Written by Patrick Chavis
Theatrical education is incredibly important. Not merely for those who want to become performers, directors, or any other part of the industry–no, it’s been found that learning about the theatre is beneficial in everyday life (Studies) (Studies). After researching the county, I was able to find three different programs facilitated by South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa and The Chance Theatre in Anaheim that are working to get kids into theatre–and what’s even more impressive, the programs offered are free to students.
South Coast Repertory
South Coast Repertory has two programs both free of charge that are designed to get anyone and everyone who’s willing into theatre and the performance arts. These programs include SCR’s Theatre Access program and their Neighborhood Conservatory Program.
1. Neighborhood Conservatory Program
The Neighborhood Conservatory Program has been going on at SCR since 1986 and has continued under four different directors since its inception. At this time in 2017 Hisa Takakuwa is head of the program.
According to a direct email message from Takakuwa,
“The Neighborhood Conservatory takes SCR’s acting classes to selected sites at schools and community centers providing 7 to 10 weeks of free introductory theatre classes to young people who often do not otherwise have access to the arts. The program shares the philosophy of SCR’s Theatre Conservatory which is dedicated to helping children discover their unique powers of imagination and creativity. Each course is designed to help students build self-confidence and nurture communication skills and the ability to work well with others. Classes are taught by a staff of theatre professionals and incorporate basic creative dramatics (movement and vocal exercises, pantomime, theatre games, improvisation, and beginning storytelling and character exploration).”
Anyone is allowed to apply for one of these group classes but you need to fit a certain criteria for your class to be accepted. OCR has provided a copy of the documented criteria at bottom of this article. If you feel your school or group fit the requirements please answer the questions on the form and mail it to Hisa Takakuwa Conservatory and Educational Programs Director/South Coast Repertory 655 Town Center Drive Costa Mesa, CA 92628.
OCR : How many people and students have utilized this opportunity?
HT: In recent seasons approximately 200-250 students are served through Neighborhood Conservatory acting classes each year.
OCR : What are the requirements to be considered “under-served”?
HT: For our work with schools we often use Title 1 designation as a guideline.
Definition: A “Title I School” is when children from low-income families make up at least forty percent of enrollment and thus are eligible to use Title I funds for school wide programs that serve all children in the school. (Source)
However, we consider under-served to be any group of students, etc, who might not otherwise have opportunity to attend live theatre or participate in arts training and might benefit from any such opportunity.
OCR: Do the classes have to take place in Orange County?
HT: The program is designed to serve our neighbors, so we do typically remain in Orange County .
OCR: What are the challenges a program like the Neighborhood Conservatory deals with and how can the community help?
HT: Our biggest challenge is simply finding the right students and partner organizations that might benefit most from the work we do. So, if you know of any organizations or schools that might be a good fit, please tell them to reach out! We are always seeking to grow our knowledge of and find ways to work more effectively within and with our community.
2. SCR’s Theatre Access program
South Coast Repertory’s second program is a Theatre Access Program, which provides free access to young people who might not otherwise have the opportunity or resources to attend a theatre show. Last season (2015-2016) SCR hosted over 3,500 young people from local schools to free theatre on this program. If you have school program or college class that you think could find this service useful, please call (714) 708-5549 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Speak Up Take a Chance @ The Chance Theatre in Anaheim
I was able to have a conversation with Karen O’Hanlon one of the program directors of the Chance Theatre’s Speak Up Take a Chance program.
OCR : How long has the program been going on and how did it start?
KO :We’re about to start our 12th year. So it’s been 11 years with the program and it was started by the founders of the Chance Theatre Erika C. Miller and Oanh Nguyen. We’re the resident theatre for Anaheim, so it started specifically as an Anaheim program and now we have spread out to all over Orange County. It’s an empowerment camp to give kids a voice. That’s why it’s called Speak up Take A Chance. We believe that by giving the students a voice or and outlet and an opportunity to share what’s happening in their world that they can create some amazing pieces of art and that’s what we’ve been seeing for the past 11 years.
OCR: How Many students are allowed to be in this program?
KO: We had 55 students in the program last Summer. So we apply for grants, we then go into high schools and talk to students about the program. We’re lucky that we are at a place were we have a lot of students returning. Thats why we grow and we grow.
OCR: Do they have to come from Orange County?
KO: They mostly come from Orange County but we did have students that came from other areas. We’ve had students from LA, we’ve had a student from Corona.
OCR: How is the program doing and how can the community help?
KO: We had the same instructor Darryl Hovis and he has such a great rapport with the kids and we have so many students that come back every year and this is their main way of access to theatre in their lives. Students love the idea of creating an original play. They do all of the writing and performing and they do all of the technical elements as well. So we’ve been doing this for so long and they have such a support of our chance Community, that I feel like we’re a well Oiled machine. Last year we had a problem of having too many students apply. So we are always looking for more funding so we can expand the program, so we don’t have to turn kids away. We also feed the students especially on our show days, so local restaurants that would be able to contribute food or water are always very helpful, and any organizations that have access to a bus that would help as well.
Teen Summer Scholarship Program (limited availability, apply early)
Program Documents :