There Will Be Drama (and Music, Dancing, Friends and Fun)

Your child may dream of a future career in the bright lights of Broadway, or they may just love to belt out show tunes in the shower. Maybe they’re longing to find a community of friends who love theater, music and performance as much as they do. This is the kid who should get to know Porchlight Music Theatre’s youth classes.

“It’s a rare kid who loves Hamlet, but there’s tons of kids who love Wicked and we want them to meet each other,” says Rebeccah Singer, education director at Porchlight Music Theatre, a nationally recognized cultural institution with a 25-year history in Chicago. “Porchlight Music Theatre’s youth programs offer a great entry point into the arts for kids.”

Wondering if a Porchlight Music Theatre program is a good fit for your child? We share four things that can help you decide.

Immersive programs for kids ages 7 to 17 

Porchlight Music Theatre offers 12-week programs each fall and spring and full day summer camps each year.

Broadway Basics introduces kids ages 7- to 10 to drama, music, dance and writing in a fun, collaborative environment. Here, kids are encouraged to express themselves and make friends. At the end of the term, students take part in a final performance written by the students, so it is always unique to the session. “There’s never a dry eye in the house for that final show,” says Singer. While the kids do learn the nuts and bolts of what it takes to create a show, they also learn the value of self-expression and self-confidence. “These kids learn to tell stories using music, movement, and their own imaginations,” Singer adds.

Music Theatre Bootcamp is where 11- to 13-year-old kids learn about the basics of harmonizing, building an ensemble and blending their own stories with musical favorites. Here, young performers also become stage directors and designers to build on the basics to create something all their own.

Advanced Music Theatre Performance builds on all of these skills and gives 14- to 17-year-olds a chance to learn about technical theatre. Typically, students work on a one-act version of a scripted show, on a professional stage with set, choreography, costuming, lights and more. “I haven’t found another program like this for young students to experience a pre-professional process so completely. All parts of the process are on the table, and kids have the chance to focus on what they’re really interested in learning,” says Singer. “Usually this in-depth instruction comes much later in high school or college.”

Programs are offered in-person and virtually

Because of COVID, Porchlight Music Theatre is offering youth education in both in-person and virtual formats. The in-person programs accommodate a maximum of 10 students and fill quickly. “The kids are socially distanced in a huge studio. They wear masks all the time, and we take temperatures and use other measures to keep everyone safe,” Singer says. Kids taking the virtual class join the in-person class via Zoom and experience the same choreography and the same songs. “They also send in a video that gets edited into the final performance,” Singer continues, “This really expands the reach of kids who want to follow along at their own pace.”

Kids gain valuable self-confidence

“Through musical theater, kids learn how to use their voice, loudly and clearly. They learn how to stand confidently, and think creatively to imagine a character,” Singer says. “They learn to support their ensemble and remember choreography. They gain skills of repetition and how to stick with something that may be difficult but is always possible with practice.”

Kids discover future careers

At a time when kids know a lot about performers and not as much about the behind-the-scenes work that brings celebrities to light, Porchlight Music Theatre kids’ classes expose kids to the many careers available. “There are people who produce the beats and design the costumes, yet we only see the finished product,” Singer says. “We want to peel back the curtain and show the army of people that make it happen behind the scenes. Your kid could be any or all of these people — and they’re so lucky to do it here in Chicago, where there’s a homegrown base of actors and artists that make this an exciting place to learn.”

Learn more about Porchlight Music Theatre youth classes at porchlightmusictheatre.org.

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