perform at least two fights in the final production to show off their skills.

The students will use shinais, which are sword-like weapons made out of bamboo, for the fights.

Sixth-grader Laurel Lanchester, 10, of Tyler, said the idea of sword fighting sounded like fun, which is why she wanted to participate in the class.

Fifth-grader Roy Kiarie, 10, of Tyler, said he likes acting because he likes impersonating other people.

Tenth-grader Dawson Bodenhamer, 16, of Tyler, said he likes being on stage and performing for people, impersonating people, speaking with an accent and playing characters that aren't like him.

Fifth-grader Hallie Pitts, 9, of Flint, said she likes acting because it allows her to escape from what she's thinking about.

The students will present their play at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Tyler Civic Theatre. The free presentation is open to the public.

For more information about the Tyler Civic Theatre's summer workshops, visit or call 903-592-0561.

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