The Young Company at Stoneham Theatre
Teens and Adults Collaborate and Learn from Each Other
Of the dozen or so CBACT theatres in the Boston area, only a handful have a formal relationship with a professional adult theatre company. Such is the case with Stoneham Theatre's Young Company. Caitlin Lowans, Director of Education for the Young Company, says that the relationship between the theater's Main Stage productions and the Young Company is a vital part of their program.
"Being involved with adult professional actors is such a tremendous opportunity for our kids. They get to learn from people in the field and that's exciting," says Lowans. "At the same time, they get to learn from each other, and that's really rewarding, too."
In the last three Main Stage productions, each cast has included younger performers drawn from the Young Company. This past fall, Stoneham's acclaimed production of The Sparrow included two Young Company teens in the cast. This year's holiday sparrow stonehamshow, A Christmas Carol, had five younger actors out of a cast of 23, four of whom were current members of the Young Company program. And this April, The Main Stage production of My Fair Lady will have two Young Company performers. These roles are created for people as young as the show calls for, but the teen roles are set aside for the Young Company's Act 3 (10th-12th grade) kids.
"In all three shows," Lowans explains, "the teens were and will be full-fledged members of the ensemble and were fully integrated into the cast."
In addition to participation in the theater's Main Stage productions, each year 12-15 Act 3 students are invited to join the Resident Youth Ensemble (RYE) at Stoneham. These kids take master classes in exchange for volunteer hours-perhaps writing summaries of new scripts for the staff, manning the follow spot for a Main Stage performance, or perhaps working with the marketing team on a teen night at the theater.
Although some of the teaching between kids and adults is less formal than a class or workshop, one Main Stage actor extended her Shakespeare workshop into a program called "Kids4Kids": a traveling troupe of RYE kids who perform Shakespeare at area schools during the year. Right now, Kids4Kids programs include Twelfth Night, as well as an adaptation of Go Dog Go! Lowans explains that since the kids use the script for an entire year, "this allows the kids the opportunity to constantly evolve as performers as their interpretation of the script grows and changes."
"And because the kids are always performing in different groups at brand new locations each time, they're constantly learning about performing and experimentation," Lowans says. "By going into schools, the actors are making the connection between performing and leading more real."
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