Did you know that when Carolina Youth Theatre isn’t staging plays and musicals that a flurry of activity is happening offstage? In the fall and spring we host classes and workshops to offer young actors and those just dipping their toes into theater the chance to build skills in acting, singing and dancing. Some students may pursue a career in entertainment later on, but more importantly, experience with CYT in middle and high school fosters leadership, commitment and teamwork, in addition to building confidence and self-esteem.
This fall we’ve hosted workshops on dance, drama and music, and we’ve just wrapped up a series of classes on foundational acting skills. In the Acting Basics and Scene Study class for seventh- and eighth-graders, students learned warm-up and vocal techniques, along with character development, improvisation and storytelling skills. On finale night, Oct. 29, they performed their scenes for an audience of family and friends. Some students even wrote their own scenes!
Before showtime, teacher Stephanie Benner led the class through a game called “Did you hear about?” The actors stand in a circle, and the game works like so: One actor says “Did you hear about …” and points to another actor, who makes up something to say to finish the sentence. The other actors are allowed to respond in only two ways: with either laughter or gasps. There was much, much laughter. In giving directions during final rehearsals a bit later, Ms. Benner said something important about improv, which is also a good lesson for life:
“Play off what you’ve been given. Try not to control the scene too much.”
In addition to having fun while learning about stagecraft, CYT students find that their work in classes translates to benefits in real life.
Kira Earnest, a seventh-grader in Ms. Benner’s scene study class, has been in some of CYT’s summer camps, which she said were “super-duper fun.” She said she was sad when she didn’t get a role after her first audition, but she’s keen to continue learning and performing and perhaps become a game-show host or actress (she helped to emcee the scene performances in the last class). She said she loves being onstage and in the spotlight, showing off her personality while also being “someone I’m not” for a little while. Acting is a way to explore creativity and “show whatever emotions I want,” she said. Kira said she enjoyed learning acting and stage terms in this class and even noticed that the experience has paid off in school. Just that day she had participated in a debate in front of her classmates. She said it was well received by her peers, as she had successfully conveyed the emotions behind her point of view on the topic.
Mimi Mollins, an eighth-grader in Ms. Benner’s class, was inspired to participate in CYT by her mother, a voice teacher with a background in musical theater. She landed a role in CYT’s Bye Bye Birdie on her first audition, and also appeared in last summer’s The Wizard of Oz. She said she enjoys all aspects of theater, especially using the body to convey emotions, and she takes several hours of dance classes each week. In acting, “you can be different people and get in other people’s shoes,” she said, which helps build empathy and sympathy. She has noticed the ripple effects of her theater experience in her own relationships, she said. “It makes you a softer person.”
Keep your eyes and ears open for news on our spring classes and workshops. Registration will open in January 2020.
Carolina Youth Theatre (CYT)
Carolina Youth Theatre is a community theater focused on providing theater arts education and performance opportunities to students across the Triangle.