Play in a Weekend

Youth aged 7-14 come to us on a Friday after school. They're excited and a little nervous. We take them under our wings, play some theatre games, and then tell them about the play we've written for them. Maybe it's The Spindle and the Burp, a feminist and gassy retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Or maybe that weekend it's Hamlet, Schmamlet, a reimagining of Shakespeare's great tragedy in which Ophelia saves the day instead of drowns herself in a river. But what they really want to know is: What part will I get?! The students audition in such a fun and funny way, that sometimes, on Sunday evening when they're filling out the evaluation forms, they tell us that the auditions were the most fun they had all weekend!
The young actors are given their parts. The playwrights have written the plays so that 1) Everyone has a part, and 2) Everyone has a really good, fun part is meant to stretch them as young actors.
All day Saturday we balance rehearsal with games with snacks. On Sunday, after a final dress rehearsal, we put on the show for parents, grandparents, community members, and friends.

Then we celebrate with cake. Because after the weekend the kids and staff have had, we deserve cake!
Of course, while the kids think they're having fun (and they are), the Play in a Weekend staff and parents know that they are also learning a great deal. Research shows that:
·       Theatre increases academic success.  "Longitudinal data of 25,000 students involved in the arts, conducted at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education by Dr. James Catterall, shows that consistent participation [in theatre]  greatly improves academic performance and significantly bumps up standardized test scores." (Danielle Wood, "Why Children's Theatre Matters," education.com)  And The American Alliance for Theatre & Education found that students involved in drama performance “scored an average of 65.5 points higher on the verbal component and 35.5 points higher in the math component of the SAT. (Denise Simon, "3 Ways Acting Boosts Self-Confidence in Young Performers." backstage.com)
·        Because when students are playing a role, they develop empathy. Empathy is not just important in interpersonal relationships, it's also one of the personality skills that are most important for corporate leaders, doctors, and other professionals. (Cathlyn Melvin, "The Top 5 Reasons Kids Should Do Theatre," npnparents.org.)
·       Theatre--and especially the plays written by our Play in a Weekend playwrights--exposes children to literature, to history, to imaginative retellings, to feminist and class theory, and to the idea that the same archetypical stories can be told in many different ways. (Any student who has participated in Hamlet, Schmamlet has learned the basic plot and themes of Hamlet by Shakespeare, for example--even if they're seven years old.)
·       Acting instills pride and confidence in children. Our young actors work hard at remembering their lines, at understanding their characters, at connecting with the other actors on stage, at listening to the directors and understanding their feedback, and at improving their skills. Our students develop earned self-esteem because they feel more confident about themselves after they have successfully a play in only a weekend. How many adult actors could do the same?!


If you're interested in having your child participate in one of our Play in a Weekend Workshops (traditionally we have two weekend workshops in January/February and two weekend workshops in August/September), please contact Kelly Dwyer at Kelldwyer@yahoo.com

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