By Amy Stumpfl
It seems the holidays have just arrived. But already Nashville Children’s Theatre is gearing up for a busy new year – with an exciting lineup of Winter/Spring classes through the NCT Drama School.
Packed with imaginative themes and engaging theatre activities, the NCT Drama School offers a wide range of classes to fit every age group and schedule. There are 4-week and 12-week classes, which meet on Saturdays, along with a week-long drama camp during Spring Break. All sessions culminate in a program sharing what the students have created.
But according to NCT Education Program Manager and Teaching Artist Colin Peterson, the focus is on the students themselves, rather than the final product.
“Kids’ lives are so structured these days,” he says. “It’s really nice to celebrate where they are in this particular moment, and to honor their ideas and voices through creative play and theatre activities. One of the things that makes NCT’s 4-week classes really unique is how they are so student driven. The Teaching Artists come into the class with the basic framework or scenario, but the students decide how they want to explore those scenarios through various drama games and exercises. We talk a lot about the actor toolbox of body, voice and imagination, as they share their ideas and create new worlds.
“As the education team sat down to discuss our 2019 classes, we really tried to think outside the box,” he adds. “We looked at themes that we hadn’t offered before, and ideas that might really spark the imagination. We also thought about what would have interested us as kids – what games and adventures would we have enjoyed?”
Peterson points to the new “Nature” classes as prime examples.
“I really like the idea of having each age group explore the natural world in some way. So our 4 and 5-year-olds will be taking on the microscopic world in ‘Bugs & Buds,’ creating fantastical adventures along the lines of ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.’ Meanwhile in ‘Stranded,’ our older students – aged 11 to 15 – will be figuring out how to escape a desert island or some remote wilderness using creative problem-solving and teamwork. Of course, these classes are more advanced, with more drama technique, improv and scene work. But there’s still plenty of fun and lots of creative play.”
That element of play is just one of the things that appeals to Education Coordinator and Teaching Artist Jackie Leach.
“People often talk about how transformative theatre can be,” she says. “But as a Teaching Artist, I actually get to see it happen every day. These games and exercises might seem very simple, but these kids are gaining so much. It’s exciting to watch them build confidence and creativity, to work together to solve problems and build empathy.”
Leach will be teaching another new class, “All Aboard,” as part of February’s “Travel” session.
“With ‘All Aboard’ our 4 and 5-year-olds will journey into a world of their own creation. Trains are so accessible for this age group – they’re all familiar with ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ or the Hogwarts train from ‘Harry Potter.’ But in our class, they’ll use their imaginations not only to create the train, but also really celebrate the journey. So we might be talking about what the train looks like, and who we might meet along the way. What will we see when we look out the window? What problems must we solve in order to reach our destination?
“I really love this age group because they’re such great problem-solvers, and they have such compassion for one another. They’re absolutely invested in the stories we create – it’s really inspiring to see. I think that’s what I love most about working at NCT – it’s all about the students, not just the final product or show. We want to cultivate what’s already inside them, giving them the tools they need to grow and learn and explore the world around them.”
To learn more about NCT Drama School and upcoming classes, visit NashvilleCT.org.