Kids and teens who love to get on stage and sing their hearts out have the perfect opportunity to do just that this summer. At Music Theater Works, kids 8-13 and teens 13-18 can join the YouthREACH Kids Company or YouthREACH Youth Company to practice, perform, make friends and have a lot of fun, too.
“We call them summer workshops because they really do have a teaching element. There’s a lot that goes into this. Kids are learning a show and putting on that show at the end of their experience,” explains Anya Plotkin, YouthREACH Company Manager at Music Theater Works in Wilmette.
Both age groups benefit from professional instruction, plenty of teamwork with like-minded kids — plus an individual moment to shine on stage in front of an audience of family and friends.
Here’s what you need to know about these two immersive summer programs:
YouthREACH Kids Company
“For younger kids, this is a chance to do something you love,” says Plotkin. Kids ages 8-13 can register for YouthREACH Kids Company summer camps for one week or all five weeks. This makes the camp flexible and convenient, especially for those who also have other summer plans and vacations. “Most come for two weeks,” she says.
The experience is a whirlwind, perfect for kids who just want to put on a show — and do it in a short span of time.
After everyone gets to know each other and the show they’ll be working on, the kids get to work rehearsing. “By day two, all the campers have their parts assigned. By day three, we’ve staged all group numbers,” and come Saturday morning, everyone is ready for the final dress rehearsal on the professional stage at Community House Winnetka, Plotkin says. The final performances, which take place on Saturday afternoons, close out the week of fun.
Because the instructors use specialized versions of the scripts — Oklahoma Youth Edition, Newsies Jr, Addams Family young@part, Fiddler on the Roof Jr, Once Upon a Mattress Youth Edition — every child gets a part. No two weeks are the same, which means kids can come back again and again throughout the summer.
Best of all, no experience is required. Kids just need to be at least 8 years old on the first day of the workshop and have a third grade reading level.
YouthREACH Youth Company
Music Theater Works’ audition-based teen program takes place over 2½ weeks during June and is designed “for kids who have a big love for musical theater,” Plotkin says. This workshop is the perfect opportunity for students who enjoy being onstage, whether they’ve had that chance many times before, or not.
“From the teen who has been Third Tree to those who have had major roles and are working toward a career onstage, we are giving them all an opportunity to grow.” she explains. “They will even get coaching at their auditions!”
The 2023 workshop group will perform Pippin, using the same stage, props and sound system that Music Theater Works uses, as well as professionally designed costumes.
“This workshop aims to give every cast member, whether they are a lead or supporting role, a moment of their own on stage,” Plotkin says. “For teens, this is a chance to grow as a performer and grow their love of musical theater.”
The Youth Company workshop attracts kids from all kinds of backgrounds, with all sorts of futures. “Some have gone on to NYU for music theater, some are nurses or teachers and some are future lawyers. But they all love doing shows and exploring all the different kinds of shows and roles that are available.”
It’s also a great chance to work with professionals who can offer tips and suggestions for giving their best auditions and techniques for acting, singing and dancing on stage.
No matter what, the teens who attend make fast friends. “It’s like a little family every year. Half the kids are new, half are returners, but they all become a tight-knit group. It’s important that they feel supported by both their peers and the staff,” Plotkin says.
Joy of performance arts summer camps
The big benefit for both age groups is the boost of confidence that grows naturally from giving your best performance, making good friends, learning and growing.
“This is a great chance to explore lots of new ways to do things, participate in ways you never have before,” says Plotkin. “It’s a really big confidence booster.”
Learn more and register for a YouthREACH workshop at Music Theater Works in Wilmette. Visit musictheaterworks.com/youthreach.