Youth theater provides new experiences for kids

The cast of The School of Rock, Jr. during a rehearsal. (Photo by 8-18 Media)

By Anna Martinson,  Anna Rayhorn, with contributions by Bria Larson, Ava Larson, Sophia Portale,  Anja McBride,  and Heath Teichman.

Children can be afraid of trying new things: a new class, a new sport or a new instrument. Sometimes even trying out for a role in a production put on by Marquette’s Superior Arts Youth Theater might seem pretty scary. First, there are the auditions, followed by rehearsals and then the actual performance—it can all seem pretty overwhelming, but what kids should know is that youth theater provides a great opportunity to meet new people, learn new songs and gain self-confidence. Superior Arts Youth Theater offers all of these things and more to local youth who chose to participate in this theater program.

Jalina McClain, managing director of SAYT since July 2016, believes involvement in youth theater provides many benefits.

“Youth theater benefits our kids and our youth in the community by allowing them performance opportunities, technical opportunities, to be creative. It helps them with public speaking. It’s a lot easier to get up on stage and pretend you are someone else than it is to give a speech in front of people, but the more you are up on stage pretending you are someone else…when you have to go into a classroom and give a speech in front of your teachers or your peers it becomes a lot easier because you have done it so many times in front of hundreds, thousands of people,” she said. “It definitely helps with public speaking a lot. It builds confidence and friendships too. Friendships, because … throughout the whole rehearsal process they are spending two hours a day together and they become like a family.”

Being up on a stage is scary for some adults and the same can hold true for kids. Katriona Voogd, 13, a cast member of the SAYT summer production of School House Rock Live Jr. said the worst of her stage fright happens before she is even cast.

“I don’t’ really have stage fright. It’s more of an audition fright type thing. I am kind of a little more afraid of performing in front of two or three people than performing in front of a whole audience. Because when you are up on stage you can barely see the people in front of you so you don’t have to worry about that so much, but when you are in an audition it’s a lot scarier because there are just two or three people in the room and they are right in front of you, so it’s a little more pressure to perform well,” Voogd said.

Jeremiah Ogawa, 16, an actor in the SAYT 2017 summer production of School of Rock, didn’t let a little bit of stage fright keep him off the stage. He has advice on how to manage the fear.

“I just breathe and breathe. I use stage fright to actually get more confident in a way, have more energy,” Ogawa said.

Ogawa encouraged other kids to try out for SAYT, even if they are scared.

“You should always audition and see. Just try out. You get experience, if you don’t get in keep trying,” he said.

Ogawa also said the experience of being in a SAYT production is unlike any other.

“SAYT brings so much good vibes to me that I just love doing shows and the people in them. It’s like a family almost,” Ogawa said.

Susan Candey, who directed the SAYT 2017 summer production of School House Rock, believes the fear of performing on stage shouldn’t hold any child back from auditioning.

“I would recommend they just go for it. Especially with shows like this…you are in it with kids your own age and your own level and so there is less pressure to kind of go outside your comfort zone. There is always someone on your team,” Candey said.

McClain explained there are other ways for kids to get involved with SAYT without actually having to perform.

“Well, I think that if you have stage fright, but you want to be involved in theater, the best way to get yourself involved is to be a techie backstage for your first few shows, or come to one of our acting camps: they give you more of an opportunity to be on stage in front of a smaller audience,” McClain said. “If you are super afraid of a big crowd, then come in for one of our camps and you can try a smaller audience. You get a little more one-on-one direction in our camps too, which kind of amps you up for being on stage. If you want to be involved in the big family, cast and crew on one of our large productions then you want to be on the tech crew because then you are backstage with the actors. You are getting to know them; you are getting to be more comfortable with the organization and the people that are around on stage and backstage. A lot of our techies become actors because they see the kind of things the actors have to do and they are like, ‘It’s actually not that hard.’ Really, they aren’t playing themselves. They are playing a character. It’s a lot easier being on stage not being yourself than it is being on stage as you as a person.”

One would think adults directing a play with kids varying in age from early pre-school through high school would be difficult. Candey thinks the dramatic age gap presents a unique challenge.

“The littlest one are about 4 years old and then the oldest ones are in high school so the 4-year-old isn’t ready for the same kind of blocking that say a high-schooler is,” Candey said. “You have to be able to create blocking that everyone is able to do, without it being too boring for the ones who are more advanced.”

McClain doesn’t see working with younger kids as a daunting task; in fact she finds it more exciting.

“Directing a show with kids…. honestly I like it more than adults sometimes because kids are a lot more creative and they don’t have as many boundaries,” Candey said. “The older you get the more afraid you are of doing things; where kids pull in so much more creativity than some of the adults I’ve worked with because they are like ‘Let’s try this.’

“There are just so many new ideas they can come up with, where adults have this barrier that they hit where they are like, ‘I don’t know if I can say anything,’ or ‘I don’t feel comfortable, I don’t want to step on people’s toes.’” she added. “Kids are just so willing to tell you how they feel that it is just a lot more exciting and a lot more creative overall I think.”

Superior Arts Youth Theater puts on multiple shows per year to be enjoyed by the community. It produces a fall musical, a spring musical and a boathouse show in the summer. McClain said they often perform a cabaret type of show during the spring after their big spring musical as well. Their fall 8th-grade-and-under production will be Shrek the Musical, Jr. That will run  November 16 to 19 at the Forest Roberts Theatre. Tickets will be available at any NMU ticketing outlet, online at or by phone at 227-1032. Tickets are $15 for adults and $9 for children.

For more information on SAYT theater, visit You can also like the SAYT Facebook page for updates on upcoming productions and audition dates. Remember kids: there’s no business like show business.

Written by: Anna Martinson, 13, Anna Rayhorn, 12, with contributions by Bria Larson, 11, Ava Larson, 12, Sophia Portale, 12, Anja McBride, 12, and Heath Teichman, 13. 

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.