New troupe for kids allows them to experience the theatre

  • <p>BRITTANY WENTZELL PHOTO</p><p>The Winds of Change Dramatic Society recently started a youth group to support young people in theatre. The society has done youth productions in the past, including most recently <em>Midsummer.com</em>, but this is their first dedicated youth group.</p>
  • <p>BRITTANY WENTZELL PHOTO</p><p>In 2015 the Winds of Change mounted <em>Seussical Jr.</em> which saw some 40 children take part on stage, with others mentoring with adults backstage and behind the scenes.</p>


The arts are good for kids.

That's what theatre director Kalliope Koliotassis believes, and that's why she says youth groups like the new one the Winds of Change Dramatic Society has launched are so important.

"A group like this has so many benefits that include healthy living, socializing, and engaging in the community and a myriad of skills that these kids can learn from painting to public speaking," she said.

"There is a sense of belonging and friendship that you can only experience when you are a part of a group like this."

The Queens County-based group, aged 13 to 17 years old, will be a part of the upcoming production at Astor Theatre, Honeymoon at Graveside Manor, where the kids will work as ushers, stage managers, backstage assistants, and set painters.

The group is in their first year of creation, with 18 participants, "which is a good number considering there are only two of us instructing the sessions," and they are hoping to expand the age range.

The Winds of Change Dramatic Society, which has been around for 43 years, added the youth group this year.

"Part of its mandate is to educate community members about the stage and theatre life, which is one of the reasons we decided to begin a youth theatre group," said Koliotassis.

The Winds of Change has done youth productions in the past as well including most recently Midsummer.com, a take on A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Seussical Jr., a youth version of the Broadway musical Seussical.

"We try to do two shows a year and the more educated and the more opportunities we offer, the more of a future we create for The Winds of Change in the community."

Their end goal for this first season is to have the student put together and run a year-end production by themselves, but under the guidance of the adults.

"This is about them learning all aspects of theatre."

When they're not participating in plays and all the aspects that come with it, they're playing theatre games – performing scenes and monologues, which will eventually lead to students writing their own monologues and possibly shows.

Koliotassis said she and Hannah McKinnon, the other leader in the youth group, plan themes for their sessions.

"Improv, movement, just try it," she said. "This is a safe place where the students can explore and push their boundaries in theatre.

"It gives them a space to express themselves and helps them feel like they are a part of a community," she said.

"Even if they only ever pursue the stage as a hobby, these kids are potential future actors, set designers, producers, directors, lighting and sound technicians. Without this program some of these kids would never have been exposed to the dramatic arts, and maybe never would have realized their enthusiasm for the theatre."

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