Bringing Theater to Kids When They Need it Most

March 18, 2021

Showstoppers Class, Photo by Erika Kapin

After a year of being cooped up inside, unable to see their friends, and more connected to screens than ever, the world of theater offers a welcome reprieve for kids.

Greenwich House is launching new performing arts programs to help give children that opportunity, just when they need it most. “It’s perfect timing for a young person to take a theater class,” says Nicole Kontolefa, our new Theater Coordinator who’s helping to bring programming for thespians of all ages to Greenwich House. “It’s a safe space to step into being their own person after spending a year only with their families, to be around other people their age and move and bring their imaginations to life.”

Nicole — who got her start in theater by taking classes at fellow settlement house Henry Street —works in applied theater and knows full well the power it can have for personal growth and affecting change. She uses theater to help the incarcerated and older adults, and to fight for social justice, but those same benefits can be found in any acting class. “Taking theater classes as a kid helped me learn how to be human,” Nicole says.

Stephen Michael Rondel, who will be teaching two of our new classes, agrees. “Dramatic and imaginative play is a powerful tool. It prospers creativity, self-awareness, social skills, teamwork, confidence, and trust.”

Skills For Theater, Skills For Life
  • Embodying stories helps with empathy as you step into other people’s perspectives and experiences

  • You’re given space to examine and engage with your feelings and experiences when telling your own story

  • Performance takes bravery, and you develop courage as you practice performing in a supportive environment

  • Theater is all about teamwork and cooperation; you’re creating something as part of a group, and relying on each other to be successful

  • Supporting each other is integral to improvisation; you’re encouraged to build on each other’s contributions and help your teammates out when they’re feeling stuck

  • Active listening and concentration is needed to engage with the rest of the group; improv teachers are invited to do workshops in corporate environments to share this ability to connect with people

“The space in a theater class is so different from how kids normally have to live their lives,” says Nicole. “They’re very regimented, and told to sit still, and be quiet, and not given a lot of opportunity to think about their feelings and how they relate to people.”

Not to mention, it’s fun! Playfulness, silliness, and running around are all part of the experience and gives kids the chance to escape. The theater is the perfect antidote to the life kids have been leading during the pandemic.

To kick off our performing arts youth programming, Greenwich House Music School and the Youth Community Center are collaboratively offering three new classes: Showstoppers (for ages 8-11), Young Actors Workshop (ages 5-7), and Comedy/Improv (ages 8-11). Participants will learn about performance, acting, movement, dance, singing, and improvisation in Greenwich House Theater, an off-Broadway performance space that’s home to Ars Nova productions.