“Circle up, circle up!” comes the call of the Director. Kids are milling about the theatre and dressing room, singing show tunes, giggling with one another, making last minute adjustments to their costumes and make-up. But at the sound of their director’s voice, they all settle down and gather around. The show will start soon and you can feel the excitement and nervous energy in the air!
We’ve all heard the stats regarding what a great city Frisco is for raising an athlete. Many may not realize what wonderful resources we also have in our community for raising young artists.
Developing Character Through Performing Arts
Frisco Youth Theatre is one of our city’s gems when it comes to educating and training young performers. FYT is our local chapter of the broader North Texas Performing Arts, whose mission is to “develop the character of youth through quality performing arts education and family entertainment.”
NTPA’s Executive Director, Sara Akers, launched Plano Children’s Theatre in 1991. The theatre began to expand offerings into other North Texas cities in 2005. This year, we’re celebrating FYT’s fifth year of top-notch youth education and productions.
As with many children’s activities, the benefits of and learnings from participation go far beyond the activity itself. One of the things I love about FYT is how intentional they are about that very philosophy. While they have some fabulous directors who do a great job of teaching the kids how to act, sing and dance, they go much farther than just those on-stage skills.
During my daughter’s most recent production, I heard director, Hannah Stone, begin each rehearsal talking about one of NTPA’s ten character traits. One day, it may be responsibility, and one day respect. She took the time to talk with the kids about what each of these character traits means and I could hear the kids giving examples of how they could embody that trait in their rehearsal that day.
This past fall, my daughter was in a production of HONK! Jr., a musical retelling of The Ugly Duckling. Her director, Nick Mann, took the time to sit the kids down and talk about how every person is unique and that their differences should all be celebrated. As the line from Ugly’s solo went, “Different isn’t hateful, different could be swell, different is just…well…different.”
These are life lessons that will stick with these kids long after they take their bows and the spotlight goes out.
The Growing Stage at Frisco Youth Theatre
Frisco Youth Theatre is enjoying a time of great growth. Last year, FYT had nearly 300 students participate in major productions. With classes and camps, the theatre reached another 200-300 kids. In 2017, they offered 12 major productions. This year, they will produce 21 major productions with plans to offer 32 in 2019!
This past weekend, they celebrated closing night of their first-ever mystery dinner theatre production (Mystery at Shady Acres), while Rent School Edition, rehearsed down the hall and Little Mermaid Jr. held their final rehearsal before launching into tech week (an intense week when performers do full run-throughs with costumes, lights, set, etc. each day leading up to opening night).
Hundreds of families also came together for the 3rd Annual Frisco AMP Award Ceremony (think Oscars or Tonys for youth theatre)!
When the Theatre Becomes a Child’s “Happy Place”
For my family, youth theatre has been a great find. I refer to the theatre now as my daughter’s happy place – a place where she can really relax and be herself with kids who share her interests. Being involved in productions with FYT has allowed her to find her passion and develop as a leader and mentor to younger performers.
Her directors recognize her leadership and invite her to take on more responsibilities. She takes pride in this and wants to work even harder, creating a wonderfully positive cycle. I hear similar experiences from other theatre parents all the time.
Chatting recently with Jamie Gillespy, she told me her daughter, Ryleigh, is now in her thirteenth production with NTPA! She said her daughter has made so many friends over the three years they’ve been involved in the theatre. She gets so excited to see them when she begins a new show and often goes to support these friends when they’re in other productions.
FYT gives kids of all ages the ability to express themselves on stage in a fun and safe environment,” empasized Jamie.
A Program for Every Child
The theatre has focused on building offerings that can serve all the children in our community. In addition to major productions, FYT has STARters programming for preschoolers and the Starcatchers Therapeutic Arts program for special needs children.
Within their major production offerings, they’ll open up auditions for different age groups. For example, they recently put on 101 Dalmations Kids with grades K-5. Shows for this age group tend to be shorter overall and have shorter, less complex song and dance numbers, giving the youngest performers the chance to take the spotlight.
Other shows like the upcoming Little Mermaid Jr are performed by grades 3-8, giving kids in this middle group scenes and songs with more complexity so they can grow in their skills. And a production like Rent School Edition gives the older performers a place to spread their wings and dive into more mature content.
The Theatre Family
I’m so thankful for the joy theatre has brought to my daughter and for the friends we’ve made through FYT. It’s a very close-knit group, but also a very welcoming group. You often hear people talking about their “theatre family.” That truly is what it feels like. Come try out a camp or production and see for yourself. You may see your child bloom and grow on stage right before your eyes!
If you’re intrigued by FYT and thinking your child might enjoy the benefits of the theatre, I encourage you to come check out an upcoming show. Sit in the audience and see how your child reacts. That’s actually how my friend Jamie’s daughter got hooked! Little Mermaid Jr. opens this Friday, April 13th. They have 8 shows over 2 weekends. All of the performance times and ticket information can be found here. If you have older kids, take a look at the Rent School Edition performance schedule, opening on April 19th (due to mature content, not recommended for children under 13). Jack and the Beanstalk performances are also coming up May 3rd-May 6th.
Is your child ready to shine on stage? FYT has some exciting productions coming up for auditions, including Peter Pan Jr. (grades 3-8), Pride and Prejudice (grades 6-12), Pirates Past Noon KIDS (grades 1-5) and Into the Woods (grades 6-12). Another fun option in the summer is two-week major productions. These productions have all the fun and high-quality performances of a regular production, packed into two weeks! This summer’s two-week productions will be A Year with Frog and Toad and Once Upon a Crime – The Trial of Goldilocks, both open to students in grades 1-12.
FYT has a vast offering of summer camps, ranging from Half Day Art and Drama camps for ages 5-9 to Full Day Production Camps for ages 7-13. The camps provide a great way to dip your toes into the theatre pool! The kids get introduced to some basic acting skills through lots of fun theatre and improv games. They can get a little taste of what it feels like to learn lines, get into character and have some time on stage. A summer camp was actually my daughter’s first exposure to FYT. From there she was hooked!