Although the Denver Center served more than 84,000 youth last year through its expansive education programs, it recently identified a gap: Live theatre was being exposed to virtually every age group except pre-school through 3rd graders. And educators believe it is crucial to introduce the vital force that live theatre can be in the lives of young people during those early years, said Denver Center for Performing Arts (DCPA) Education Director Allison Watrous.
Theatre has not only been shown to boost academic achievement among early childhood learners, “live performance can have a large impact on the way a kindergartner views and thinks about the world,” said Watrous. “This is a critical new audience base for the Denver Center to seek out and serve.”
And so, starting in the fall, DCPA Education is launching its new Theatre for Young Audiences program. In full partnership with the DCPA Theatre Company, DCPA Education will stage 100 performances of The Snowy Day and Other Stories in the Conservatory Theatre. It is estimated that 20,000 children from around the metro area will see the production through Nov. 18.
“It is definitely a goal of the Education Department to make sure that we are engaging as many students as we can throughout the year through live performance,” Watrous said. “We think we are doing a fantastic job serving middle school and high school kids through our student matinee program; through our traveling Shakespeare in the Parking Lot program; and through our classes and workshops. But there is always more to do. And with The Snowy Day, now we have the opportunity to really open up the world to younger children.”
Saturday performances are open to the public. Tickets are $10, but the DCPA will make 9,000 “scholarships” (free tickets) available to teachers whose students need financial assistance to attend.
“If you cultivate the wonder of the arts at an early age, then that becomes part of the fabric of the learner – and the human being,” Watrous said. “Theatre makes you a stronger reader. Theatre makes you more collaborative. Theatre makes connections in your mind that can change how you look at a book, how you look at a painting, how you look at a sculpture and how you look at difficult issues in our world. Of all the beautiful transferable skills you can develop through live theatre, perhaps the most important is that it can make you more empathetic in how you view the world.
“I hope this is the beginning of something really fantastic.”
Info: The Snowy Day and Other Stories, Conservatory Theatre, located in the Robert and Judi Newman Center for Theatre Education, 1101 13th St., Denver, CO. Tickets $10 weekday and $15 weekend (discounts and scholarships available). Best suited for: Pre-K through third grade. Box office: 800.641.1222.
John Moore, Senior Arts Journalist, DCPA.
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