Friday, August 3, 2018

Schoolhouse Arts Center Education Program offers children creative outlet and opportunities to perform by Elizabeth Richards

Last year's "Sleeping Beauty" performance
The Schoolhouse Arts Center is more than just a thriving theater; it’s also home to a robust education program that allows young people to grow and build social skills while exploring the arts.

Education Director, Dillon Bates says he believes that the arts are the social consciousness of the world. “No matter how crazy the world is, or how different it is, throughout history artists have been the first group to accept new ideas and new people, but also to push boundaries and resist things,” he says.

That’s why arts education is so important. “The more that we can prepare people of all ages, but especially young people, to go out into the world with the social and emotional awareness that comes from the arts – that’s going to pay dividends beyond anything else you can do,” Bates said.
The education program at Schoolhouse Arts Center is doing just that. The program offers spring and fall semester classes, occasional one-time workshops, and two types of summer camps. 

Semester long classes include a ten-week production workshop, where students audition for and stage a full production. In the fall, this show is open to children five to 12-years old and in the spring the age range is eight to 15. In addition to the production workshop, the program offers options like Intro to Directing, where students learn the skills necessary to direct a show, and Storybook Theater, where students create their own show while exploring theater games, fairy tales, music and art. 

In the summer, the program offers one-week summer camp programs for ages five to 11. The most popular, Bates said, is Storybook Theater. The students work together to create their own short show using characters they might already be familiar with. Because this experience is often a child’s first experience on stage, Bates said, they cover the basics such as how to stay open to an audience, what it’s like to speak so you can be heard, and learning theater terms, such as diction, downstage and upstage.

"Once on this Island" performance
Also offered are two two-week camp programs separated by age. The first is for children five to 11 years old, while the second is for those 11 to 15 years old. When students are 11, they have the opportunity to participate in both. Many of the 11-year olds are kids who have been there for a long time and look forward to that year. “They can do both shows. They’re sort of the ‘big fish’ in the first one and then they come back and they’re at the bottom of the barrel again,” he said.  In the first camp these older kids help lead the younger ones, and in the second, they can learn from the older group. “It’s great to have them be constantly pushed and learn more,” Bates said. 

The older group has students who have been there for quite a while, although they are open to new students as well. “This group is fun,” Bates said. “We can do pretty advanced stuff that they’re not going to get at their middle school or high school. We can do some more challenging material.”
In these camps, the group puts together a full show from auditions to opening night in just two weeks. Shows run on Friday and Saturday evenings, as well as Saturday and Sunday matinees. 

Registration for workshops and camps happens online, and spots fill quickly. There are a maximum number of students they can take, which varies depending on the show being produced. Camps and workshops are led by instructors who either have a degree in their field of theater, music or dance, or have significant training. They cap the number of students they take, Bates said, so they can have enough time to work with everyone and make sure they are getting something out of it.

There are kids who return year after year but they also get kids who have never performed before. “What I really like about the developmental side of theater and the arts is that it’s stuff that will extend beyond the stage,” said Bates. “That’s the idea with the education program, that they should always be improving, and they should always be gaining something from the show no matter how experienced or inexperienced they are.”
Beyond theatrical and arts training, the education program gives students a place to be open, be themselves, and celebrate that, Bates said. “I’m really proud of the friendships and connections they make. It’s just a great outlet for kids and young adults to be themselves.”

This year’s summer productions are “Aladdin Kids” and “Mary Poppins, Jr.”.

Aladdin will run the weekend of August 3rd through 5th, and Mary Poppins will run August 17 through 19. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door. 

For more information on the education program at Schoolhouse Center for the Arts, or to get on the mailing list for upcoming programs, email Information is also available at

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