Key City Public Theatre is providing young people aged 9 to 14 a two-day opportunity to develop their repertoire in character work, staging and choreography — as well as learning a song from …
Key City Public Theatre is providing young people aged 9 to 14 a two-day opportunity to develop their repertoire in character work, staging and choreography — as well as learning a song from its musical, “Spirit of the Yule” — but Brendan Chambers pointed out that the after-school workshop is but one of KCPT’s youth education programs.
In addition to artists conducting theater classes at Salish Coast Elementary, summer theater camps for ages 5 to 18, month-long labs at the playhouse for students aged 13 to 19 to create and perform their own stage plays, Key City Public Theatre offers high school internships for grades 7 to 12, scholarships for high school seniors and apprenticeships for post-secondary students.
Chambers himself started as an artistic apprentice at Key City in 2017, before becoming an associate in 2018, and as he prepares to co-lead the Youth Musical Theater Immersive Workshop with Linda Dowdell on Wednesday, Dec. 18, and on Thursday, Dec. 19, he hopes it will help aspiring young thespians hone their talents while also providing them with positive experiences with theater professionals.
Dowdell sees the workshop, a first for key City Public Theatre, as capitalizing on young people’s knack for picking up skills in short order.
“With just two afternoons to train on this stuff, these kids will have to develop their focus,” Dowdell said. “Young people can occasionally procrastinate, but they won’t be able to put anything off until the following week. Fortunately, their minds are so fast that they learn quickly.”
While Dowdell emphasized the importance of fostering discipline among their students, she agreed with Chambers that they should also develop a sense of healthy interdependence.
“They’ll have to rely on each other as cast members,” Dowdell said.
“It’s important that we create a safe space for them here, so they can feel comfortable performing and being creative,” Chambers said. “We want to build their confidence as well as their abilities.”
Although Key City Public Theatre partners with local schools on a number of its youth outreach programs, Chambers lamented the decline in funding for arts education in public schools over the years, so especially as the alumnus of an arts school himself, he wants to ensure the same level of arts education is accessible to “as many students as possible.”
Dowdell credited theater experience with bolstering the self-esteem and facility for leadership of several students who have taken part in Key City Public Theatre Programs.
“If you can hold forth on a stage, you can perform well at a job interview,” Dowdell said.
The two even believe that theater training can contribute to young people engaging with online media more productively, with Chambers noting that rehearsals and performances require kids who are on social media to “put down their phones, get up and move around,” while Dowdell recalled instances of students looking up musicals on YouTube for song lyrics and performance cues, at the same time they grasp how different a recorded show is from the power of a live performance.
As much as anything, Chambers and Dowdell agreed on the value of furnishing students with not just an opportunity, but a venue to express themselves, while they’re still young enough for it to influence their development.
“By working collaboratively with other people, they can come out of their shells and gain empathy for others,” Chambers said. “It teaches them how to be more articulate as well.”
Students will practice and perform on the “Spirit of the Yule” set at the Key City Playhouse at 419 Washington St., and as the finale, present a free showcase at 5:15 p.m. Dec. 19. The public is invited to attend.
“The takeaway from this workshop will be so much more than notes and words and dance steps,” said Dowdell, who serves as the musical director, composer, arranger and bandleader.
In the workshop, “fun is number one,” Chambers said. Theater games, dancing and singing — with Dowdell providing live music, as well as guidance — give youngsters a chance to explore their possibilities.
The workshop cost is $85, including class instruction and a ticket to “Spirit of the Yule” for each student, and a half-price ticket for a parent or guardian. To sign up, phone the Key City box office at 360-385-5278, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.