Children’s theater workshop gives future actors, writers and directors experience

MANISTEE — A full house packed the Manistee Middle/High School on Friday afternoon to watch the next generations of thespians show what they had learned at the annual Children’s Theater Workshop demonstration.

The Children's Theater Workshop held its demonstration performance on Friday afternoon at the Manistee Middle School/High School auditorium. One of the skits they did was based on Cinderella as they were all focused with a message.

The Children’s Theater Workshop held its demonstration performance on Friday afternoon at the Manistee Middle School/High School auditorium. One of the skits they did was based on Cinderella as they were all focused with a message.

For the past five years — thanks to the generosity of the community — this workshop has given children from the second to the seventh grade the opportunity to learn about all the aspects of acting, what goes on behind the curtain and what it takes to put on a theatrical production.

Carol Voigts and Sharon Gates have teamed up for the past four years to direct this fun week, but this year they had some assistance from Corson Barnard. Many of the children taking part this year have participated in the past four workshops and some of them have now moved on to serve as interns and directed individual skits.

All of the skits performed were called demonstrations so they wouldn’t put any pressure on the children who were acting in them. The theme that the skits focused on this year were heroes and villains and many were based on classical tales with important messages weaved in, like the need to stop bullying.

“We had nine interns working during this past week with the kids,” said Voigts before the demonstration.  “There were also four junior interns and two stage crew members.”

Besides helping with the overall week’s activities, Barnard wrote a song that the children sang for the start and finish of Friday’s demonstration that was well received by the large crowd in attendance.

Voigts said without  the support they get from a variety of groups, a program of this nature wouldn’t be possible. With 54 children taking part it proved there is strong and growing interest in the theater in this area.

“I want to thank the Doug Schlaff Fund for giving us the support to  get it started and keep on funding it was well,” said Voigts. “We also received support from the Manistee County Community Foundation, the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Manistee and Manistee Lions Club of Manistee.”

Voigts said the program has grown in popularity and this year they had the most children ever taking part in it. She also said the workshop has a simple philosophy that makes it so popular with the children.

“Our philosophy is that every kid gets a part and gets to the chance to sing in the demonstration,” said Voigts. “What it does is give them some experience so they can hopefully get a part in the bigger plays at school or with the Manistee Civic Players or somewhere else.”

On Friday the children performed eight demonstration skits that were written by Voigts, Gates, Blade Gates and Joseph Slivka. Every one of the skits carried a message that the children and those viewing them could take away from the production.

“We are encouraging the kids to to do everything including the writing,” said Gates. “We want them to learn how to work back stage and be actors as well. This is a chance for them to learn about all of it in a fun workshop.”

Following the demonstrations, the many people in attendance were able to join the children in an ice cream social where they had the opportunity to meet the young, actors, directors and writers.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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