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A real top T.E.E.M.

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A look round the room for Claudia Aldamuy, founder of the non-profit children's theater, T.E.E.M. (Teach, Enlighten, Empower, Motivate), can prove perplexing at first. The Springfield Gardens mother of three - her oldest child being 20 - might have you looking for a middle-aged woman. But Aldamuy, when surrounded by her youthful T.E.E.M. troupe, blends right in, proving true the axiom that working with kids keeps one youthful.

"Hi, I'm Claudia Aldamuy," beams a slim woman with a wide, open smile and improbably youthful appearance, motioning for you to come closer. "And this is my crew."

Claudia and crew were in rehearsal at the Riant Theater in Tribeca, preparing for the Jan. 3-5 nightly run of Aldamuy's new play "Close But No Cigars," a semi-finalist of the annual Strawberry Festival contest for one-act plays. If Aldamuy wins against this first round of contestants, "Cigars" will be performed again against another round of contestants.

"If I won it would be great, because I want to bring T.E.E.M. productions to the high school level. I think this kind of program is greatly needed there," said Aldamuy of her non-profit organization, which for the most part receives some funding (from Queens Council on the Årts and other sources) but never enough.

"Founding this program is something I always wanted to do and that my family has wanted to," said Aldamuy of her decision to take a leave from her public relations job to form the theater workshop for children, assisted by her family: her husband, Cheyenne, and their three kids, Cheyenne Jr., Crystal and Chad.

"I made the decision to do this full-time three years ago, and I've yet to be paid - though I'm promised that this is the year," Aldamuy said with a laugh. "But seriously, my family has always envisioned doing this and it's hard work but it's very rewarding."

And rewarding to its participants as well. T.E.E.M., in a nutshell, conducts after-school drama workshops for elementary and junior high school, primarily in District 29, with an eye on future districts as well as an expansion goal for including high school children.

"The feedback and the funding we've been receiving tells us that there is a need to expand T.E.E.M. - that it produces positive results in children and their community," said Aldamuy. "We hope to branch out."

Aldamuy, a writer since childhood, writes many of the plays performed by T.E.E.M. but an additional six-week summer workshop she conducts encourages children of all ages to put pen to paper and make their own stories come alive.

"The summer workshop is my favorite," said Aldamuy with a smile. "That's because it's open to all kids. There is no selection process. Every kid tells a story and performs in his or her own piece. I like it and the kids love it."

While encouraging their creativity, Aldamuy's T.E.E.M. program also stresses the benefits of discipline, responsibility, and teamwork.

"In terms of cost and time, it costs our family much more than we'll ever earn in terms of dollars and cents, but you never know which kids you might reach with this type of program," said husband Cheyenne.

"You can't measure the value of this type of program in terms of its cost," he added.

For more information about T.E.E.M. call Aldamuy at 978-1761 or e-mail her at teempro@aol.com.

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