Acting is a sister act for Canal Winchester's Tennisons, who have been studying with Tina Gleason since she was hired three years ago to teach acting classes at Wagnalls Family Theatre in Lithopolis.

Acting is a sister act for Canal Winchester's Tennisons, who have been studying with Tina Gleason since she was hired three years ago to teach acting classes at Wagnalls Family Theatre in Lithopolis.

Early on a recent Saturday morning, the Tennisons -- 13-year-old Rachel; 12-year-old twins Natalie and Nicole (Natalie is older by two minutes); and 10-year-old Julie -- were among a group of about 10 children gathered around Gleason for the day's lessons.

"I want you to be as imaginative as possible," Gleason said, her voice resounding through the cavernous corridors of the Wagnalls building in Lithopolis.

The young actors and act-resses hopped on stage and got into position. One played the part of a chair, another played a curtain and one lucky girl was chosen to be Alice in a rather unconventional version of "Alice in Wonderland."

The four sisters got into the program after seeing a flyer advertising the classes.

"I love them," Gleason said. "They've been with me since we started."

Gleason used to work at Disney World in Orlando, Fla. She earned two degrees in theatre and radio/television from Moorehead State University. She is under contract to teach spring and summer acting classes at Wagnalls.

"I didn't want to do it at first," Rachel said of taking the acting classes. "Then, I found I really, really love it."

The sisters' say their reason for loving the class is simple: freedom.

"You can scream and yell and not get in trouble for it," Rachel said. "There's no stereotyping."

Nicole agreed: "You can be whoever you want," she said.

Their mother, Linda Tennison, said having the confidence to act on stage has given her daughters more confidence in school, especially when delivering presentations to their classmates.

"Their teachers say they're more confident," she said.

"Most of the time in school, I'm the quiet one who knows all the answers," Rachel said.

Still, Rachel said it came as a surprise to her teacher when she said she wanted to apply for high school drama class next year. She said her teachers had to reassure her that she was going to have to act on stage in front of people.

The sisters say they enjoy the fellowship of the acting classes.

"You get to meet new friends," Julie said.

"-- who are just like you," Nicole finished.

The age range for those taking the acting classes can be quite diverse, according to their mother.

"There are a lot of nice high-schoolers," Natalie said.

The Tennisons credit Gleason with making the classes so enjoyable. They love her and Gleason said the feelings are mutual.

The sisters are also skilled actresses, Gleason said. She said she uses their input as a gauge for bringing new challenges to a developing class of young actors and actresses at the Wagnalls Theatre.

The classes focus on promoting team-building skills, self-awareness, creativity and imagination, she said.

Currently classes are for younger children ages 5 and older. Gleason and her colleague, April Olt, however, will be starting classes for adults and teens June 14.

Aspiring thespians can find more information at the theatre's Web site at www.wagnalls.org/family_theatre

ebrooks@thisweeknews.com