Maybe you didn’t know Kansas City Repertory Theatre has built a thriving education department to unlock the creative potential of young actors, writers and audiences. But ah, yes! The Rep long ago formed ambitious partnerships with schools, teachers and students. Here’s the latest on that.
As lights dimmed on American Buffalo, the Rep’s season finale at Copaken Stage, something was also happening on the big stage at Spencer Theatre. A collection of teens aged 14 years and up, members of the DeLaSalle After School Drama Club, produced a theatrical showcase and wow! There was nothing ho-hum about it.
Like real troupers, they harnessed their energy, turned stage fright into adrenalin, and spread their artistic wings in scenes, short plays and several scripts they had written themselves.
“It’s an experience that most of them have never had before as far as performing in front of people,” said Matt Rapport who leads the Rep’s team of teaching artists. “Arts education, in general, is good for opening up the world for students, particularly students who haven’t had a lot of exposure.”
And it comes with a bonus. The students earn fine arts or elective credits. Perhaps even better, they
step into the limelight and earn
Then & Now
Since their infancy in the 1980s, Kansas City Rep’s education programs have evolved, with today’s outreach ranging from theatre tours, live student matinees and post-performance Q&As with actors and directors, to in-school workshops, week-long residencies, internships, job shadowing and much more. Middle to high school students in the two-state metropolitan area are the primary focus, said Melinda McCrary, director of education and community programs for the Rep.
“The great thing is, we watch students experience everything you want to give a child … language, teamwork, self-confidence, a sense that they have value. What we get out of it is sharing a new world,” McCrary said. “Working on scripts is like a live history book, whether it’s A Raisin In The Sun or Hamlet or The Glass Menagerie.”
Play By Play
The Rep’s arts programs play a key role in DeLaSalle’s success with “experiential” learning options, according to Julie Heibel, the school’s director of experiential learning. She said, simply stated, “It’s learning it by doing it. And it works.”
It works so well, in fact, that educators see students’ self-perceptions slowly change. Tickets to professional plays at the Rep are often part of the payoff, said Lisa Bower, a therapist at DeLaSalle, “You see the kids sitting on the edge of the seat and watching, just taking it in. Afterward, we process and discuss and they can articulate what the play is about. I think of some of the big boys with tough exteriors and here they are, wanting to go back or remembering it the following year. It’s amazing.”
So story by story – or shall we say, play by play? – students discover and share the human condition – tears, heartaches, conflicts, hopes, successes, laughter and love. It gives them a view of the world. A voice in the world. And a role.
And Partnerships Are A Beautiful Thing
For support of this year’s Fine Arts Showcase in collaboration with DeLaSalle Center, a high school that serves urban students through innovative learning plans, a special thank you is extended to the Monello family and the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation. Through their generous contributions Kansas City Repertory Theatre continues to offer timely, literate, and transformative educational and community services. For information, contact Melinda McCrary at (816) 235-5708.•