Historic Downtown eNews  |  Archive

Theatre Bristol, YMCA and King College partner to offer theater to children

October 09, 2012

BRISTOL, Tenn. — As she waited to begin her theater class inside Theatre Bristol, 9-year-old Lauren Eckley beamed when asked why she enjoys spending several of her after-school hours each week learning to act and perform.

“It’s a chance to do something I wouldn’t be doing [otherwise],” Lauren said, surrounded by fellow theater classmates enjoying a preclass snack. “I’ve already learned a lot about acting. It’s not just about talking. It’s a whole lot more, too.”

And there have been a lot of smiles to go around since the YMCA of Bristol, Theatre Bristol and King College partnered to launch an after-school program that has some 60 children spending Tuesdays and Thursdays learning all aspects of live performing – dancing, acting and costume design – with help from King College theater students.

During the 12-week program, the students will also perform live before an audience. Most of the participants – who range from kindergartners to sixth-graders – go to Bristol, Tenn., schools.

The program, which ends in January, has “been a wonderful win-win-win for everyone involved,” said Chris Ayers, the YMCA’s CEO.

“It’s let our kids have hands-on experiences with the arts at a time when so many schools just don’t have time to provide those programs,” Ayers said. “And it really fits our goal to keep kids active in consistent, quality, after-school programs that really enrich them.”

Theatre Bristol board President Spence Flagg said the partnership has allowed the State Street theater – which puts on numerous youth-oriented stage productions each year – to “go back to our roots” of using Theatre Bristol as a teaching venue.

“We like the idea of going back to educating kids about theater and drama, as well as performing it, and this program is serving as a great template for us to do that,” Flagg said. “We’re hoping to see this grow and grow.”

King College Theater Program Director Liz Dollar – whose 7-year-old son, Will, is among the students participating – said the classes could serve a major role in helping King theater students get invaluable experience in their future fields.

“It’s a great chance for them to work in a teaching environment,” Dollar said. “And children’s theater is one of the freshest, most sustainable forms of theater we have today.”

And for 10-year-old Abby Savage, it also provides a chance “to really express myself” in a fun atmosphere.

Said Abby: “I really love it.”

By Roger Brown, TriCities.com - source