Children’s theater is alive and well in Baraboo.
Al. Ringling Theatre is expanding programming it launched for children late last year, when 22 students participated in acting and dramatic storytelling workshops from October through December.
The theater is now offering the same classes and some new ones for children ages 8-16 on Saturday afternoons from Feb. 22 through March 28. The theater will expand its programming again in the summer, capped by children’s musical performances of “Shilly” in August and September.
“What we’re doing right now is building a program where we’ll offer our own performances at the Al., by the Al. and for the Al.,” said Al. Ringling CEO and theater professional Tom McEvilly. “My No. 1 objective is to give students and our community the ability to access the beauty of the arts in all its forms.”
McEvilly and Administrative Assistant Dana Qualy will once again lead the children’s theater workshops which include Acting I (ages 11-16), Acting II (ages 13-16), Dramatic Storytelling (ages 8-10) and Design Behind the Scenes (ages 10-16). Classes will last about an hour and half, on average. Registration is $65 and can be done prior to Feb. 22 at the theater’s Box Office or at the first class Feb. 22.
McEvilly has taught theater and directed plays for Wisconsin youth since the 1970s including work at the Zona Gale Young People’s Theatre at Portage Center for the Arts. During his time in Portage, youth programming typically involved 30 to 40 students, which McEvilly said he hopes and expects to see tripled in Baraboo in the years to come.
“We’re shooting toward 100 to 120 kids,” McEvilly said of the new program. ”We have a lot of people involved in theater locally, a lot of community support and parents who want their kids to have this opportunity.”
“We really want to get the word out about this,” McEvilly said for those families who have not yet learned about the programming launch. “It’s crucial.”
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The new program is called, “Al. Ringling Theatre-Theatre for Young Audiences,” or ART-TYA, McEvilly said. It’s a member of the Theatre for Young Audiences organization that’s based in New York, giving it access to the most current plays and musicals and more.
Qualy is a 2014 Portage High School graduate who participated in Zona Gale programming in Portage as a student for about 12 years and earned her bachelor’s degree in theater from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point last year.
“Our goal is not only to provide great theater but also develop and encourage our younger generations to have a broader sense of awareness outside the scope of themselves or even their local community,” Qualy said. “(Theater) helps them develop critical thinking skills and to be more conscious as citizens.
“We want to empower kids to feel more confident.”
Summer theater programming at Al. Ringling Theatre should look similar to what’s offered at Zona Gale, including classes in stage combat, makeup, dance, movement and voice.
Missoula Children’s Theatre
Local children interested in theater may also audition for the Missoula Children’s Theatre production of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” from 4-6 p.m. Feb. 10 at Al. Ringling Theatre. No registration is required.
Al. Ringling spokeswoman Shannon Hill said as many as 100 children who pass auditions would then rehearse later that night and for the remainder of the week leading up to performances at 3 and 7 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Al. Ringling Theatre.
It will be the ninth time that MCT (based in Montana) has worked with children and held performances at Al. Ringling Theatre, Hill said.
Follow Noah Vernau on Twitter @NoahVernau or contact him at 608-695-4956.