Afterschool theatre teaches kids the arts

Children put on play

BRISTOL, Tenn. - It's not Hollywood or Broadway, but there was a premiere at Theatre Bristol. For parents of one of the 60 kids who are the writers and performers, it's a big show concluding a unique afterschool program.

It's a community partnership that's taking the local theatre organization back to its roots in education. It's also filling a gap in two areas that have become a challenge for local school systems.

Kids just out of school have lots of energy pent up after their day long studies and their creativity is boundless.

A unique partnership has given them an outlet for their talents as well as giving working parents peace of mind by providing an after school program. "What's convenient about this program is that twice a week we pick up children from the school system, bring them here to Theatre Bristol. We work with the staff, we work with the volunteers at King College and we provide 60 children a theatre experience," says Chris Ayers with the Bristol YMCA.

The kids are in different groups of different ages and they're not just taking directions; they are the writers, directors and actors. "Right now their writing scripts for a play that they're going to produce. They're touching on dance skills, acting; it's a wide gamut for the children," Theatre Bristol board member Spence Flagg said.

"They need creative outlets. More and more schools are having to get so much more done in the classroom and finding those creative outlets for kids is so important," Liz Dollar with the King College theatre department adds.

"Study after study just shows that the more kids are involved in artistic activity like music and theatre, the better the English test scores are. The better their grammar is, the better the writing scores are," says Daniel Potts with the theatre.

And it's also a chance for them to burn off some their endless energy in a creative and constructive fashion.

We learned this partnership is filling in some of the gaps that schools are cutting back. "The schools are being challenged everyday financially with testing and they just don't have enough time in the day. Physical activity and arts are slowly either being eliminated or cut back in most school systems," Ayers said.

That's where the community and this partnership has stepped forward to provide both a service and some memorable entertainment.

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