Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Arlington youth theater thrives

It's not easy running a children's theater company these days. From public funding cuts to competition from school sports and a gazillion other entertainment options, it might seem impossible to keep a theater program alive.

But Encore Stage & Studio in Arlington, VA has found a way--not just to survive, but to thrive. And they've been doing it for thirty years.

Executive Director Sara Duke and Artistic Director Susan Keady were recently interviewed by radio station WERA about their upcoming production of The Enchanted Bookshop, and they were given a very generous half hour to elaborate on how they've managed to be so successful for so long.

One key is that they try to recruit by on a "third-third-third" basis. That is, in any production, one-third of the students are returning students, one-third have theater experience outside of Encore and one-third are brand new to performing.

As Duke puts it, "That third-third-third is really a winning combination and puts on the best show but also has the best opportunities for peer-to-peer mentorship between cast members because we do really ask the kids, particularly the older ones, to really step up and show the younger ones the ropes and create friendships across grade levels."

What's more, they don't just look for artsy kids. Instead, they reach out to physics and engineering students and get them involved by having them solve technical problems with the sets or lighting.

Sounds pretty genius to me. To learn more, check out the entire interview on Mixcloud.

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