Duluth's Hillside Youth Theatre presents ‘The Oddest Sea’The Hillside Youth Theatre is a seven-week program serving students 8 to 16 in the East and Central Hillside communities.
When a school year ends, it’s likely to find the building vacant.
That’s not the case with Nettleton Elementary School. It’s abuzz with more than 50 students participating in a theatrical program that focuses on experiential learning.
The Hillside Youth Theatre is a seven-week program serving students 8 to 16 in the East and Central Hillside communities. It branches far beyond theater, with an academic focus and life-skills learning, says Kathy Bogen,
director of the Grant Community School Collaborative and the program’s founder.
One of those branches will take students to the Great Lakes Aquarium, where they’ll perform “The Oddest Sea,” a takeoff on the Greek classic, “The Odyssey.”
“The students learn about geology, history, Greek mythology and Ojibwe culture,” said Rachel Thapa, camp
manager and the collaborative’s program coordinator. “They learn new vocabulary, as well as memory and writing skills. We want to give students the opportunity for creative expression.”
That hit a note with Ian Jensen-Ficknter, 10, in his third year with the theatre.
“My favorite part of the play is the Greek mythology in it,” he said. “I like being able to do plays and public speaking, and I’m glad we’re doing a ‘moving play.’”
The play will have staggered start times because the audience will rotate through the various scenes.
And, “There will be a different theme in each of the rooms and the winds will guide the audience from one scene to the next,” said Thapa. “Having the show at the aquarium fits right in with the nautical and water theme of the play.”
The theatre, which was started 14 years ago under the East Hillside Patch program, was created with the support of parents who specifically wanted more options in the arts for their children, Bogen said.
“It has really grown since then, we started with about 20 students and have since doubled our attendance,” she said. “The children are involved in singing, dancing, rehearsal, and the technical aspects as well.”
Students are also involved in costume and set making.
“Kids are surprising, they make you look at things in different ways,” said Mary Plaster, Duluth’s renowned mask and puppet designer.
“Everything about the camp is fun, especially the acting and the arts and crafts, like painting and clay,” said Cecily Buckner, 8, who is in her first year.
Students are also taught to work as a team.
“I like seeing all the kids working together,” said 13-year-old Demerek Shields, another participant. “And I enjoy meeting new people.”